It’s more than just a walk in the park

This dog is being walked in "Heel" position - the leash is in the handler's left hand.

Now that the weather is getting warmer and the City of  Calgary’s pathway network is getting busier – I see the above situation multiple times when I’ve been out for walks with CB and Kona. This is a pet peeve of mine and it just shows how few people there are aware of the dog bylaws for our pathways.  I’m sure most people are like I was, unaware of our City’s pathway etiquette and Bylaw.

Regardless of where you live, your city likely has a Animal-related bylaw. The City of Calgary does have it’s Responsible Pet Ownership Bylaw and the bylaw in your home town will likely be similar to what we have here. The full beast is a pretty wordy document, but when an individual licenses their dog they receive this fancy little brochure in the mail which summarizes some of the main points. I know when I read it I recall thinking it was interesting but quickly forgot most of what it said. Granted – one of the key points is unclear in the brochure and either requires you to go to the bigger document to understand it – or someone else has to explain it to you for you to know what it means.

Looking at the above picture, the cyclist looks annoyed that he has to maneuver around the dog and handler. And really he should be as this walker is not taking care to ensure they do interfere with other users. There is a lot of common sense to the city’s pet bylaw – it was created to educate owners, keep pets healthy, and to limit user conflict and to keep pets and other users safe in the city.

Dogs Permitted on Pathways
(4) Notwithstanding subsection 15(1) or 15(2), the Owner of a dog may allow such dog to pass along or across a Pathway, including a Pathway that runs through an area designated as an off-Leash area, only if such dog:
  1. (a)  is secured by a Leash of no greater length than two (2) metres;
  2. (b)  remains on the right hand side of the Pathway at all times unless moving around other Pathway users; and
  3. (c)  remains under the Owner’s control at all times ensuring that the dog does not interfere with or obstruct any other Pathway user.

What all this legalese means is that dogs must be on a leash 2 meters or less in length (6 feet or less) while on city pathway’s even when they go through an offleash area. That means not on a leash that is extended to 10 or 20 feet (like you can with a flexi or retractable leash). With a leash extended to that great of a distance, how can one control their dog and limit interaction with other users (part 3 of the bylaw). The wire’s of retractable leashes aren’t all that visible and if Fido suddenly decides to rush across the path to chase a squirrel or visit another dog you risk clothes-lining another pathway user. That is why dog’s should be kept close to their owner/handler while walking on paths or even city streets. Personally I think it’s a beautiful thing to see a dog walking on a nice loose leash beside it’s owner rather than watching an owner walking with it’s dog far away from it extended to the end of it’s leash. Which do you think looks better between the two photos?

The small mail-out brochure reads as though handlers and dogs should be on the right side of the pathway unless passing. But when you delve into the actual bylaw you read that it states that “DOGS” are to be on the right hand side of the pathway. To have the dog in that position the dog will need to be on the RIGHT HAND SIDE of the owner/handler – so not in HEEL position. I misunderstood the Brochure myself and it wasn’t until I participated in a 10 week dog training class that it was clarified for me.

The dog in the photo on the left is right in the middle of the pathway and it will be difficult for their handler to protect it from on-coming or passing pathway traffic. In the photo on the right below, Kona is on the far right of the pathway, my husband can easily step in front of him and/or pull him out of harms way from the oncoming cyclist.

By walking with your dog on the right side of you while on the pathway, they are safer. You can do this even if you don’t live in Calgary and your city does not have a bylaw like this, it’s just sensible to keep your friend protected from passing cyclists, rollerbladers, children and other dogs. CB and Kona hope you can keep Fido safe this summer and all year long.


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