The Off-Leash Epidemic

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!

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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*

 

Is a Tired Dog a Happy Dog?

You might be familiar with the phrase “a tired dog is a happy/good dog”, but what does that really mean? If you have a dog it’s pretty obvious, exercising a dog leads to them sleep which causes bad behaviors to happen less frequently. But if your dog is passed out and too tired to do anything, does that make them a happy dog? Does it make them a good dog? Or does it just make them an exhausted dog? 

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Physical exercise is very important for dogs, and the activity you choose is equally as important. A dog running on a treadmill is getting plenty of exercise, but a dog who gets to go on a run with his human is getting a little more from the activity. Participating in exercise with your dog presents an opportunity for bonding, and your dog will be much happier working out with you than alone. It’s important to set time aside in your day specifically for your dog.

You can take your dog to the dog park to exercise and socialize, but if you are staring at your cell phone the entire time it effects the outing for the dog and they may not be as happy or well exercised as you’d hoped (they may also get into some trouble without you even knowing). Try bringing a ball or favorite toy to the park, and rather than checking pointless emails, take the time to connect with your pup through a game they love. My dog happens to be weird and not care much for toys, so rather than play fetch, we play hide and seek at the park. I will hide and he will use his nose to seek me out, once he finds me he gets a reward. It’s essentially nose work, but rather than searching for treats he’s searching for me! This gives him both mental and physical exercise!

Mental stimulation is equally as important as physical, and can have better results in less time. Nicole Ellis is a dog trainer who found that her own dog was, “more tired after 15 minutes of scent games than after a 30-minute walk around the neighborhood.” Dogs are smart, and most of them want jobs to do, so giving them some brain activities will help give them peace of mind.

Please keep in mind that all dogs are different and require different amounts of physical exercise. Old dogs require lessexercise than 8 month old puppies. A Newfoundland requires less exercise than an Australian Shepherd. Dogs with injuries require special workouts. Your dog will normally let you know their limits, but don’t always rely on that, and maybe run it by your vet. 

This is a great guide on how much exercise your dog may need depending on breed, age, and size. But like I said, every dog is different and no one knows your dog better than you.

Here are some great articles on physical and mental stimulation:

“A Mentally Stimulated Dog is a Happy Dog” by Nicole Ellis

“Is a Tired Dog a Good Dog? (Or a Happy Dog?)” by Dan Estep & Suzanne Hetts of Animal Behavior Associates

And some ideas on how to give your dog mental stimulation:

Prevent Boredom

Brain Games