Off Leash Dogs: How to Deal With Them and Their Owners

This is probably one of the most contentious issue in South Africa surroundings dogs. Well, this and whether or not to believe that guy with a boerboel when he says ‘Don’t worry my dog doesn’t bite’. I constantly hear people complaining about off leash dogs in public spaces and I hear just as many people saying that their dog is fine off leash and very friendly.

Walking my dog off leash but under control. FYI, this is on private property.

Firstly, lets get this as clear as possible! The Law in South Africa does not allow off leash dogs in public spaces. There are no ‘ifs and buts’ about it. Having said that, nobody can say that they know a law abiding South African! So, herein lies the problem.

Now, before we get any further, you may want to know my stance on the whole situation. I think that off leash dogs should be allowed in public spaces, but the owner must be able to fully control the dog. This means that if I am walking my off leash dog in the park and my dog sees another person, dog, cat, buck, taxi, tokoloshe or whatever, I must be able to tell my dog to leave it and come back to me without engaging with that thing. I feel there is scope here to amend the current law to allow for this. It could be easily defined and objective. I.e. A dog must be under the owners control at all times in public spaces, The dog must not be allowed to engage with any person or animal who does not want the attention of the dog. For clarity the law could state that engagement is classified as coming within 5 meters of the subject. Have I just solved all the country’s problems!? Probably not but it’s worth the suggestion.

The Law in South Africa does not allow dogs to be off leash in public spaces

South Africa’s public spaces are teeming with furry companions, and while many dog owners responsibly handle their pets, encounters with off leash dogs can be intimidating or dangerous for both people and other animals. In this blog post, we will explore effective strategies for dealing with off-leash dogs and their owners in public spaces, ensuring safety, peace of mind, and harmonious coexistence.

1. Stay Calm and Assess the Situation:

Encountering an off-leash dog can be unnerving, but it’s crucial to remain calm and composed. Assess the dog’s behavior and body language to gauge if it poses a threat. Often, dogs off-leash are friendly and curious rather than aggressive.

2. Communicate Clearly and Assertively:

Once you’ve established the dog’s intentions, it’s time to communicate with the owner. Use a confident and assertive tone to inform them about their dog’s actions, emphasizing any concerns you may have. Polite but firm communication sets a respectful tone and encourages responsible behavior.

3. Familiarize Yourself with Local Laws:

Before venturing into public spaces, familiarize yourself with South Africa’s local laws regarding dogs and leashing requirements. This knowledge not only equips you with relevant information but also helps you navigate conversations with dog owners from a well-informed standpoint.

4. Use Non-Threatening Body Language:

Approaching off-leash dogs with non-threatening body language is crucial. Avoid direct eye contact, sudden movements, or gestures that might be interpreted as aggressive. By maintaining a relaxed and neutral stance, you reduce the likelihood of escalating an already tense situation.

5. Carry Treats or Distracting Objects:

In some cases, carrying dog treats or toys can serve as a deterrent or distraction when encountering off-leash dogs. Offering treats to the dog may keep it occupied while you address the owner about their responsibilities.

6. Report Irresponsible Owners:

If you encounter repeat incidents with owners who consistently allow their dogs to be off-leash inappropriately, it may be necessary to report the incidents to local authorities or animal control agencies. Provide them with as much information as possible, including dates, times, and descriptions of the incidents.

7. Seek Alternate Routes:

If encountering off-leash dogs becomes a recurring issue in a specific location, consider seeking alternative routes for your own safety and peace of mind. Explore nearby public spaces or consult with local authorities to identify dog-friendly areas where leashing rules are strictly enforced.

8. Support Community Engagement and Education:

Advocate for responsible dog ownership and encourage community engagement in South Africa. Support initiatives that promote dog training, responsible dog ownership, and local awareness campaigns. Celebrate dog-friendly events that promote responsible behavior and provide educational resources.


Navigating encounters with off leash dogs and their owners in South African public spaces requires patience, assertiveness, and understanding. By incorporating these strategies into your approach, you can help foster a culture of responsible dog ownership and promote safer, more enjoyable public spaces for all. Remember, communication and education are key to finding common ground and achieving positive change.