California Dog Leash Laws

Short, non-retractable leashes work best for an outing with your pup.
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You know that your precious pooch would never stray out of your sight during your nightly walk. It is important to follow dog leash laws in California, however, to keep your pup safe and to protect your neighbors. These laws vary from one city or county to another.

Leash Length

Several laws in California deal with leash requirements. In Long Beach, for example, leash laws require owners and handlers to use a leash no longer than 8 feet. This ordinance ensures that unconfined dogs remain under the control of their dutiful owners. In some jurisdictions, requirements might be for shorter lengths, such as 6 feet, while other in others no such requirement exists.


Dog leash laws apply to unconfined animals. If your dog is patrolling your backyard fence in search of wayward squirrels, for example, no leash is necessary. Many California communities also have designated areas where dogs are permitted off leash. Dog parks, for example, provide citizens with a place to let their dogs run free and socialize with each other. Once you leave one of these designated areas, clip the leash back on until you return home.

Voice Control

Some cities and counties in California, such as the town of Livermore, do not require leashes for dogs who are under voice control by their owners. Others, such as Sacramento, waive dog leash laws if the pooch is currently in a training program or has completed obedience school. These jurisdictions assume that responsible pet owners who enroll their dogs in training will be able to use verbal commands to stop their canine companions from misbehaving in public.

Retractable Leashes

You might be tempted to buy a retractable leash so your pup can roam more freely on walks. The problem with retractable leashes is that they can limit your control over your pooch. Some areas of California address this type of leash. In Sacramento County, for example, even retractable leashes must be 6 feet long or shorter. This means that you cannot use an 8-foot retractable leash even if you keep it 6 feet long.


The penalties for failing to follow dog leash laws vary just as widely as the laws themselves. In Los Angeles County, police and animal control officers can issue citations to owners of dogs "at large." Owners must appear in court and may be charged with a fine.

Following the Rules

It can be difficult to determine exactly which dog leash laws govern your municipality. You might be subject to state, county and city ordinances, so contact your local animal control office or dog rescue center to learn which laws are applicable in your town.

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