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Discussion Starter #1
This is something I go back and forth with a lot.

So let's go over the facts;
Luna generally stays with us on walks where she's had 'off leash' freedom. Her recall is not 100%, if there is something new and interesting, or a prey thing to chase, she won't turn on a dime. However, that isn't to say she totally buggers off. Once she is done with the thing she finds us again.

She does approach other dogs. If that dog wants to play, she will play (and, again, will not disengage on a dime until the play calms down a bit), if that dog is more laid back she will do a casual 'hey, how ya doin' sniff and leave it at that. She is not obsessive about 'omfg I have to run to see that dog', but she is social and likes to say hi when the opportunity presents itself.

She does approach other people. She doesn't jump or anything like that, but again she is a social dog that likes attention, so generally if there are people, given the option, she will approach. I would say that it is easier to call her away from people than other dogs, provided they aren't actively giving her attention.

Are these things acceptable for an off leash environment hiking on a trail or in a trailed city park with other people/dogs?

Honestly for me, when I've been in dog off leash areas in the past, I expect to be approached by the dogs. It's pretty standard, some people may have dog that will turn on a dime or aren't interested in saying hi to people, but that's not the norm, IME.

So I guess I just... I really don't want to be the person that we rant about on here with the out of control dog at the park that everyone complains about.

For me, having previously been a frequent park-goer sans dog, having a dog come up to me politely every so often is just not a big deal. But at the same time I don't want to be the rude person that someone goes home and complains about.

Overall Luna is very well behaved. She doesn't jump or mouth or anything like that, is generally very calm and relaxed, plays appropriately with other dogs and takes the cue from them as to how she should act.

Am I worried over nothing? Are my concerns legitimate? What would you do?
 

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I will openly admit I have my dogs off leash where it is not permitted. My situation is very similar to yours and my dogs behave nearly the same. They always recall - how fast, that depends lol. Sometimes it's 'hang on one sec ma, I'm saying hi to someone!' but other times they come right back before meeting the dog/person. I always make sure to have some awesome treats with me, and make sure they know I have them.

Out of the people who bring there dogs where we hike most often, I am more cautious than most. I keep my dogs on the leash until we get further into the woods where there are less people, while I usually see people who let their dogs just jump out of the car and off they go. And this place is supposed to be on leash only, but clearly that isn't reinforced, and officials don't take notice.

I am very careful to keep an eye out for people and other dogs. I do my best to spot them early enough to recall my dogs even if they want to be stubborn/slow about it. If I see someone with a leashed dog, my dogs get a very stern recall so they know I'm serious and need them back NOW. I would hate to have them run up on a reactive dog and undo some training the owner has put in, or worse, to cause a fight because the dog is aggressive (I don't think an aggressive dog should be out in a situation like that to begin with, but that's a different story). If you don't think she would reliably come back to you in that situation then you might want to work on some more recall, or at least have a long line trailing behind her that you can step on as a fail safe.
 

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I think that's fine. The only time I get irritated with off leash dogs running up to me is when it's specifically stated that it's an ON LEASH park or trail. Places that are unmarked and off leash dogs are common I except to encounter dogs running up to us and it doesn't bother me even when my own dog is leashed.
 

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If someone is bothered by an off leash dog running up to them in an off leash area then they should probably go home.
 

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Make sure when you try it you are in a "off leash" area.....don't push your luck breaking the law unless you are 100%, and that the turn around IS on a dime. I admit. I go offleash in places that have leash laws. Today I might go for a walk on some local trails, but it is a weekday, there is a light rain and its probably going to be deserted....but I'll be walking on leash for a bit until I'm sure I'm right on that, and I do have the ecollar as emergency backup in case something irresistable, that training hasn't covered (or it has slipped...) happens. The only off leash places for dogs around here though is relatively small fenced in thunderdome style dogparks, if they had off leash walking areas I'd try to stay legal :p.

If you are allowed to have treats or toys there, make sure you have some and work on recall along the way, lots of treats for good behaviour.

That's my thoughts. All the better if the area is overall fenced in. When it comes to politeness issues, if it is an offleash area, I say fair game, chances are there are dogs WAY less polite than yours. If there is major impoliteness I'd say clip the leash on right then and there, and keep it on for a bit (kind of an off-leash time out.....might work). Just remember it IS a risk, and you need to decide if it is worth it. I've found that it is, and every time I unclip I balance the risks of the area, both risks of damage and harm to and by my dog.
 

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I never let any of mine off leash where there is a chance of them running into someone. It's not worth the risk, in my opinion. Most people may be OK with your dog but there is always that one person out there....
Then again that's just me.

ETA: Ooops, just saw you posted this is in an off leash area. If that's the case I don't see a problem.
 

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We have lots of area where we can take our dogs off-leash. I usually take mine on the trails behind our Fairgrounds. Not many people know about it so usually nobody around but the ones that are, have always been polite. You know if there is someone walking their dog as there is usually always a vehicle parked so you can just go a different way. Have never met anyone when walking my dogs but have seen them off in the distance.

The people who walk their dogs on leash use the trail around the Lake on the opposite side by the highway.
 

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Just remember it IS a risk, and you need to decide if it is worth it. I've found that it is, and every time I unclip I balance the risks of the area, both risks of damage and harm to and by my dog.
This. Keep in mind if your dog greets an unfriendly dog that IS leashed and a fight ensues, you as the off leash dogs owner are usually going to be liable for any vet bills for both dogs, even in a place where leaves aren't required because you didn't have control of your dog while the leashed person "did" (in the eyes of the law).
 

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There's no area in my town - besides the small-ish dog park - that you're ALLOWED to take your dog off leash so, like others, I admit I often have her off leash in areas I'm not supposed to while hiking.
She is a lot like Luna in her 50/50 immediate recall. I might be short changing her a little there.
If there is a person or a dog she returns to me immediately because she lacks the confidence to approach people on her own to begin with whether I call her or not. If she sees a rabbit, squirrel, bird, wildlife she will most likely take off after them. Does she go far? No. Is she out of control? No I can call her off them.

What I found useful is whistle training her. My standard whistle that I can do myself/without tools, tells her to wrap up whatever she's doing. It's like a warning that she's getting too far behind smelling whatever, or that I think I may hear someone coming.
THEN I have a legitimate loud Whistle (tool) and that's a recall NOW. No questions asked. NOW, immediately. It super helps because she definitely hears that one and you cannot ignore how loud it is. If she's somehow too far away from me she has no excuse to not hear it. I jackpot her treats every time she comes back to that one, that's the emergency whistle. It's good because that whistle will only ever be rewarded with good things I can't muddy it like I may have with her name calling her to put her in the car/cage.
 

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We don't have a lot of off-leash friendly places around me, so I might not be the best authority. In general, if off leash is allowed, then I kind of expect dogs to approach me and my dogs. If they were gentle and friendly like Luna, not in your face or bouncy, I wouldn't have an issue with it. In an off leash area I realize that's something that will happen and some people enjoy that part of it.

We visited an off leash "dog park" in Maine that was basically some trails connecting to the carriage paths in the rest of the park. Everywhere else dogs had to be leashed, but in this section they didn't (it was privately owned and not park land). Since you were in the "dog park" part of the trails it was expected that dogs would sometimes approach each other or other people. If someone had a problem with that they could just stay on the parts of the paths with leash rules in other areas of the park.

I really only care about places that are designated on leash. If you're going to walk your dog off leash in an area that requires leashes, your dog had better have 100% recall in all circumstances and not come near me and my dogs. I have let my dogs off leash in on leash designated areas, but only when I was sure there were no other people or dogs around, and if we see someone we leash up immediately, because I know their recalls probably wouldn't hold up if they saw someone approaching.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
All great points and things to consider everyone, thank you. :)

The times in the past that another dog has been aggressive toward her she has always tried to get away from them ASAP. So although that specific situation has never happened, I am fairly confident that if we came across someone who had their dog leashed for whatever reason on the off leash trail and they reacted, that she would just leave them alone since they would be restrained and not a real threat.

And yes, of course to an extent you are putting your faith in other people that they're not taking dogs to these types of areas that aren't appropriate for that setting. That's a risk you take any time you take your dog to a public area with other dogs. I would definitely be choosey about which places we went to.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
To describe the local off leash options;

We have two main parks that allow dogs. Both are large wooded areas with trails, with on leash and off leash sections. They are general use parks, so also get used by everyone else for a variety of purposes. They are not fenced in.

We have one new fenced in 'dog park' that is specifically made for dog use. It is not very big, and currently has a little dog section, an open 'thunderdome' style section, and a small wooded trailed section, which are currently fenced separately from each other (which I'm pretty sure wasn't the intent... been emailing my councillor about that one, lol). Since it is the only fenced in park for dogs, it is often very busy in the thunderdome side on evenings and weekends (that was the original park and the trailed section was added as an expansion). On the off hours it's okay (still small but good for 4-5 dogs to play nicely), but the busy hours have too many dogs for my comfort.

In the winter months (Nov-Apr) we also get the use of some sport fields. Some are fenced and some aren't.

Aside form that you have the various hiking trails which of course, vary in terms of rules, frequency of use, and layout.
 

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And yes, of course to an extent you are putting your faith in other people that they're not taking dogs to these types of areas that aren't appropriate for that setting. That's a risk you take any time you take your dog to a public area with other dogs. I would definitely be choosey about which places we went to.
I guess I don't see why someone shouldn't bring their dog aggressive/selective dog on a trail just because they might meet another dog that might be off leash and might approach. It's a walking trail and not a dog park. If I took a dog reactive dog to a dog park and let it off leash then I would be very much in the wrong. But why is it inappropriate for me to take my (theoretical) leashed, dog reactive dog on a trail that is not specifically made for dogs, but might have an off leash dog also using it? Under that theory I shouldn't walk my dog down the block because I might be rushed by a neighbors dog and putting my dog in that situation would be 'inappropriate.' There is also the dog that is dog friendly, but has barrier frustration, and is also not reliable off leash. It is unreasonable to expect everyone without a 100% friendly dog to not use a non-dog trail.

I'm not saying its wrong to take your off leash dog down a trail (that is not meant for dogs but where it is not illegal to be off leash.) However, I am saying that it is unreasonable to expect all the dogs on that trail to be friendly toward some dog that may rush/run up to/greet them. This is more toward anyone who is reading that isn't the OP since the OP has stated their dog backs down from fights rather than escalates.
However, to the OP, there is definitely a risk for your dog being injured because another (on leash) dog snaps due to aggression/frustration/having a bad day and your dog may be unable to escape before damage is inflicted, and that's definitely something to consider when weighing benefits and risks. I don't know your area and demographic, I don't know what kind of people/dogs usually use the trails you are thinking of, so this may not apply in your situation.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Here anyway, hiking trails are specifically marked as on or off leash with signage, or are designated as on or off leash depending on the type of trail/park (provincially owned, vs privately, etc)

Personally, I wouldn't walk a leashed dog on a trail that was designated as off leash. If I did, I would expect off leash dogs to approach us. Similarly, I wouldn't walk a dog that was DA or reactive in an off leash area (unless you were doing it at a very off use hour and then at your own risk) again, because the presumption would be that there would be off leash dogs in that area.

So it's either one or the other, not just a general 'trail' with no set rules. It's either on leash or off leash.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Oh, forgot to also add; The other off leash fenced option locally is a privately owned dog park where you pay a membership fee and all dogs are vetted for temperament before being allowed. (also a wooded trailed park) However I'm fairly sure they don't allow bullies so we probably wouldn't be allowed.
 
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