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I believe that putting a leash on a dog to take it for a walk on Shabbos is permissible, even in a place where there is no eiruv, since the leash is to protect the dog.

What about touching my dog, and as an extension to that, petting it. These are things that can be both beneficial to me and to the well being of the animal.

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  • Thanks all for your answers, I posted this question, as a past dog owner. My present circumstances preclude me from owning one. The subject came up whilst I was in conversation with a friend. I mentioned that it is permissible to walk a dog on a leash even in a place that has no eiruv. My friend immediately said that animals are muktzeh and this seems to be the majority opinion. Rabbi Neuwirth says (in the Hebrew version of Shmiras Shabbos) that when attaching the leash on should be careful not to "lean" on the animal, since his ruling is applicable to "beheimot." – Yerachmiel Jul 5 '16 at 21:28
  • 1 comment wasn't enough ! leaning on the animal, would be akin to causing it to move. Before reading this ruling, my friend suggested that it would seem that the leash needed to be put on the animal before Shabbos. As to the idea of a dog being useful, dogs have been used for security for many years, and it would appear to me, that this "use" has become more and more valid with time. I am curious, as to why this was not accepted by the rishonim as a valid "use" - thereby canceling the animal's muktzeh status. In our day and age, security has become a very valid concern. – Yerachmiel Jul 5 '16 at 21:37
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I had thought the answer was "absolutely yes" (i.e., you cannot pet even your own dog on Shabbos), but I checked two of my Shabbos seforim and the Internet and found a bit of nuance.

Volume 2, Part V of The Concise Code of Jewish Law: Compiled from the Kitzur Shulhan Aruch and Traditional Sources by Rabbi Gersion Appel says this:

"All animals including pets are muktzeh. Hence it is not permitted to handle and fondle dogs, cats, and other animals on the Sabbath. It is, however, permitted to give them food, as indeed it is one's duty to feed his animals. [...] If the animal is in distress, or it is necessary to prevent its suffering, one may hold it by the neck and lead it" (333).

Volume 1 of A Semicha Aid for Learning the Laws of Shabbos: An English Translation and Compilation of the Laws of Shabbos from the Alter Rebbe's Shulchan Aruch, in Accordance to Topic by Rabbi Yaakov Goldstein reiterates that animals, including domestic animals, are muktzeh and cannot be moved on Shabbos; however, in a private domain they can be moved by their neck, their sides, and their legs (without lifting them off the ground) if "the animals need this to be done"; i.e., to prevent suffering (331). In a public domain or a karmalis, one may only push the animal[s] from behind, so as not to come close to carrying. (Interestingly, this source suggests that the specific prohibition of carrying does not apply to non-domestic animals--although they may still be muktzeh, and certainly my first source suggests they are.)

On p. 332, my second source responds thus to the specific question "May one pet his dog?":

"Seemingly this may not be done as one moves its hairs by doing so, and moving even part of an animal is forbidden unless done to prevent the animal pain. Perhaps however one can claim that hair is not considered a real substance as is a limb. Vetzrauch Iyun."

I found another lenient discussion here:

A. Are Pets Muktza? The Talmud (Shabbat 128b) states that animals are muktza. The reason for this, explains Magid Mishnah41 (commentary to Rambam Hilchot Shabbat 25:25), is that animal have no utility on Shabbat and Yom Tov. Hence, they are comparable in this regard to sticks and stones which are classified as "muktza machamt gufa", muktza by its very nature (i.e., because they have no utility on Shabbat and Yom Tov). The Rishonim, however, debate whether an animal which can be used to quiet a child from crying is considered to be muktza. Tosafot (Shabbat 45b s.v. hacha), Mordechai (Shabbat 316) and Hagahot Oshri (commenting on Rosh, Shabbat 3:21) cite authorities who believe that such animals are not muktza by virtue of the fact that they have utility. Yet Tosafot, Mordechai, Hagahot Oshri, and Rosh (cited in the responsa of Maharach Or Zarua, 82) reject these authorities because of two possible considerations. First, the fact that an animal can be used to quiet a child from crying is insufficient utility to render the creature no longer to be considered muktza machmat gufa. Second, the rabbis classified all animals as muktza regardless of whether a particular animal has utility on Shabbat and Yom Tov. This is an example of "lo plug rabbanan", rabbinic legislation which was instituted for a reason, yet embraces even the cases for which the reason does not apply Shulchan Aruch (308:39) appears to accept the position that all animals are considered to be muktza since Rabbi Karo states that animals are muktza without exception. Indeed, Shulchan Aruch Harav (308:78) rules stringently in this regard.43

The question arises, though, whether circumstances have changed since the time of the Rishonim. These authorities discuss animals which can possibly be used to amuse children but not animals whose entire purpose is to entertain and provide companionship to their owners. Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (cited in Shmirat Shabat Kehilchata 27, footnote 96), in fact, raises the possibility of making this distinction, yet he rules that pets are muktza. Rabbi Moshe Feinstein (Iggerot Moshe, Orach Chaim 4:16 and cited in "the halachos of Muktza" p. 7 of the Hebrew section, paragraph twenty-four) and Rabbi Ovadia Yosef (Yabia Omer, 5:26) also reject the possibility of making such a distinction. It appears that this question is contingent on one's acceptance of one of the two reasons (stated above) offered by the Rishonim) for why an animal that can be used to quiet a child from crying is muktza. If one adopts the position that the rabbis have deemed all animals to be muktza, regardless of their utility, then even household pets are to be included I this category. However, if one assumes the position that the possibility of using an animal to amuse a child is insufficient utility to remove it from being considered muktza, then a cogent argument can be made that a pet is sufficiently useful to the extent that one no longer can say that they have no purpose to their owners on Shabbat and Yom Tov, and hence are not muktza.44

Rabbi Shmuel David (Sheilot uteshuvot Meirosh Tzurim 38:6) concludes his discussion of this issue with a citation of the opinion of Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein.

It is proper to conduct himself in accordance with the stringent opinion in this matter, since this appears to be the opinion of Tosafot, Mordechai, Hagahot Oshri, and Rosh. Yet one need not admonish those who practice in accordance with the lenient opinion in this matter. Since this issue is embroiled in a dispute amongst the Rishonim and the logic of those who rule leniently is compelling. However, even according to the stringent opinion it is reasonable to say that one may move a household pet to alleviate its suffering (Yabia Omer 5:26). This is because some authorities permit moving items which are undoubtedly muktza to spare an animal from suffering (see Mishnah Berurah 305:70 and Chazon Ish 52:16). Since the question as to whether household pets are muktza, is in dispute, there exists a s'fek s'feka, a double doubt, which would lead one to rule leniently in this ragard.45

  1. This explanation is also cited by Beit Yosef (Orach Chaim 308 s.v. kofin) and Mishnah Berurah (308:146).
  2. See Tehilla Ledavid 308:42 for a distinction between Kosher and non-kosher animals regarding the category of muktza under which they should be classified.
  3. However, see Respnsa halachot Ketanot (number 45) who adopts a lenient position in this matter. Rabbi Shmuel David (Sheilot Uteshuvot Meirosh Tzurim 38:6) cites Chief Sepharadic Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu who rules leniently in this matter since the issue debated by the Rishonim is a rabbinic law where one may rule leniently in case of doubt.
  4. Rabbi Shmuel David (Sheilot Uteshuvot Meirosh Tzurim) cogently argues that one who is accustomed to move his pets is analogous to someone who prepares a rock prior to Shabbat for use on Shabbat. In such cases the rock is no longer muktza since he has demonstrated that the rock has utility for him on Shabbat (ordinarily, rocks are muktza since they serve no purpose on Shabbat; once one demonstrated his use for a rock then it is no longer classified as muktza). Similarly, one who ordinarily moves his pets demonstrates thereby that they have utility on Shabbat and hence are not muktza. Rabbi Auerbach (cited in Shmirat Shabbat Kehilchata 18, footnote 62) rules that seeing-eye dogs are not muktza. He reasons that since their essential function is such that they must necessarily be moved, then one surely intends to move them on Shabbat and hence their designation as muktza is avoided. Rabbi David points out that a rabbinic authority who rules that a seeing-eye dog is not muktza would not necessarily rule that a household pet is not muktza. One can distinguish between seeing-eye dogs whose function requires their being moved (and hence one surely intends prior to Shabbat to use them on Shabbat) and household pets which are ordinarily moved but are not necessarily moved.
  5. Rabbi Y. Neuwirth rules leniently in this regard, though he expresses some hesitation in doing so; see Shmirat Shabbat Kehilchata 27:28 and 30 and footnote 98.

Another relevant issue might be the prohibition of gozez (shearing), since it may be likely or inevitable that hair is pulled out of the dog in the course of petting. This is just a thought I had, though, and I'm not sure.

Another remaining question, it seems, is to what extent indirect petting of your dog (i.e. with an object) would be a problem.

A personal note: This prohibition initially caused me pain as a dog owner and lover who usually pets her dogs at every opportunity. I quickly learned, however, that some sweet words will readily assuage a dog, and dogs are actually better behaved (read: less spoiled) on the days you don't pet them. Good luck!

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In “The Halochos of Muktzah” page 118 Rabbi Bodner says that animals are muktza. On page 9, Rabbi Bodner says

“Items which are muktza may not be moved or eaten. They may be touched, however, providing this does not cause them to move.”

So you see that animals can be touched as long as that does not make them move.

In “Shemirath Shabbath” Rabbi Neuwirth says 27 (8)

“an animal which needs to be kept on a leash to prevent it from running away may be taken out on a leash ...etc.”

He does not mention putting the leash on. From Rabbi Bodner, I would assume that if the animal would not move while the leash is being attached, it should be permitted, but CYLOR.

Edit: later I found Halachic Perspectives On Pets, an extensive article by Rabbi H Jachter.

He discusses putting a leash on an animal in respect to the prohibition of trapping an animal on Shabbos and says,

A practical application of these halachot occurs when one removes the leash of a pet to allow the animal to run freely in an open area, one would be permitted to reattach the leash on the pet on Shabbat and Yom Tov only if the animal is obedient to its owner. However, if the animal is somewhat disobedient to its owner and resists its owner, it is best not to reattach the leash. It is proper not to remove the leash of such an animal in an open space in order to avoid the necessity of relying on the lenient opinion.

He does not mention muktzah there. Of course trapping is a potential Torah prohibition and muktzah is Rabbinic; so he could be expected to mention the more severe prohibition. But since he does not mention muktzah, he may hold that as long as the person only touches the animal without causing it to move there is no issue of muktzah.

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    Since you are moving the fur when you pet the animal, it seems there may be different opinions about whether this is a muktza issue. See, for example, the Tosefta on Shabbos (17:5), Shulchan Aruch OC 308:40, Beit Yoseif OC 308:53, Ran (Shabbos 52 in dapei HaRif), and Bei'ur Halacha on 302:11, s.v. s.v. "מקנחה". – Fred Jul 4 '16 at 20:35
  • Is the quote from R Neuwirth discussing a location with no valid Eruv? – Double AA Jul 4 '16 at 21:07
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    How to you explain sefaria.org/Shulchan_Arukh,_Orach_Chayyim.308.40?lang=en where to problem seems not the movement of them (as it is by other muktza items) to pick them up – hazoriz Jul 4 '16 at 22:30
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    Shulchan aruch harav on subject chabadlibrary.org/books/adhaz/sh/sh2/1/308/79.htm – hazoriz Jul 4 '16 at 22:34
  • @hazoriz The Mishna B'rura there explains this in accordance with the Ran, who says moving the animals here is allowed due to tza'ar ba'alei chayim. – Fred Jul 4 '16 at 22:39

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