I Turn Into The Neighborhood Karen When It Comes To Unleashed Dogs

by Kristen Mae
Originally Published: 
Artem Beliaikin/Pexels

“Is your dog friendly?” I shout to my neighbor whose massive, unleashed pit bull is galloping toward me and my 12-pound leashed dog.

“She’s super friendly,” my neighbor says with a wave and a laugh. “She loves meeting new friends!”

She is indeed friendly, and also extremely untrained. She is fascinated by my dog and by me, and she wants to play. She bounds up to my dog, lunging in and out, circling us both and cutting between us to run under the leash. My dog’s hackles aren’t up, but his little body is tensing; he likes meeting other dogs on walks but becomes stressed when the other dog’s energy is too high and it doesn’t respect boundaries.

We try to walk forward, but the other dog continues circling us, rearing up like a horse and jumping playfully. She keeps ramming her head under my dog to get close-up sniffs of him. Her owner, maybe 10 yards away, is unloading groceries from the car as if this is all totally acceptable.

“Uh, can you come get your dog?” I say to my neighbor.

“Aw, she won’t hurt you! She just wants to play!”

Tucker Good/Unsplash

By this point, my dog is starting to lift his lip and show his teeth. “Well, my dog doesn’t. You need to come get your dog.”

We eventually push our way past while my neighbor chases his untrained dog around the street. His total lack of control over his animal would be comical if it wasn’t so rude, not to mention dangerous.

One block more and I see another off-leash dog. This time at least the dog is in its yard with its owner, but I’m not reassured. We’ve been in this scenario plenty of times; sometimes the dog stays in the yard with its owner. Sometimes it runs to us but is obviously well-trained and we make a new friend. And sometimes — this has happened twice now — it sees my dog and bolts toward us in attack mode, snarling and barking. One of the times, I had to pull my dog up into my arms by his leash to keep him from being bitten. One of his teeth was knocked out in the scuffle, and I had to kick the attacking dog to get it to back up. The other time, I wasn’t fast enough and my dog was bitten, though thankfully not hard enough to draw blood.

So, no, I’m not the slightest bit reassured by my neighbor with his unleashed dog in his yard even though the dog shows zero signs of aggression. I stand there with my arms crossed staring at the guy like a fucking Karen until he catches my drift and calls his dog up and into the house. I thank him as we walk by.

I am so tired of entitled assholes letting their dogs run the neighborhood off-leash. This isn’t just a problem in my neighborhood, though clearly, I have some thoughtless, disrespectful neighbors. Last year, the story of a white woman calling the cops on a Black man who asked her to leash her dog went viral. And this infuriating TikTok video went viral too.

In the TikTok video, the woman calls the man taking the video an asshole even though it’s her unleashed, uncontrolled dog running up on him and his leashed, controlled dog with no boundaries whatsoever. He even makes a point to notify her that his dog is “not friendly.”

This is dog-owner code, and too many people are oblivious to it. If you see another owner and dog walking, and they cross the street or otherwise create some distance, that means their dog isn’t into meeting other dogs. Respect that. If the owner goes the extra mile to say “not friendly” like the man in the TikTok video, keep your fucking distance. Never walk up to other dogs to try to “meet” them without their owner’s permission. These respectful measures keep everyone safe, including you and your dog.

To be clear, I’m not talking about instances where escape artist dogs bolt out the door or the occasional freak incident where a dog slips his collar (though threshold training is an important safety measure every dog owner should take). I trained my dog early on to stop at the threshold whenever the door was open, and he’s done it for years now with no more reward than head scratches. But one time he saw a squirrel outside the open door and bolted for it and ended up in our neighbor’s muddy ditch across the street. So, I get it; shit happens. I’m also not talking about dog parks or desolate hiking trails or vast fields where no one else is around. There are places where it’s okay to walk your dog off-leash. But your neighborhood packed with houses and people out and about walking with or without their own pets or small children isn’t it.


Dog owners also need to understand that when your unleashed dog approaches someone else’s leashed dog, even in play, even if your dog is completely calm, it creates an imbalanced power dynamic. One dog free and one dog tethered throws off the social hierarchy and leaves one dog — the leashed dog — defenseless, and therefore anxious, i.e., more likely to react badly and more likely to provoke a bad reaction.

My dog is tethered and has nowhere to go. He is also aware of his tininess, contrary to popular belief. Big dogs that invade his personal space scare him, and not due to lack of socialization or because he is naturally high-strung. It’s because he’s been bitten by other people’s unleashed dogs. And what if your unleashed dog gets too close and my terrified dog snarls and triggers your normally well-behaved dog to bite back? Why invite this tragedy?

“But he’s well-trained. I trust him completely!” That’s all well and good, Frank, but I don’t know that. The little kid who was bitten by a dog and is having a trauma reaction at the sight of your unleashed animal doesn’t know that. The guy walking with the dog-who-doesn’t-like-other-dogs doesn’t know that. People like me who have had run-in after run-in with all manner of dog don’t know that.

So, out of respect for your neighbors, you need to make it crystal clear to other people around you that you have total control of your dog, i.e., put a leash on it. Always.

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