Why you should be able to recall your dog when they are off lead

Why you should be able to recall your dog when they are off lead

You should be able to recall your dog if you let them off lead. There is nothing much more annoying, when you are walking your dog on lead, than for an off lead dog to come charging over and jump all over your leashed dog. Well, perhaps it is even more annoying if that dog also jumps all over you and covers you with mud, scratches and bruises and even knocks you over. The only thing even more annoying than this, for most dog owners, is to hear the phrase, “It’s okay. My dog is friendly! “ as your dog hurtles over to them. If you don’t want to become a pariah at your local dog park or end up with a criminal record, it’s worth reading on.

The Dangerous Dogs Act 1991, Section 3.

Many dog owners are not aware that if their dog is behaving out of control, they could be committing an offence under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 (DDA), section 3 (whole of the U.K) even if the dog does not show aggressive behaviour. If a person fears the dog may cause them injury a dog owner could have committed an offence by being in charge of a “dangerously out of control” dog. The penalties for this were increased under amendments made in The Antisocial Crime and Policing Act 2014 (Eng;and and Wales). 
It may be surprising to learn that people are frequently injured when dogs jump up at them or crash into them and these injuries are frequenty life changing. I know at least two people who have had legs broken by dogs crashing into them and a client who had her arm broken when a dog knocked her over. Causing injuries like this could be considered a criminal offence under the Dangerous Dogs Act section 3 (DDA) and a dog owner could be prosecuted.  As this is a criminal act, this could land owners with a criminal record and up to five years in jail if a dog injures a person, or 14 years if the dog caused an death (may seem hard to imagine but if a dog knocks over an elderly person or very small child this could, indeed, cause the death of a person). This can impact on future job prospects and the ability to travel overseas where a criminal record would prevent entry to some countries. 

Although, with injuries sustained by accident rather than aggressive behaviour, it is more likely that this kind of case would be dealt with under the Animals Act 1971 - which is not a criminal act - the DDA does make provision for this so you should be aware of the risk. I foresee a reduction in tolerance as these types of out of control injuries increase and anticpate the DDA will be used more than the Animals Act in the future. In either case a dog owner be made to pay compensation regarding any injury a dog in their care causes. If they don't have insurance this could be life changing for them.

Section 3 of the Dangerous Dogs Act applies to “ dogs dangerously out of control” and dog owners may be committing an offence even if their dog doesn’t cause injury. It is enough that someone believes they may be harmed by an out of control dog. Certainly this is a reasonable opinion if a dog is running at someone or their dog hackles raised and growling. If the dog causes an injury, then this is deemed an “ aggravated” incident leading to the more severe penalties shown above.

Having your dog under good control is extremely important - you should be able to recall your dog to ensure they are under control. It is fairly easy to train your dog to come when called and if they are not yet trained, they should be kept on a long line until they can be relied upon.

Assistance Dogs are special.

Although the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 mainly prosecutes injuries to people, not dogs, the law is different for assistance dogs. Further consideration must be given for any assistance dog that may be injured or harmed by an out of control dog. This need not even occur due to aggression; simply causing injury through a hard impact could mean you have committed a criminal offence that carries up to 3 years in prison if your dog has caused injury to the assistance dog. This reflects the significant harm caused to the owner who will no longer have a working assistance dog until their dog has recovered. In some cases, traumatic injuries lead to the retirement of an assistance dog. The impact on the owner can be profound.

Walking someone else’s dog

If you are walking someone else’s dog their behaviour is not just the responsibility of the owner. When you are walking someone else’s dog you are the legal “ keeper” of this dog. This means you will be responsible if the dog behaves in a dangerous manner. The owner may also face prosecution but you would be prosecuted in the event that the dog is considered dangerously out of control whilst in your keepership. This does not just apply to professional dog walkers. If you are unsure about the behaviour of a dog you are walking, it is best to keep them on lead so you know they are under control.


If you are an MDIF person (My Dog Is Friendly), please think again about allowing your dog to charge up to anyone and any dog. You may not just be seen as an annoying person in your community, you may end up with a criminal record. Keep your dog on lead until they have learned how to behave off lead. It is possible and many dog owners allow their dogs freedom because they have taught their dog to behave appropriately. We all want our dogs to enjoy freedom, but not at the expense of other peoples' freedom.

For tips on how to teach good recall, look out for tips in next week’s Blog.



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