Press "Enter" to skip to content

City Dog: The importance of voice control — despite Downtown limitations

BY LYNN PACIFICO | Startled by a dog-versus-dog commotion, I saw a large black fluff run past me without an owner. I ran after it, about to grab it, when the owner nonchalantly appeared. Not saying anything then, I will here. If an unleashed dog isn’t under voice control, it can cost it its life. If an off-leash dog approaches an aggressive, leashed dog, it is unfair to the owner of the leashed dog and dangerous for both dogs and owners. Also, some people are fearful, making it inconsiderate to allow an untrained dog off-leash in a crowded city.

While Daisy Rosebud was being curbed, she saw a buddy. In her excitement, she leapt sideways into the street. She was about to take another leap, putting her into oncoming traffic. One “Daisy, stay!” and she froze. Voice control kept her from getting run over.

Harry, friendly, intelligent and obedience trained, had great “recall.” I unleashed him at the bottom of Charles Lane. Just then, we both noticed a cat at the top of the lane. A “Harry, stay” command allowed me to leash him before he took off. Even with well-trained dogs, you can’t count on anything 100 percent; so my dogs are now always leashed here, since it’s easy for a tragedy to occur in a flash with this amount of traffic.

Harry and Rosebud in a “stay” photo. (Photo by Lynn Pacifico)

The first day I got Harry, who was wild from being kept on a short rope, we went to JJ Walker Field with treats and a friend. My friend took Harry to the opposite corner from me. I called, “Harry, come!” Harry took off like a bolt of lightning, running his heart out till he got to me. I gave him a treat, petted him and told him what a good dog he was. Then a friend called Harry from the opposite corner of the field. Harry ran to him and was rewarded. We did this six times to begin Harry’s voice control. From then on, whenever I called Harry, he immediately ran to me.

In a healthy leader/follower relationship, there are clearly defined boundaries. Through repetition, a dog knows what is expected and how to behave. Dogs find security in this. Basic obedience training needs consistency and earned trust.

The top photo illustrates three pups responding to their owner’s voice. They had been playing with leashes on but nobody holding the leashes. Their expressions and abrupt turning to see what their leader wanted demonstrate owner voice control.

The owner or owners of these dogs earned their love and respect because they took their responsibility seriously and trained their dogs. Yet, they let their dogs run illegally. Why would an obviously responsible citizen do that?

It’s because of the frustration that so many Downtown dog owners live with on a daily basis, since there are no off-leash areas here, like there are all over the city. Dog owners lost the use of JJ Walker’s multi-use field, which was our off-leash area. Having no legal area to practice training creates training and recreation obstacles for the largest active single user group of parks — dog owners.

Despite the lack of dog owner recreation areas still imposed upon us by our politicians and community board, we still must train our dogs. For instance, even though using a leash more than 6 feet long is illegal, and I cannot recommend it, I use a 30-foot leash for obedience practice at unbusy times in the Hudson River park.

With new dogs or fostered dogs, I often hire trainers/consultants to keep me abreast of innovations as products and training hacks evolve. It is best to keep training sessions short for regular enrichment activities, using positive techniques and high-value treats. If frustration comes up during training, then stop since one short burst of anger can wipe out months of training and you can’t take it back.

I cannot overemphasize the benefits of voice control since it makes life with a dog safer and easier, and responsible owners with well-behaved dogs are often welcome socially. I hope that our community helps us find adequate, safe recreation areas to support us in being responsible dog owners. When Harry passed, I received more than 60 letters of condolence and vases of flowers appeared at my door. He was a great partner and canine good citizen.

Pacifico is a fourth-generation Villager who loves dogs, nature and New York City.


  1. NYC Cat guy NYC Cat guy October 31, 2023

    Can the city push a “no poop near stoop” or “curb your dog” campaign? City is far more disgusting since all these kids got dogs during Covid.

    • lynn pacifico lynn pacifico November 1, 2023

      Thanks, cat guy. The Village Sun did two essays on this issue recently but the “curb your dog” sanitation model no longer works due to the bike lanes, sheds and the way our streets have changed since it was instituted years ago. We need a new sanitation model. Know anyone who can help?

  2. DuchessofNYC DuchessofNYC October 30, 2023

    I watched an unleashed puppy get run over by a cab once. It can happen in a second.

  3. SLA SLA October 30, 2023

    Over last few years, seeing unleashed dogs on sidewalk, in stores (dogs not even allowed in food places), in subway.
    And some big dogs….

    Mostly 20- and 30-something owners.
    Just moved to NYC?

  4. Tal Tarcov Tal Tarcov October 30, 2023

    I’d like to remind Lynn Pacifico and all New Yorkers that unless there is a Dog-Run specified area, DOGS MUST BE LEASHED in virtually every NYC Park! Please people — be considerate of others.

    • lynn pacifico lynn pacifico November 1, 2023

      Actually, there are off-leash areas/hours all over NYC, except Downtown (unless off-leash is allowed again in Battery Park City.) Many people don’t understand just how difficult it is to bring up well-behaved dogs without the facilities (like parks and adequate dog runs) in which to exercise, socialize and train them, or people just do not care to understand. The city creates problems for dog owners. Then people blame the dog owners for a problem without bothering to understand its cause.

      In a dense (& getting denser by the minute) area like the Village, even if you do not own a dog, if there is a dog in your building, you live with a dog. Understand the plight of dog owners, trying against all odds to be responsible, and ask why the city doesn’t provide what is needed to accomplish that. For instance, let’s use the segment of taxes that dog owners pay for parks — w/o getting dog-owner facilities — to build adequate, safe places for them.

      No need to cyber scream.

      • vic vic November 3, 2023

        I like that “cyber Scream” Agreed.

Leave a Reply

Mission News Theme by Compete Themes.