A carabiner with a slip leash is a handy way of securing your dog quickly. photo by Jodi Schneider
A carabiner with a slip leash is a handy way of securing your dog quickly. photo by Jodi Schneider
Walking your dog should be fun, relaxing, and safe — but there are a considerable number of stories of unsuspecting people having to fend off loose dogs. It’s a real problem for a lot of people everywhere, including here in Sisters.

Yes, dogs love being off leash, but when taking your dog outdoors you need to keep more than just their happiness in mind. You need to keep them safe and those around them safe as well. Your dog could jump on someone who’s afraid of dogs and make their fears much worse. Or he could excitedly run up to say hello to someone and knock them over. He could also simply rush over to say hello to another dog and scare that dog, even though your dog was just trying to be “friendly.”

So, whether you’re new to Central Oregon or you’ve been in the area a while, knowing the laws surrounding pets is something to review.

Does Deschutes County have a leash law? No, however there is a local “at large” ordinance.

The City of Sisters Code 6.05.010 states:

“At large” means off the premises of the owner while the dog is not under the complete control of the owner or keeper by adequate leash. However, a dog in a duly recognized obedience school on field-training exercise and under the direct supervision of a handler or a dog within a vehicle is not “at large.”

The cities of Bend, Redmond, and Sisters require dog owners to have their dogs leashed while away from the owner’s property, unless the dog is in a designated off-leash area. Dogs are required to be “under the control” of the owner — meaning they don’t have to be on a leash, but they do have to come to you when called.

Lieutenant Chad Davis of the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office in Sisters told The Nugget, “Your dog has to either be on a leash or he can be under your complete control, meaning he won’t chase a squirrel if one ran by.”

Bottom line: If your dog doesn’t come when you call him 100 percent of the time, he should not be off leash in a public place. Period.

Lt. Davis also noted “When we get a complaint about a dog at large, we try to make contact with the owners, give a warning, and educate them about the code so the person can change the behavior. If it happens again, we will give a citation.”

If you encounter an off-leash dog what can you do to keep yourself and your dog safe?

The main goal is to keep the off-leash dog far enough away from your leashed dog that chaos doesn’t break out. Here are a few tips, starting with the kindest way, to stop a dog in their tracks.

• First and foremost, you should yell loudly to the owner to please leash their dog immediately.

• Sometimes, there is no owner in sight and calling to them does no good. Reach into your treat pouch (carry a treat pouch with snacks), grab a handful of the treats, and throw them directly at the oncoming dog. Sometimes this is tempting enough to stop the dog in their tracks, and you can slowly retreat to safety.

• Using your sternest voice yell to the dog, “No!” or “Go Home!” sometimes “Sit-stay!” works. The goal is to startle them so they will retreat either back to their property or their owner.

• You can also carry a carabiner with you and a small slip lead. If you see an off-leash dog approaching and there is no owner, you can attach your dog’s leash to a nearby tree or post. With the carabiner on the handle of your leash, loop it around the tree or post and clip it back to the main section of leash. Then you can try to get close enough to the off-leash dog (if he is friendly enough) to see if he has a tag and call the owner, or you can call animal control.

• When all else fails, and you need to keep yourself and your dog safe, using a product called Spray Shield for dogs can do the trick. This is a small canister that fits on a belt clip or in your pocket. It is similar to pepper spray, but much more humane. This product is citronella-based and can reach up to 10 feet.

The best solution to the problem is for dog owners to simply be responsible and make sure their dog is always properly under control.