Ferguson Forest is not for off-leash dogs

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by Heather Ruth Samson

Ferguson Forest is NOT an off-leash dog park. All the people I know are responsible; but, somehow, there are people out there who are not. Today, we got 20 feet from a large and very fluffy red fox. We were behind him, downwind. When he realized we were there, he barked at us before running off into the forest. I’ve seen several of them and heard many coyotes out there (and seen some). I keep my dog within eye- sight at all times, because it takes a second for your dog to become wildlife lunch or pincushion.

Only the designated area of the FFC is for off-leash dogs, and it’s closed during COVID lock down. Ferguson Forest has coyotes, foxes, porcupines, fishers. Dog walkers disobeying the bylaw to let their dog have a little run should, at the very least, leash dogs from 20 or 30 feet away from other people.

It’s also a bylaw that dog owners MUST pick up poop and carry dog poop bags to a trash can or back home. People who ignore these bylaws, risk access to the forest for everyone.

If your dog bites someone’s dog, the vet bill is yours. If your dog bites someone’s dog, or someone, you may have to euthanize him. He is reportable to the municipality.

You could also find yourself paying a heavy vet bill from wildlife. When your dog bears down on some other dog, doggie words get said and someone takes it wrong. That other dog may snap and bite because, being borne down on by a big strange dog is a threat, no matter how friendly you think your lovely beast is. My dogs have only ever been attacked by dogs the owner swore were ‘friendly and never did that’….while their dog was loose and mine was on a leash beside me. If your dog bears down on a dog on a leash, and that dog snaps and bites your dog ,ITS YOUR FAULT. You put both dogs in the situation where your dog threatened a dog confined on a leash, which defended itself. “He just wants to play” is an ignorant excuse that ignores the dynamic of a strange animal hurtling down out of nowhere on another animal while the owner is showing all the body language of ‘OMG stop your dog, this is not good’. It’s just ignorant of basic dog psychology.

At the very least, every single person I’ve met with dogs off leash, so far, has violated social distancing by their dog getting in our space, and then the person diving into our space to get the dog. I have taken to asking people from a distance to leash their dog. Only half of them do. The other half become rude and ignorant and don’t even attempt to share the trail for social distancing. I’m developing a theory: people who disregard rules raise dogs that do it too, because 99% of the time, the dogs encountered NEVER come when called, nor do they back off when told to by me.

Your dog may be friendly. That’s not the point. He could trigger a dog which someone has responsibly on leash. He could trigger a person with trauma. He will brush his hair with your possible COVID virus up on that person, and definitely on their dog. A walker has a right to kick at a dog that is bearing down on them or their dog. Unfortunately, we can’t kick you too, for invading our space. I have never kicked a dog, unless it was growling and attempting to bite. But I don’t love playing goalie with my legs and your dog’s face as it lunges around me to get rudely personal and in my dog’s face.

People who enter the dog park itself knowingly take on risks of dog encounters. People who walk their dog in an area where the bylaw stipulates that dogs must be leashed, do not.

If your dog bears down on someone, they will have to treat him with hostility, or at least unfriendliness, to get him to back off, and you will cause other people to demonstrate to their dog that they should be pro- tected from this dog. You put your dog and the other person’s dog, and the other person overall in a negative experience that has a bad impact on both dogs’ socialization training. You make a person angry with you, when you could have a friendly encounter instead.

Be courteous and responsible, and leash your dog 20 feet away before it gets out of hand, and especially if you are asked to. If someone has to ask you to leash your dog, there are reasons, and it is rude and inconsiderate not to take that into account. Especially when, technically, your dog is not supposed to be off leash at all.

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