I've lived in a number of different places around the world, and each one seems to take a slightly different approach to off-leash living. In my little patch of Southern California, for example, it was uncommon to allow your dog off leash outside the dog park. In Scotland, on the other hand, off-leashing is common, and the dogs, by and large, have excellent manners.
But no matter where you
Know the Laws
First things, first, you need to know where you can go.
Some beaches, trails, and wilderness areas are open to dogs. Others are not — and there's always a reason, such as preserving a delicate ecosystem, keeping wildlife safe, or keeping your dog safe from agricultural or forestry machinery.
In addition, some dog-friendly areas may be open year round, while others may be closed to dogs for parts of the year.
Finally, in some areas, dogs must be on leashes at all times.
Violating these laws may not only cause damage to the wilderness area, but may result in a fine for you, or injury to your dog. So know the laws and follow them.
If you're going to take your dog onto a public beach or a well-trafficked footpath, it's important to know that they're under control.
Can you call your dog back, and know that they'll come back immediately? Can you trust them not to run up to strangers or even jump on them?
Even if your dog is friendly, they can frighten people who are unused to dogs. And a 15-pound Jack, rocketing excitedly toward a new friend, can knock over a child or even an adult who is unsteady on their feet, causing injury.
Leaving a mess behind is terrible manners, and it should go without saying that we clean up after our dogs. But many people don't.
Some people seem to think that leaving your dog's…
Packing out is for dog poo, too. So when you head for the hills, bring your bags. And dispose of the bags, properly. Chucking a bagged poo into the bushes is worse than just leaving it.
If you're in an area where you know you may run into bears, mountain lions, badgers, porcupines, coyotes, wolves, or snakes, it's probably best to keep your dog on a leash.
A fearless Jack Russell may have no compunction about attempting to chase off a large predator, and they might even bring the fight to you.
If your pup is on a leash, on the other hand, it will be a lot easier to scoop them up and beat a hasty retreat.
If you're off-leashing in a park, beach, or forest, you're probably not going to run into livestock. But in rural areas, it's quite possible that your dog may dart into a field to investigate cows, sheep, horses, and so on. And this can cause problems. Lots of them.
First, it's bad for the livestock. Some dogs don't just chase sheep, for example; they maul or even kill them. And if a dog bothers a pregnant animal, it can cause her to miscarry. It's not only sad and painful for the animal, but it's an economic hit to the farmer depending on that birth for income.
Think your Jack is too small to cause problems? Think again. A trained Jack Russell is smart enough and assertive enough to herd sheep and cows. An untrained one could easily frighten and chase them to the point of self-damage.
It's also bad for you and your dog. In Britain, for example, a farmer has the legal right to shoot a dog for bothering livestock. And other places may have criminal penalties, including fines for the owner.
So if you're in a livestock area, keep your dog under control. And perhaps keep them on a leash if you can't trust them not to dash off to play with the sheep.
Pack it In, Pack it Out
Dogs are omnivores, and their droppings are foul. They are also not a natural part of wild environments. So in addition to being disgusting, dog droppings can cause harm to the ecosystem if left behind. So again, don't leave them behind.
Also, just as you would never leave soda cans or candy wrappers on the beach or trail, don't leave treat wrappers, water bottles, or anything else for your dog that won't quickly decompose. And be mindful that some pet treats and pet food can be harmful to wild animals. So if you drop it, pick it up and take it with you.
Off Leash Fun Begins With Good Manners
What dog doesn't love a good off-leash romp? It's great exercise and good, wholesome fun for everyone. Just make sure that your dog is welcome, well trained, and under control.
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