If you love your dog, leash your dog:

Dogs are like children. In fact, to many people, their dogs are their children. Would you let a three-year-old walk down a busy street without holding his or her hand? Then why would you let your dog off-leash in a busy area of Lubbock? Truly responsible owners love their dogs enough to never put them at risk.

Oh, but your dog is exceptionally well trained - he or she is always well behaved. If your dog is as obedient as you claim, then walking with a leash should be a piece of cake. Also, you need to think of the leash as the best way to protect your dog from aggressive strays, darting squirrels and tempting cats, cars that backfire or jump curbs, bikes and skaters careening down sidewalks, construction holes or barricades, the occasional raccoon, and other uncontrollable elements of your environment.

A good real-life example of what can happen when a dog is off-leash is when one  well-trained Weimaraner was out for a walk in a quiet neighborhood. Someone was cleaning gutters and threw debris from the roof to the ground close to the sidewalk, scaring the dog. When the dog veered sharply to avoid any more falling leaves, it ran right into an oncoming car. The dog fractured its leg in several places, leaving it crippled for life. Thank goodness the driver and passenger were not injured - the dog owner would have been liable. Even the best-trained dogs make an occasional mistake, and owners cannot always train for every occurrence.

With the rising rates of pet cancer, it makes sense to keep your dog off yards that have been sprayed with fertilizers and insecticides - an impossibility unless your dog is on a leash. Many homeowners regularly use poisons to combat rodent problems, another danger for off-leash animals.

Leashing your pet is the best good neighbor policy. Your dog wonít offend by digging in your neighbor's garden, pooping on their yard, or pushing over their children. Although certainly not the best birth control device (spaying and neutering win hands down), leashing your pet does help prevent unwanted litters.

Local parks also present dangers for our dogs. With so many owners disregarding leash laws, dog fights in parks are not uncommon. In addition to dog injuries, people often get bitten when breaking up dog fights. If your dog mistakenly chomps someoneís arm instead of their snarling dog, you could be held responsible. Other health dangers posed by allowing your dog off-leash include exposure to kennel cough, and for puppies, parvo and the corona virus.

Donít forget about all of the small children usually running around a park; their excited squeals and erratic motions often prompt dogs to jump, growl, and even nip. Hesitant petting attempts practiced by dog-phobic adults can also bring on bad behavior - particularly snarls and bites.

State parks and hiking trails may seem like the perfect place to give your dog a little freedom, but what about the natural wildlife? Chances are your pet will become unusually aroused and give chase, particularly if your breed has a high prey instinct. If the dog succeeds in cornering its prey, it can get critically injured. Also, donít forget that in such unfamiliar surroundings, pets can easily become lost.

It is certainly healthy for dogs to socialize with other dogs and to run and jump off leash. However, choose safe places like a fenced back yard, agility or obedience classes, and doggie day care. Unlike New York and Seattle, the city of Lubbock does not currently have a dog-friendly park.

Leashing your dog helps develop an affectionate, well-behaved pet. When a pet is on a leash, it is far easier to encourage good behavior and eliminate negative behavior through praise rather than harsh actions or commands.

Just like when a teenager realizes that parents care when they provide age-appropriate limits, dogs like the security that comes from knowing their owners care for them. Let leashing your dog become a habit.