Leash? No Leash?

One of the great debates in the dog world, at least in North America, revolves around the idea that dogs should be on leash at all times. It is true that in many locations, there are laws in place requiring that dogs remain on leash. And, in these areas, there should not be any question that dogs should remain on leash. Otherwise, their owners may face stiff fines and will anger others that are following the law.


However, there are many locations where dogs are allowed off leash. Mostly these are on private lands, in unincorporated areas and in some National Forest areas. There is, of course, always the dog park, which we will not get into right now.

Many people firmly believe that a dog can get all the fulfillment they need by remaining on leash, while others believe that dogs should be allowed to explore their environment and “behave like dogs”.

Victoria Stilwell, a well-known trainer, believes that dogs primarily should remain on leash. Her thoughts are that dogs don’t need to be allowed to run free in order to be fulfilled. As long as they get plenty of exercise and are allowed to stop and sniff and pee on things, the dog should be just fine.

An opposing view point is that held by Sarah Stremming of Cognitive Canine. She advocates taking your dogs off leash as often as you can and for as long as you can. She feels it helps with their emotional well being. What is interesting about Sarah’s opposing viewpoint is that she also posted this viewpoint to the Victoria Stilwell website as a guest post.

This topic is very controversial and typically spawns a lot of very enthusiastic discussion on both sides. Those that are for always leashing dogs can come up with many reasons why they feel this way. Primarily, these reasons revolve around safety for the dog and for people. These are very valid points. You must always consider the safety of your dog.

Those that feel letting your dog off leash is fine also have many reasons, mostly involving their dog being well behaved and including improving their mental well being.

There is even a website dedicated to an infographic about this subject.

At Agile Dog, we encourage responsible dog ownership but, at the same time, understand the needs of our dogs. If you decide that you would like to try letting your dog off leash, you should only do so when it is legal and only if your dog is ready for it. Here is a handy article to help you get your dog ready.

My personal experiences with off leash hiking have been very positive. On very few occasions have there been issues and these typically have not been with my dogs but others we met on the trail. I follow trail etiquette. When others are coming along the trail, I gather my dogs and step aside to let the traffic pass. My dogs are not allowed to bark at other people or harass wildlife. They must stay within my vision at all times. I don’t let them go crashing through the underbrush. And we only do this on land where we are allowed to. Within this set of rules, my dogs get to enjoy a very fulfilling life of off leash hiking.


  • Hiking off leash can be very enriching for you and your dogs
  • Be aware of others on trails
  • Only take dogs off leash when it is legal to do so
  • Ensure your dogs have a good recall before attempting off leash hiking
  • Your dog’s safety is your responsibility. Maintain awareness of your dog’s location at all times
  • Be courteous to others on trails
  • Pick up after your dog….always
  • Do not let your dog bother people or animals that you may encounter

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s