There are few things more gratifying than the, “I’m Free!” expression that unclipping a leash can spark on a dog’s face. From the beginning of one adventure to the end of the next, discovering the off-leash areas in your community can change the way you and your dog enjoy the great outdoors.
Unleashing your adventures through dog friendly trails and open spaces can really up the fun factor for dogs and humans alike. However, big or small, finding the areas where you are encouraged to let loose can sometimes be a challenge. Where are these off-leash, dog-friendly areas and how do you find them?
It seems that many people who enjoy the outdoors also do so with their dogs. A great resource for discovering your dog-friendly local trail systems and off-leash areas is through your local gear store such as an REI or EMS. Asking employees where they personally recreate with their dogs can be a great start (employees of gear stores often have the inside scoop). Additionally, finding a local map that shows dog-specific recreation areas can be a terrific bit of information on where dogs are encouraged and where they are not.
Another source of information is organizations that are dedicated to building local awareness of dog friendly areas. For example, DogPAC of Central Oregon exists to promote the health and enjoyment of dogs and their human companions through the provision of off-leash recreation opportunities in the area. Through some research, we found that many communities have built similar platforms for sharing knowledge of off-leash dog-friendly spaces across the United States. In the broader scheme, we’ve been pointed towards www.dogpark.com that can also be a great resource in many areas.
So now that we have access to these off-leash areas, how can we ensure they exist for many dog generations to come?
Everyone can practice off-leash etiquette by staying educated and playing smart. Here are a few tips that we’ve found helpful:
- Always carry a leash and two or more poop bags.
- Pick up after your dog. If you’re bag-less on the trail, bury the poop – it’ll be less offensive and will decompose faster.
- Keep your dog in sight and under voice control, or on leash.
- If your dog is not relaxed and friendly around people or other dogs, keep her on leash (and avoid fenced dog parks).
- If you meet children, dog-averse people, dog on-leash, mountain bikers, or horses on the trail, have your dog sit and stay, or leash up while they pass by.
- When you visit an off-leash area, unleash and keep walking around with your dog. This type of behavior will encourage ‘good dog’ interactions.
Because even a good dog can be unpredictable, keep in mind that not everyone wants to meet your dog, even if he’s friendly. Maintain caution and courtesy as we continue to share and enjoy the trails together. In the long run whether you’re leashed or free, there’s always room to grow dog friendly awareness in your community.