Oh Bend, the most amazing Dog Town this side of the Mississippi. How I love your glorious dog parks, your extensive hiking trails, and all your refreshing swimming holes. And apparently, so does everyone else and their mother… and their dog!
If you live in Bend (or anywhere else where dogs and humans coexist) you’ll run into the issue of dogs freely roaming the outdoors, not a care in the world and not a leash in site. You’ll be walking along a peaceful trail, listening to the birds and the distant river, looking up at the tall pines, keeping your best friend close-by and safe with a six foot nylon leash. Suddenly you look at the trail ahead and you see an adorable little Aussie, just standing about ten feet in front of you, still as a statue, and you begin your internal dialogue, “Is this dog with a human? Should I turn the other way? Or head off trail? Is it going to approach?” Meanwhile, that best friend you keep next to you on lead is beginning to whine and tug and stress. Suddenly another human appears, and casually yells to you, “Oh it’s ok he’s friendly!” And you uncomfortably chuckle, “Ok great, mine is not!”
This is a daily occurrence. Bend is a pretty dog friendly town, and people seem to take that and run with it… off leash. There are numerous off leash dog parks and trails in town, but the majority of hiking, walking, & biking paths are leashed areas. This means your dog MUST be on leash… not if they’re cool they can hang… they MUST BE ON LEASH. This is not because the city loves power and wants to control your rights, this is for the safety of you, your dog, and everyone around you. I know, other people, what a weird concept, but a lot of people do not like dogs. A lot of dogs do not like dogs. Allowing your dog to run off leash is much easier for you and much more enjoyable for your pup, but some dogs become incredibly anxious when approached by an off-leash dog, and your dog could get hurt if it sniffs the wrong dog. Or even worse a human could get hurt.
When you are in off-leash areas, please make sure your pup is well behaved. Dogs are technically only to be off leash when they have excellent recall and are under your control. There have been instances where well trained dogs have wandered from their owners, bothering a non-dog loving human, and let me tell you, people who do not have dogs love telling you that your dog is terrible, and they love reporting you for going against the rules.
Here’s a true story from the Sydney Morning Herald: Neil McMahon had brought his dog to an off-leash dog beach. He allowed the dog to wander and enjoy itself. The dog approached a baby laying on a blanket in the sand and decided to give that baby a lick on the face. (don’t ask me what a baby was doing laying in the sand of a dog beach) The child’s mother accused the dog of attacking the baby and called the police. Neil was fined $238 because the dog was not under his control.
“‘Effective control’ is defined as follows. It means your dog will return to you upon command (fair enough, though I don’t know a dog owner who has a 100 per cent success rate on that front). It means that you “retain a clear and unobstructed view of the dog” in the off-leash area at all times (fair enough, and usually not a problem unless the whirling dervish of romping dogs gets too big or they head off into the shrubbery in pursuit of a tennis ball). But here’s the kicker that got me in trouble: ‘effective control’ means your dog ‘does not bother, attack, worry or interfere with other people or animals’.” -Neil
So if you aren’t worried about other dogs or people, at least worry about your bank account. Or being an adult and being scolded by a police officer or park ranger, cuz that would be embarrassing.
Be courteous and cautious. Be mindful of your dog and others. Be a standup, law abiding citizen. If you need help finding an off-leash area or need to become better acquainted with your areas leash laws, Google is great at looking things up! If you live in Bend the Dog PAC is an excellent resource for dog parks, summer and winter trails, and upcoming dog events! Dogster Magazine and Zuke’s have some great tips on Adventuring with your pup off leash!
*this has been on my mind lately because of how many people have been complaining of off-leash dogs in an area they thought safe to bring their dog-reactive-dog for a walk*