Sat. Mar 2nd, 2024
Leashed dogs help protect the ecological integrity of our natural spaces

Today’s blog comes from Emma Dennis, Assistant Discovery Program Leader at Killarney Provincial Park.

I am a lover of the outdoors and an avid hiker, so it is only natural that I have two dogs that share the same passions. As residents of Killarney, we are lucky to have Killarney Provincial Park as our backyard.

Whether we hit the Granite Ridge Trail on a Sunday morning for a quick hike to start the day or spend the afternoon venturing to the top of “The Crack,” we live our best lives when we hike the trails.

As a dog owner, I’m always looking for new dog-friendly trails to conquer.

two dogs on the road

The rules and regulations regarding dogs in parks can sometimes be intimidating. A sign that says “Dogs must be kept on a leash” can sometimes be interpreted as “Dogs are not welcome.”

As a dog owner with a great love for animals, I can see why this can be off-putting. However, it is this love for animals, along with my love for the environment, that allows me to understand WHY it is so important that we obey this rule.

It guarantees the safety of our pets and the protection of our environment.

How does keeping your dog on a leash protect the environment?

Mukluk during “Tails on Trails”, 2019

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Let’s talk about ecological integrity.

Ecosystems have integrity when they have a mixture of living and non-living parts, and the interactions between these parts are not disturbed (by human activity).

As human beings, we must aspire to live in harmony with our natural environment, without leaving a trace.

As dog owners, we should try to do the same, making sure to leave our natural environment as it was before a walk with our four-legged friends.

And that means making sure the dogs are leashed.

Group photo (with Arkanine, Mukluk and Winnie) atop Granite Ridge during the “Tails on Trails Dog Walk” in Killarney Provincial Park, 2019

There are different ways that keeping your dog on a leash protects ecological integrity.

Let’s get to the point. Your dog’s business…

Keeping a dog on a leash allows us to see where he decided to… you know.

Aside from the obvious reasons for picking up after your dog (ugh!), dogs (yes, even healthy ones) can carry viruses, bacteria, and parasites that can be transmitted to wild animals.

Carry a doggy bag and dispose of it properly.

A leashed dog cannot “bark up the wrong tree”

Some dogs have a higher prey drive, others are curious, and some just like to chase things.

Wildlife face natural predators, but an encounter with a domestic dog is stressful and can compromise the safety of other animals.

Although your dog may still bark at furry passersby, the leash allows wildlife to escape safely. It is important to be able to enjoy your surroundings without disturbing the wildlife that inhabits it.

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Two dogs at the top of the trail.Mukluk and Opal with their bear bells to alert wildlife of their presence, with leashes attached at all times

Letting your dog run off leash can also compromise your own safety. Loose dogs can lead bears back down the trail to you. And you don’t want your pup to get hurt in an encounter with a skunk, raccoon, or coyote.

Without a leash, your dog may unintentionally enter a protected or sensitive area

Dogs can trample, disturb the soil, dig up trees, plants and wood debris that act as essential food/habitat sources for the species as well as essential nutrients for the soil.

They may also wander into areas that have been closed to visitors to preserve/protect an area that is experiencing environmental stress.

There is also the risk that your pet may wander into an area containing invasive species, unknowingly collect seeds, and distribute them to other areas of the park (only happens when you’re covered in fur!).

Dogs are unaware of these ecological risks.

That is why it is so important that dog owners recognize these risks and contribute to the preservation of these natural landscapes.

Let’s all do our part!

Emma and Mukluk looking from a viewpoint.Mukluk and I during our first organized dog walk (Tails on Trails) in Killarney

Ontario’s parks are wonderful places to explore and enjoy the natural environment in the company of our four-legged adventure companions.

Dog-friendly trails, fenced exercise areas, and designated dog beaches ensure everyone has a good time.

Remember: Dogs must be on a leash at all times in provincial parks. The only exceptions are designated off-leash areas.

By keeping your pup on a leash, you are not only making memories with your dog and enjoying their natural surroundings, you are also preserving the area so that dogs and owners can experience the same beautiful trail that you did for years to come.

Where will you explore with your four-legged friend?