Pros & Cons of Being Off Leash

Merritt Milam | March 31, 2019

One of the growing trends in training and the pet-parent community is going “off leash”.  In the last of our 3-part series on Pet Training, we’ll take a look at the pros and cons of this passionately debated topic.


Pros of “Off-Leash”

“Leashes are so restrictive. I just want Fido to enjoy our walks without limiting his movement.”

For most “off-leash” proponents, that statement captures how they feel about the subject. The idea of walking their dog without a leash makes them feel like the power dynamic is no longer pet and master, but companion and companion. As a result of the “off-leash” trend, training classes have popped up across the country. Unfortunately, as popular trends go, they can attract people with limited training experience, who may not have the best interest of your pet at heart.

Off-leash advocates stress the abundance of exercise a pet gets when they are allowed to roam and explore more freely than being on a leash. They also point to the strong bond a parent and dog will build as a result of the intensive off-leash training process required to achieve this level of commitment.

IMPORTANT: If you are considering the option of training your pet for off-leash activity, please first speak with a reputable, Certified Professional Dog Trainer-Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA), with several years of experience. This is not only important advice for off-leash training but any pet training consideration.


Cons of “Off-Leash”

“My pet loves a good walk in the neighborhood, but he always wants to chase the other dogs or follow a scent into other people’s yards.”

As much as we like to assign human traits to our pets, they’re still pets. “I swear my dog can understand everything I say, and he loves everyone.” Sound familiar? For the record, my pet is really smart and professionally trained, but even a trained off-leash dog can run in front of a car, chase another dog without warning, or nip at strangers. A leash helps establish the pet-parent relationship.  A leash helps them understand “who’s walking who”. Pets also relate their leash as a positive prompt to go for a walk.

No matter the amount of training, pets can still be a flight risk.  Some trainers and pet training businesses feel the use of e-collars (often known as shock collars) will eliminate the risk of pets running away. Keep in mind, these devices are NOT a substitute for a leash. Dogs still make choices and a momentary shock may not be enough to keep them from bolting away or towards danger.

Another issue with off-leash pets is the approachability factor. Some adults and children may be annoyed or afraid of a pet who is off-leash, and not understand how to react when approached. A leash provides added control and discipline. Most dogs trained on a leash are usually easier to approach and may be more polite. (Advice: whether on a leash or not, always ask the parent first if you can pet their dog.)


Leash or No Leash Training: You Decide

Regardless of what side of the debate you are on, remember…YOU are ultimately responsible for your pet’s safety. YOU set the rules. YOU are your pet’s provider. According to the professionals, pets who train and walk on a leash are just as happy and well-adjusted as those off-leash. The only difference…they’re safer!

The most important aspect of either side of the leash debate is training. Make sure you seek a qualified, experienced trainer (visit  Training professionals can help you decide what type of program is best for your pet. On-leash or off, your dog needs to be able to stay by your side and react to your commands at all times. This keeps everyone happy and safe. Finally, check to see if you’re at risk of violating any local or state leash laws by being off-leash.

Enjoy your pet’s training and be safe!

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