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Off Leash Fun or Frowned Upon?

Missoula is one of the greatest cities for pets, and dogs in particular.

We have a number of hiking options, bike trails and side walks for a pet friendly city. With all of these options, comes the question of letting your dog off leash or not.

During my experience of being a professional dog walker, off leash dogs can either pose a difficult obstacle to work around, or a fun romp for the dogs in my care. How to know when you should and should not let your dog(s) off leash is something that all Missoulians should know, and learn.

Typically as a dog owner we want to think of our dogs as our loyal companions that will never leave our side, but that is not always the case. Or, we assume that since our dog is friendly, all other dogs should not pose a threat to us. Also, not always the case unfortunately.

Having a friendly dogs is the best! We have less concerns, less stress and usually enjoy our walks. With that being said, sometimes our dogs are too friendly and get a little carried away wanting to say hello to everything that moves and breaths, which can cause stress to other people and their dogs. If another dog is not friendly, or someone just wants to walk without distractions, having an off leash friendly dog run up to say hello can cause a great walk to turn into a disaster.

With every friendly dog in Missoula, there are also many aggressive/reactive dogs that need exercise and stimulation. You can help them live a fulfilling life by being cautious for your pet before approaching an unknown dog.

We can quickly turn our friendly dogs, into not so friendly dogs if they encounter the wrong dog, or situation.

I like to use my rule of thumb that: if a dog is on leash, training or under obvious voice control, I will not let my dog(s) run up to them unless I know the person and/or dog.

Why? Because safety is always my number 1 concern and if I let a dog run up to yours and it gets bit, I will feel responsible. This choice might not cause just physical pain but emotional scars as well and that is so easily avoided by keeping control of our dogs until we know the situation.

Another way to know if your dog should be on or off leash is by the area you have chosen to walk your dog(s).

Here is a short list of on and off leash areas for our dogs!

Benny Off Leash
Barmeyer Loop

Off Leash Areas:

Inside Dog Parks - Bark Park downtown Missoula, Fort Missoula Sgt. Bozo Dog Bark, Missoula Rail Link Dog Park, Playfair Park Dog Run.

Blue Mountain

Mt. Sentinel - certain areas as long as your dog is on voice restraint*** and you have a leash ready to be used. The "M" on Mt. Sentinel is not an off leash area and pets must be leashed.

Mt. Jumbo - certain areas as long as your dog is on voice restraint and you have a leash ready to be used. Certain areas are closed seasonally. The "L" on Mt. Jumbo is not an off leash area and pets must be leashed.

Rattlesnake main trail - After the first 1.7 miles, dogs must be on voice restraint.

Pattee Canyon - Crazy Canyon, Sam Braxton Trail and Deer Creek, Barmeyer Loop (voice restraint after first portion of hike

Riker and Pablo On Leash
Greenough Park

On Leash Areas:

All Bike Trails

Side Walks

Downtown Missoula

Mt. Jumbo the "L"

Mt. Sentinel the "M"

Greenough Park in Rattlesnake

Rattlesnake main trail - dogs must be leashed for the first 1.7 miles.

Pattee Canyon Barmeyer Loop - Must be leashed for the first portion of hike.

Roxy On Leash
Bike Trail

No Dogs allowed in Pattee Canyon on the groomed cross country ski trails in the winter.

Please feel free to comment and email with any additional areas you have questions about, want added to this list, or need more information on!

Safety is important to all of us and we want our pets to live the longest and healthiest lives possible and this is just one easy step to help us achieve that goal!

***Voice Restraint: Voice restraint means that the dog's owner or custodian is in clear view and personally present within 25 yards of the dog and able to effectively control and recall the dog at all times (i.e. when other dogs and animals are present).

Sources and more information:

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