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

By Keith Higgons, May 2018, Updated June 2021

Dear neighbors who walk their dog unleashed,

Hi! I’m the guy with the tan pit bull mix named Rufus. I want to take a moment and ask you to walk your dog with a leash.

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 Rufus leashed and you’re walking your dog unleashed, my concern is for my dog, not yours.


Sign up and get the answers to your questions.

Email Address:

While I understand you’re 100% convinced that your dog won’t do anything spontaneous, I get it. Neighbor, the truth is that your dog is an animal and any claim that you’re 100% certain your dog won’t do anything is incorrect. They MAY not, but you can’t be certain. It’s simple; dogs are animals and react instinctively.

Yes, I’m personally invested because Rufus wasn’t socialized prior to arriving with me. So, he’s not good with other dogs, he loves people, tolerates children but doesn’t like other dogs … and squirrels, he hates squirrels. You’ve probably noticed we cross the street when we notice another dog.

While I’ve trained Rufus to ignore other dogs, if your dog starts barking, he’ll respond. If you’re dog isn’t leashed and decides to act instinctively (again, they’re dogs) and runs towards us, Rufus will react. My fear is that would be bad.

Despite my efforts to avoid your unleashed dog and the fact that your dog ran towards my dog and he defends himself, rest assured, we would be considered at fault.

You’re putting MY dog in jeopardy because YOUR dog is unleashed. That’s uncool. (read this story if you doubt the reality of this.)

Yes, I’m hyper aware of the many stigmas around the pit bull. I find breed specific bias, and legislation, deplorable and don’t think they can, or should, be universally applied. But yea, I’m aware. It’s why I’ve trained Rufus to be a responsible canine citizen and I’m a responsible canine owner and use a leash. I’m unwilling to put my dog, or yours, in a position where he may feel threatened and call upon his instincts.

To be fair, I was once like you. I used to have a dog that I walked without a leash. When confronted, I defended my dog like you do, saying “He won’t do anything” “He’s friendly” and my personal favorite “Relax” (when has anything good ever come from someone saying “Relax” in a heated situation?). When I think back now, I’m ashamed of my behavior. I was wrong.

Please take this letter under consideration. The advantages to keeping your dog on a leash far outweigh the potential consequences of not. It’s also considerate of your neighbors. If you’re still unconvinced, it’s safe to presume your state has some type of leash law.

Thanks for reading.

See you on the sidewalk,
Keith & Rufus