“Don’t Worry, He’s Friendly!”: Encounters With Off-Leash Dogs


Even though I don’t own a dog, I genuinely enjoy them. They are wonderful and almost always friendly animals. I know your dog means the world to you and is an extremely important part of your family. The intent of this post is not to point fingers at dogs or dog owners; however, with encouragement from others who have had similar experiences, I felt it was important to share my stories to provide another viewpoint.

"Don't Worry, He's Friendly!": Encounters With Off-Leash Dogs | Duluth Mom

Like most Duluth families, my kids and I love going on the trails to hike and splash around in local streams. Since toddlers can throw rocks into water for hours, it’s usually the perfect break for our family. One day we had an unfortunate event take place and it was quite terrifying for me as a parent.

While my kids were knee-deep in a small stream, there was a woman on the other side and up a steep embankment walking with her dog, who was off-leash. The dog was quite large, weighing about 65 pounds. As my children and I played, the dog came down the steep hill and stopped only a few steps away from us. It then started aggressively barking and growling. The gnarled teeth had me frozen in fear. As I sat there trying to slowly scoot my kids back behind me, the woman kept walking and yelled for her dog to come.

She shouted down the hill, “Don’t worry, he’s friendly.”

I was up to my ears in worry and fear wondering why this dog was being so aggressive towards my two and three year-old children. How would I possibly be able to defend them against such large and strong dog if it decided to attack one or both of them? I’m happy to say that after about three long minutes, the dog finally turned and left. The owner likely never saw the fear in my eyes (as she had kept walking), and I was far too stunned to verbalize (shout) my concerns to her.

The simple fact is, in Duluth, Minnesota, the law requires dogs to be on a leash.

This entire event was avoidable, as are many others like it. In the past, we’ve also encountered a large dog who wouldn’t stop circling my daughter because he wanted her stuffed animal. The dog wasn’t being aggressive, but my child needed to hide in-between my legs. The dog was running free and the owner was of no assistance because he/she was nowhere in sight. Many times I have been running on trails with dogs following me or even nipping at my feet with an owner yelling, “Don’t worry, he’s a nice dog.” This doesn’t settle my concerns and isn’t a scenario that should be occurring. The trails are for all to enjoy and, for the safety of everyone, there is a leash law.

"Don't Worry, He's Friendly ...": Encounters With Off-Leash Dogs | Duluth MomOff-Leash Dogs – Here are a few points to consider:

• Not all children or adults are comfortable or kind to dogs. Your dog may be friendly and try to say hi or smell a new human, and end up being the victim of unpleasant behavior from others.
• Your dog may be friendly, but decides to approach a leashed dog who is not. This endangers both dogs and both owners if either dog decides to attack.
• There are members of our community who are not steady on their feet and an off-leash dog may cause them to fall and severely injure themselves.
• While your dog goes to say hi to another dog on a leash, that dog may get excited or spooked. Some owners have their dogs well trained but have a difficult time physically keeping them controlled in a riled-up state. Owners can be injured in this process.
• Some people have severe dog allergies. People shouldn’t have to avoid trails because some off-leashed dogs don’t stay with their owners.

Despite my family’s scary encounters, we still all enjoy friendly dogs… although we all have some level of anxiety around dogs we aren’t familiar with. I sincerely believe teaching children proper behavior around animals is equally as important as training your pet and following local leash laws. I hope to meet you and your friendly dog on a trail, in a controlled setting, for the safety of my family and yours.


  1. I cannot agree with this any harder. I had a very large dog jump up on me (from a full Sprint) while walking in Hartley Nature Center this past Fall. I was stunned to say the least. The owner didn’t apologize or even acknowledge it happened. I was in shock and glad I was as I may not have reacted very well. If my 3 or 6 year old had been with me, it would have ended very differently and not in a good way for the animal. And this is coming from someone who absolutely adores dogs and used to own two large bullmastiffs. This is a huge problem unfortunately. I am glad you did not have to defend you and your kids that day, but feel your anxiety.

  2. Yes! Completely agree! I can honestly say I have the sweetest and gentlest dog in the world and I absolutely hate to see other dogs come running at us when we’re on a walk, owners nowhere in sight. I’m constantly thinking about what I would do if they tried to attack her. People who do this give a bad name to the rest of us dog owners and are probably the same people who don’t pick up after their dog as well (which is absolutely disgusting and should come with a heavy fine imo). Great post, Ade!

  3. Thank you for including allergies to your list. It is so often over looked as a reason to keep dogs on leashes in a public setting. Every time someone tells me don’t worry my dog is friendly, I have to yell out to to the owner your dog’s friendliness could be deadly to me severe allergy. Why do pet owners only think people are afraid of being bit or knocked over,never thinking someone could be seriously allergic?

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