I’ve Had It With Unleashed Dogs and “It's OK–My Dog is Friendly!”

If I hear “but he’s friendly” one more time, I’m going to lose it
By Julia Lane, June 2010, Updated March 2020

I’m bruised and beat up, and not sure what to do. This morning, I took my three large dogs for a walk. We were 50 yards from our driveway when a loose black Labrador retriever came into the street to greet us.

I know this dog; I've found him wandering before and brought him back home several times. He's a friendly boy. That said, my three dogs do not appreciate having a strange dog run up to them and get in their face.

I told the Lab, "No, go home!" in the sternest voice I could muster. It didn't deter him. Nor did three large barking, snarling dogs. And that's when I saw him - the dog's owner. He was standing right there on the front lawn.

By then, it was too late. As I envisioned this dog getting bitten by one of my dogs or worse, I lost my balance and fell backwards onto the asphalt. Incredibly, I didn't hit my head or break an arm. Just some ugly, searing scrapes on my knees, elbows and knuckles. Somehow, I managed to grip the leashes tight and not let my dogs go free. And thankfully, a car didn't come zooming around the corner like they sometimes do. What if we had all been hit?

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My neighbor came out and got my dogs’ attention, helping calm all of us down while the Lab’s owner put his dog inside. The Lab owner then started to cross the street to approach me, politely asking, “Are you alright?”

Adrenaline still pumping and before I could think clearly, I screamed, “Please don’t come talk to me! I can’t talk to you right now! Why do you let your dog be loose? I’ve seen him go up to other people and their dogs while walking. Why do you let him do that?”

The Lab owner looked at me like I was nuts – it certainly wasn’t my best moment – turned on his heel and went inside his house to hang out with his no doubt equally bewildered Lab.

Now I feel like a jerk. And my neighbor, who is wonderful and loves my dogs and kept my heart from jumping out of my chest, says, “But you know the dog is friendly, right?”


An Open Letter to People Who Walk Their Dog Without a Leash

Dear neighbors with their dog unleashed,

No, I get it. Your dog is amazing and well-trained. You’ve been through extensive training and your dog knows a slew of verbal commands. Your dog is a service animal and visits children’s cancer wards and retirement communities and is the best-behaved dog you’ve ever had. I get that.

The truth is, I don’t care about your dog. When I’m walking my dog leashed and your dog is unleashed, my concern is for my dog, not yours. Read more.

Julia Lane owns Spot On K9 Sports, a training facility in the Chicago area, and offers online dog-sport coaching. She is the author of several travel books, and her byline has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Poets & Writers and elsewhere.