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On-leash vs off-leash dog walking pros and cons

It can be tempting – especially if you have a big dog – to just walk your dog off-leash, no matter where you go. Many dog owners dream of a world where dogs aren't leashed, or a place where dogs are allowed to roam freely and owners don't have to worry about their dogs.

If you have a well-trained dog, you might even think a leash is not necessarily. They get a better run, and you don't have to constantly try to control them. It's a win-win situation, right? Unfortunately, apart from it being dangerous, it is also against the law.

Before considering how you should walk your dog, you should consider some pros and cons of each. But before we continue, please be aware of your local municipal bylaws. You should follow them at all times. If you need to find places in your local area that allow for off-leash dogs then download the PawSwap app today.

Pros of off-leash dog walking:

Gives your dog more exercise

Dogs, just like people, love to go on adventures and explore the surrounding sights and sounds. Allowing your dog off-leash gives them the opportunity to sniff up a storm, play fetch and run with other dogs. If you have a dog that needs more exercise, like a Lab, a Border Collie, or a German Shepard, let's just face it: it takes less effort to exercise a dog off-leash.

Your dog is more mentally happy

Dogs like all animals are meant to roam free. Your dog is more stimulated when off-leash and can interact with new sights, smells, and sounds which increases brain functions and releases endorphins, a chemical that gives pleasurable sensations. Not only does it just generally increase the wellbeing of your pet, but happier dogs are generally easier to control both on-leash and off-leash, which leads to fewer incidents.

Off-leash gives dogs more time to interact

Dogs love to go for runs and play with other dogs. Research has shown that leashes interfere with normal dog social interaction and can create a series of issues. If a dog is excited to see another dog while on lead, they will likely pull or jump. If you restrain them too much this can lead to frustration which can lead to behavioural issues down the line.

Pros of on-leash dog walking:

Your dog is easier to train on leash

Being on-leash helps you train your dog which helps your dog establish good behaviours. It's important to have a well-trained dog, and you can only do that if your dog is leash-trained. Getting your dog to heel, sit, and even come when he or she is called is much easier when you use a leash – in fact, most trainers will tell you that training your dog on a leash is one of the first methods you should use. This can help establish a baseline that you can then use to control your dog when they are off-leash, not to mention giving you more confidence that there will be less of a problem during off-leash situations.

Your dog is safer on leash

If you live in a larger city like Toronto, Vancouver or Calgary, then you probably know that it can be a dangerous place for a dog – especially if they are left to wander or closely monitored. If your dog is spooked by a car engine, honking, or just general city noise, they can bolt and end up being hit by a car. A leashed dog is easier to control and navigate through the city.

Even out in the countryside, you might expect it to be a little safer for your dog, but that's not always the case. Your dog can wander off and get lost, attacked by wild animals or hurt himself or herself on a branch, a steep ravine or in water.

Not all people are comfortable with dogs off-leash

I know this is a shocker right?? But not everyone likes animals and some people, both adults and children alike, can be afraid of dogs. While your dog may be friendly and have all the best intentions (they probably just want pats and some attention) it's not a good idea – and is considered impolite – to subject your dog to people who don't wish to interact with your dog. At the very least, it makes people uncomfortable, at the very most, it can cause a confrontation – and that's something everybody wants to avoid.

Off-leash dogs are a risk to other animals

Depending on what type of dog you have, off-leash dogs can be a determent to other animals. Some types of dogs can be a danger to others, while hunting dogs like Bloodhounds can chase down and even kill rabbits, squirrels, and sometimes injured birds. This is natural instinctual behaviour and not necessarily something you should discourage too much, but keeping your dog on leash will prevent your loving dog from bringing back unwanted presents.


So, what's the best option when facing the issues of walking your dog on-leash walking vs off-leash? The answer is always to have your dog well-trained. No matter what breed of dog you own, you need to be a responsible dog owner, which means you need to be sure that your dog has good behaviour and socialization training in check before you give them the full freedom to be off-leash. This is, of course, easier said than done.

As busy people who work and have families, we have limited time, but it's important to carve out some time to ensure that your dog not only is well cared for but that you take the time to ensure that your dog is well socialized and obedient. This will safeguard you from any potential incidents down the road. You can either enrol in dog obedience classes where you can not only learn how to train your dog, but your dog can meet other dogs in the same age group. Or if you don't want to spend money on obedience classes, there are plenty of Youtube tutorials out there that can help you, or you can sign up to our newsletter that has plenty of information on dog training.


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