By Ellen Brantley
I support leashed dogs on Montini and have a few more points to add to the discussion.
Point 1: One of the most objective studies I found on the impact of dogs on wildlife was done in Boulder, Colorado. One of the most interesting results to me was that, for some birds, a human with a dog had the same effect as a human walking alone. The researchers speculated that, for certain species, the birds were not threatened by dogs, since they weren’t hunted by coyotes or foxes. The researchers defined disruption by whether the birds (or other animals) would move away, and how far they would move.
As expected, the most significant disruption is off-trail activity. The link to the research paper, “Wildlife Responses to Pedestrians and Dogs,” is ftp://www.bio.sdsu.edu/pub/IEMM/Recreation/3rdTierLiterature/Milleretal2011dogs.pdf.
Point 2: My husband and I lived in the foothills of Sonoma Mountain for 19 years on 10 fenced acres. During that time, we had nesting swallows, finches, orioles, starlings, bluebirds and barn owls. I suspect we had many more nests, based on the huge amount of birdlife we observed, but those were the ones I saw directly. In addition, we observed foxes, coyotes, rabbits, skunks, opossums, and an occasional deer either on the property or directly outside the fence. We also owned up to three 60 lb. dogs at any one time and occasionally dog-sat for friends. We kept the dogs in at night, and they usually spent their days in a smaller fenced area unless we were on the property with them. Every year, the birds and mammals and countless amphibians and reptiles appeared. They co-existed and successfully raised young even with unleashed dogs running around.
Point 3: We are not alone in our discussion on how to enforce compliance to leash laws in wildlife areas. I was very happy to read of the success that one community in Jacksonville, Florida had in using positive reinforcement at the Fort Caroline National Memorial Area. By erecting a trailhead bulletin board featuring the photos of leashed dogs and their owners, they encouraged and obtained leash compliance more than they ever expected. The link to the research paper “Promoting Companion Animal Leash Compliance on an Urban Park Trail System” is at http://www.bioone.org/doi/abs/10.3375/043.032.0210. Perhaps we could consider such an approach for Montini.
Point 4: As a dog owner, I am very aware that, as passionate as I am about this particular species, not everyone is. But, as a professional dog trainer living in Sonoma, I and my colleagues are in a position to help make a shared trail experience more enjoyable for those with and without dogs. In that light, I have obtained agreement from an initial set of Sonoma dog trainers to offer a free “Leashed Dog Trail Manners” workshop on a periodic basis, assuming dogs are allowed on Montini. We will emphasize the importance of maintaining control of leashed dogs in confined spaces and teach the skills necessary to achieve it.
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Ellen Brantley, CTC, CPDT-KA, is a certified dog trainer, a board member of SVDOG and owner of winwindogtraining.com in Sonoma.