-12 Walking to the local coffee shop one morning, my dog, Harry, alongside me on-leash, I overheard a passer-by compliment, "Look at that well-trained dog." "Nah," retorted another. "You should see the two big dogs outside the coffee shop. They walk off-leash."
I knew these dogs. Their owner walked to the shop, left them outside while he bought coffee, then crossed a busy road into a park, all off-leash. The dogs loitered in the shop doorway or sniffed Harry, tied up outside. They weren't aggressive, just big, nosey and off-leash, an intimidating combination for some dogs and people.
One day, there was only one big dog outside the coffee shop. When I asked what had happened to the missing dog, the owner told me it had been run over by a car. Then he crossed the busy road, his surviving dog straggling behind, still off-leash.
Commonsense Dog Training
With regular training at the local dog club, Harry progressed from straining at the leash to walking beside me on and off-leash. He is a well-trained dog. However, I only ever walk him off-leash while training in a park or at an obedience trial. (Of course, Harry's let off to run in designated off-leash areas in parks.)
The NSW Companion Animals Act states:
“A dog that is in a public place must be under the effective control of some competent person by means of an adequate chain, cord or leash that is attached to the dog and that is being held by (or secured to) the person.”
It's a good, commonsense law. Because, as mentioned, some people, particularly children and dogs, are fearful of dogs. A dog may only be a sniffer or a licker, but its uninvited approach can be as unsettling as if it were a snarling biter.
Also, I don't want Harry hurt. A vet once soberly commented that all the dogs he saw run over were not on-leash at the time of the accident. Having Harry on-leash keeps him safe in all situations.
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So even if you don't train your dog, keep it on-leash when outside your front gate. It's the law, it makes sense, and it can save your dog.
© 2007, 2017 Robert Fairhead
This article appeared in the Village Voice Eastern-Harbourside in 2007. Sadly since then, I’ve seen an increasing number of dogs off-leash in the streets — and a number of dogs run over!
N.B. You might like to read more of my writing about my dear dog, Harry, and my current lab, Jet.
A middle-aged dad and dog owner, Robert is a writer and editor at Tall And True and blogs on his eponymous website, RobertFairhead.com. He also writes and narrates episodes for the Tall And True Short Reads podcast, featuring his short stories, blog posts and other writing from Tall And True.
Robert's book reviews and other writing have appeared in print and online media. In 2020, he published his début collection of short stories, Both Sides of the Story, and in 2021 Twelve Furious Months, twelve short stories written for the Furious Fiction writing competition.
Outside of writing, Robert's favourite pastimes include reading, watching Aussie Rules football with his son and walking his dog.
He has also enjoyed a one-night stand as a stand-up comic.