“Time for a W-A-L-K!” This famous phrase is among your dog’s favorite things to hear, and perhaps yours too. Before you head out the door, remember to grab the most essential item for the activity: your dog’s leash.

Here in Arizona, there are leash laws that dog owners must follow when out in public. The laws vary depending on where you are and tend to be stronger for breeds that are legally classified as more vicious. Leash laws are in place all over the country, though the “leash free” movement is growing in popularity.

In situations when leashing your dog is optional, you might wonder why you would choose to do it if not legally required to. However, there are many benefits of leash training and keeping your dog on a leash. Here are 5 important reasons why leashes are essential.

You’re Less Likely to Lose Your Pet

No matter who or how old you are, losing a fur baby is devastating. If you keep your dog on a leash everywhere you go, except for enclosed spaces like your backyard or a specially-designed dog park, you’re drastically decreasing the chances that your pet will run off and get lost.

And even if you think your dog is not one to run off, it can happen unexpectedly, like if a dog gets scared by a sudden loud noise or something chasing it. So it’s better to play it safe with a leash, instead of risking losing your canine friend.

Unfortunately, dogs do get stolen and kidnapped as well. The chances of a loss of this nature also diminish when you keep your dog leashed.

It Offers Protection Against Cars and Dog Fights

When dogs are off-leash, they are less protected from external threats. This includes cars (more so in urban areas than rural) and other dogs. Dogs are far more likely to be hit by cars when they are not on leashes, or cause accidents when cars swerve to avoid hitting them. These tragedies are largely preventable with the use of proper, humane restraints like leashes.

Other dogs are another threat: When your dog is not on a leash, they can run up to another dog, which can unintentionally lead to a fight between the two. Leashes also help prevent altercations with wildlife, whether the dog is the one chasing or being chased.

With a leash and proper leash training, your canine will make a better companion for you and be better suited to properly interact with the other people and animals in your community.

You Can Make Sure Your Dog Behaves

When your pet is attached to you with a leash (even if it’s a longer lease, which might be preferable in some situations), your task of being responsible for your dog’s actions becomes much easier. You can make sure they’re not being too friendly with anyone or eating anything they’re not supposed to be eating. With stories of poisonings and some dogs having a tendency to eat others’ excrement, you’re better safe than sorry.

More Time Off-Leash Means More Cleaning

The more time your dog spends off of a leash, totally free to explore on their own, the dirtier they will get and the more time you will have to spend keeping them clean. While the thought of a dog being wild and free is a nice sentiment, in reality this has important implications for the health and hygiene of your whole home. Dirt is usually harmless, but other common plants and insects, like poison oak, scorpions, and bees are not.

It Helps You Be a Good Neighbor

As wonderful as dogs are, not everyone is a dog person. Some people are allergic, afraid, or would simply prefer to take a walk without a curious dog coming up to them. Since people have the right to be in public without being bothered by other people’s dogs, it’s important to respect common spaces in your community by keeping your dog on a leash. Not only is the polite, considerate thing to do, it also increases the likelihood of people having generally positive interactions with dogs in their neighborhoods.

Image Credit: Photo by Audrey Fretz on Unsplash