It is a lovely picture to think about strolling with your dog off leash beside you on a country road. It is easy to think about how friendly your dog is, how much he enjoys making friends and how often people love to say hello to him. I have no problem with people enjoying this freedom with their dogs, however it is crucial that an off leash dog has an immediate recall in distracting situations if that leash is to be removed in a public place. With that great pleasure comes great responsibility to your dog, to other people on the road and to other animals.
The first reason is obvious, your dog's safety from running away, being hit by a car and from being harmed by or from chasing other animals. The other reasons are much less obvious to what seems like most of the loose dog owning public. Try to remember that there are people out there who are absolutely terrified of dogs, like small children or someone who has been injured by dogs in the past. And there are people who simply do not like dogs. Your dog may be friendly but that is not a good enough reason for those people to have your dog run up to them, possibly jump on them, drool on them, scratch them, knock them down, etc. Just because you adore your dog does not mean everyone else on the planet has to. It is simply rude to assume they should and force your dog upon them.
I love dogs but one of my dogs does not. We have spent thousands of hours and dollars working in training situations to help change her opinion, but more importantly her reaction to other dogs. My dog can easily maintain her manners around dogs on leash who are minding their own business. When she is on leash and a loose dog charges up to her, jumps on her, and sniffs her crotch she has no where to escape and no other option than to try to defend herself from what is very rude dog behavior. This is the equivalent of a stranger racing up to you and giving you a french kiss. How would you respond??? Why should I expect my dog to react any differently? What is worse is that every time a dog does this to her it confirms her fears of other dogs, ensuring a reaction the next time we see them. Should I make her life less fulfilled by keeping her home because another person can not obey a leash law? I think not.
All too often I find myself having to call out to people to please call their dog. All too often I receive the response "It's okay, he's friendly". Um, no, it is not okay. I asked you to call your dog back. My reason is secondary, I have asked you to not let your dog come to us. Maybe my dog will bite your dog, maybe my dog has a contagious illness I do not want your dog to get, maybe my dog is in training. Does it matter? No. Please call your dog back.
I have often been treated as a monster when I try to stop a charging dog or chase a dog away from mine to prevent a dog fight. In fact today I asked a man to call his two dogs from 50 yards away. He responded that his dogs were friendly and I responded that my dog was not. He snapped back that it was "Fine" and did not call his dogs while they barreled at us. Meanwhile his 100 pound dog and 75 pound dog danced around mine, dashing in and goosing them while I tried to keep my dogs and my temper under control. Lets not forget that a huge black dog charging at you is intimidating no matter who you are.
Most people would argue that this must have been a rare situation, but sadly this happens on many walks. People simply do not understand the ramification that their loose dogs can play on other dogs' or people's lives. All of this could be prevented by keeping the dog on a leash or training the dog to a level that they have earned off leash privilege by returning the first time they are called. Of course, this means that people need to be responsible and call them as soon as they spot approaching people, not after the dog is in a full speed charge, and not after a person screams or a dog fight starts.
It is people like this, who disregard the concerns of others that make leash laws, breed banning, and dog laws more and more strict, ruining freedoms for the responsible dog owners out there. Please do your part as a responsible dog owner and leash or highly train your dog (preferably both!). If you see someone with a loose, unmannerly dog, ask them to leash it. If they refuse, feel free to call animal control through your local police department. Leash laws are in place for a reason, safety.