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Acadia National Park in Maine holds a special place in my heart, as it probably does for anyone that has been there. It is simply one of the most gorgeous places in the US, and it offers something for everyone – from easy to difficult hikes, rocky beaches to sandy beaches, and even a 27 mile scenic loop drive to the summit of Cadillac Mountain for the best pictures.

In the off season, Acadia feels like a secluded getaway, and you maybe run into a handful of people. In prime travel season (the summer months), it is packed, and you can barely stand to get a picture without bumping shoulders with someone. Acadia sees over 3 million visitors per year. 

Dogs are allowed in the park but must be attached on a 6 foot leash. There are some difficult trails and some beaches, along with a few other spots, that do have restrictions and where dogs cannot go. All of those details can be found here. 

However, there have been 3 instances this past week of visitors being bitten by off leash dogs.

While I’ve been lucky enough to not run into that issue at Acadia, I have had many issues with off leash dogs on several hikes around my home. 

Let me be clear – people with off leash dogs are ruining it for everyone. Not only are they ruining the experience for anyone they may directly come in contact with, but they are also potentially ruining it for everyone in the future. Most parks have leash laws. By violating those leash laws, they are risking these places to no longer allow dogs in the future.

 

 

Why Does your dog need to be off leash?

He doesn’t.

  

There are no ifs, ands, or buts. I assure you – your dog DOES NOT have some intrinsic requirement to be off leash. Your dog is not getting some magical benefit of simply being free of a 6 foot leash for a couple hours that is worth breaking the law, ruining the visit for all of the other visitors, and potentially worth getting in an altercation or having a police report filed as a result of said altercation.

The main argument is that the dogs get “so much more exercise off leash,” and that they’re just “so much happier” running off leash. Let me assure you, your dog is getting plenty of exercise on a 6 foot leash. Just because he is attached to a 6 foot leash does not mean he is not getting a cardiovascular workout, because he is.  

7 Reasons to not let your dog off leash

  1. THE LAW
    • MOST places require dogs to be on a 6 foot leash. It is the law. When parks continue to get unhappy visitors due to those breaking the law or continued reports of dog bites from off leash dogs, it is a very real possibility that they will start banning dogs altogether. Then what are you going to do, and where are you going to go?
  2. OTHER dogs, children, people
    • I know we are living in the most self-absorbed and selfish time of history. People care more about themselves than anyone or anything. But, for just a couple of hours, can’t you do better? Can’t you be a better person than the majority of people? Can’t you care just the tiniest bit about others? There may be other dogs on the trail that don’t like dogs. There may be children who have been attacked and are terrified of dogs. There may be people who don’t like dogs, or elderly people who may fall if your dog bumps into them accidentally.
  3. wildlife
    • Wildlife is everywhere. Bears, coyotes, snakes, porcupines, etc. can all do serious damage to your dog if your dog gets into a scuffle. Plus, what about the smaller wildlife – baby birds and rabbits – will your dog leave those alone or will they incite your dog’s prey drive which may result in a dead animal?
  4. unsafe water
    • Most dogs, especially during a long and hot hike, will naturally get into any body of water they see. I’m sure you’ve seen the news stories all over the country recently, but there are serious concerns of blue-green algae in water. It can be in ponds, lakes, and rivers. The water can even look clear, but it unfortunately could still be contaminated. There’s just no way to know. Exposure to this blue-green algae can easily kill your dog in about an hour. In many parts of the country, there are also serious concerns of leptospirosis. This is a bacteria also found in standing water, which can be treatable if treated quickly, but otherwise, it too can be fatal.
  5. does your dog really have a reliable recall?
    • I have come across some parks that have signs stating something to the effect of, “Dogs must be on leash unless under direct voice control at all times.” This essentially means your dog can be off leash, as long as you can recall him. But, can you really recall him? Can you recall him off of a deer, bear, snake, or squirrel? Can you recall him off the family you may be passing that’s all eating delicious smelling beef jerky? Can you recall him off the excitable dog approaching who is on a leash? Most people like to think they their dog has a fabulous recall, but unfortunately, that is not the truth. Just because your dog has a great recall at home does not mean he will have a great recall on the trail with so many more exciting sights and smells.
  6. tick borne diseases
    • If your dog is off leash, he is likely to be traipsing through the tall grasses off the trail. While ticks are naturally a concern anytime you go outdoors, their prime environment is in those tall bushy grasses. So while you may not be seeing any ticks on the well maintained trail, your dog could be picking up tons in those tall grasses. Is a 2 hour off leash walk really worth a lifetime of tick borne disease?
  7. LONG LINES DO EXIST
    • Again, a lot of parks have a very specific “dog must be attached to a 6 foot leash” rule. But, for parks that don’t have that rule, you can always use a long line. You can find long lines that range from 8 feet to 50 feet long! With the use of a long line, your dog has more room to roam, but is still connected to you, so you don’t have to worry about everything else I’ve just listed here. My personal favorite long lines are the brahma long lines from Bold Lead Designs.

If you’ve read this and for some reason, you still think your dog just absolutely needs to be off leash, then you need to find a place that explicitly allows dogs off leash. These places do exist, so do some research! There are many smaller secluded areas in larger parks off of the trails that are explicitly off leash friendly. You could also consider just taking your dog to a local dog park (try going at odd hours to avoid others if you wish).

Do you let your dog off leash? What do you do to ensure you follow the law and don’t bother other visitors? What about those of you who have been rushed by off leash dogs? Tell me about your experience in the comments below!

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