As I walk through the city of Toronto on a daily basis, I am still shocked to see how many people still tie their dogs up outside outside stores and leave them for a stretch of time. I’ll admit to doing it up until 2011 when we had a series of dog-nappings in the city and my eyes were opened to the dangers.
Dog-napping is not the only concern that is a reality when we tie our dogs up outside, but it’s a very real one. Dogs who are stolen are sold on Kijiji and Craigslist, sold for research (yes, that happens here in Ontario!), used as bait dogs in dog fighting rings, walked around the city for days/weeks/months/years on end by the homeless. In Toronto, it's actually illegal to leave your dog tied up and unattended in public.
Dogs tied up outside stores can also block access to everyone else trying to get by on the sidewalk or even enter the store. If a person is afraid of dogs and there’s a dog blocking the entrance, they now have to wait until you decide to return. Dog walkers and anyone else walking their own dogs can’t go by as it’s a risk in case your dog is not friendly (dogs who are tied up have only one option: “fight” since their “flight option is taken away by the tether). I’m not afraid of dogs, but in recent years, a Husky who was tied up outside a store lunged at me and got my pant leg. Needless to say, I was ready to bite his guardian myself.
Imagine being someone who relies on a service dog – when you approach the store, a dog starts lunging at your service dog or trying to play and suddenly the leashes are tangled and what can you do? Perhaps you’re blind and you can’t decipher what’s going on or are put in harm's way.
Leaving Fido outside the store can also create some issues for him; if he has separation anxiety and you leave him in a place where you have not practiced leaving him under threshold for short periods of time, this can cause a lot of anxiety that sets you back in any progress you might have made. If you have a reactive dog (towards dogs, people, cars, squirrels, anything at all), leaving him outside the store allows him to practice the behaviours you don’t like, such as barking, lunging, snarling, growling, etc…
Other people may unknowingly train (or untrain) your dog too! People walking by might say hello and encourage jumping or rough play. Kids may torment your dog and leave you with a few behaviour challenges you weren’t expecting. Some well-meaning folks my try to “rescue” your dog or even feed him without your permission. Perhaps your dog gets spooked by something and slips out of his collar or harness – a frightened dog will run anywhere and that might include directly into traffic or far away from home.
Liability-wise, it’s also incredibly unsafe to leave your dog tied up outside. Anyone can say that your dog charged them or bit them and they’d likely have a case since most of the time, the dog pays no matter what is said.
No errand is so important that your dog cannot be dropped off at home or left in the care of a friend while you run it. Play it safe and even if you think you’ll “only be a second”, it’s just not worth the risk, is it?