To the Daily Sun,
Please remember that how you personally feel about off-leash hiking is irrelevant. The fact of the matter is, Ahern is a state park and N.H. state park regulations require that dogs be on a leash in parks where dogs are permitted. Additionally, our city ordinance states: “It shall be unlawful to intentionally permit any dog to run at large within the city of Laconia; to this end, the owner shall keep the dog on a leash or within an enclosure whenever the dog is not on the property of the owner.”
Everyone has the right to enjoy a hike at Ahern or a walk or run on public streets without being approached by an off-leash dog (even a friendly one!). If you want to hike off-leash, and your dog has mastered a reliable recall 100 percent of the time, do your research and find places where regulations allow your dog to be off leash. Ramblin’ Vewe (in Gilford), for example, permits dogs to be off leash if they are under direct voice control.
If you are still working on reliable recalls (like my dog and I are!), public land probably is not the best place to practice this off-leash. I'm guilty of trying this, and I've found that my dog “forgets” all her training when she encounters a new person or an interesting smell. I apologize to anyone she might have greeted a little too enthusiastically the times we tried to hike off-leash! Now we use a 30-ft. long leash for hiking (NOT the retractable kind, which trainers and vets agree are unsafe). I encourage others who like to hike with their dog to try it, too! It seems like it would be cumbersome to manage such a long leash, but it's really not. Using a long lead gives you the best of both worlds — your dog has room to roam, but you also have the ability to bring him back to you with 100 percent reliability. Support some N.H. businesses and try Lupine Pet's 15- or 30-ft training lead. We got ours at the Winnisquam Agway, but I'm sure Laconia Pet Center either carries them or will order one for you, as well.
We should all be proud to live in such a beautiful city in such a wonderful region. It's unfortunate that those of us who hike here with our dogs are arguing rather than coming together to make it a better experience for everyone. Anyone who enjoys being outdoors should do their part to make it welcoming to all by being mindful of how their choices affect others and by following posted regulations.