Dogs are permitted on most trails within the River Park, unless otherwise noted. (See Trails Information for restrictions.)
Dogs must be leashed at all times for the safety of your dog and other trail users.
Helpful Tips for You and Your Dog
Why should I put my dog on a leash?
- 80% of rattlesnake bites to dogs are on a dog’s nose. When dogs are not leashed, they wander nose first off the trail into rattlesnake habitat – even if your dog has been “rattlesnake trained.” If your dog is bitten, it will need immediate medical attention. A local pet hospital anti-venom vaccination can cost up to $1000.
- Poison oak is common throughout the River Park. Dogs moving through poison oak collect the oils on their fur. The dog then deposits the toxic oil everywhere it touches, including inside your car, house, other dogs, and you. Poison oak is noxious year-round and hard to detect when it loses its leaves.
- Poisonous plants are common throughout the River Park. A common plant called Castor Bean (Ricinus communis) has small spiny fruit containing a poisonous seed rich in ricin. The seeds stick to your dog’s fur and the dog may try to remove them with their mouth or simply eat the fruit out of curiosity.
- Ticks and fleas are abundant in the grasses and bushes off trail. Ticks transmit Lyme Disease.
- Off-trail activity impacts habitat. The urban area around the River Park has grown considerably in the past decade, impacting rare native plants and animals. Many undesignated trails scar the landscape and encourage erosion. Dogs off the trail in natural open space areas will damage the natural environment.
- Many endangered birds and animals share the River Park with you and your dog. San Diego County has more sensitive, threatened, and endangered species than any other county in the United States. Twenty of these species live in this area, and in a small area, the impact of multiple dogs off leash is noticeable. Animals and insects build nests and seek shelter in the brush and trees that surround the trails in the River Park. It only takes one off-leash dog to run through a brush and knock over a nest full of eggs.
- Dogs affect predators and prey. Dogs chase predators like snakes and hawks, which prey on rodents. Predators will not return to an unsafe area to hunt. Without predators to keep their numbers in check, rodents and other prey animals multiply quickly. Dogs running off the trail may also affect an animal’s opportunity to reproduce. Moreover, a dog’s scent can linger long after it has left.
As a dog owner, it’s hard to imagine that some people are not comfortable around dogs.
If your off-leash dog approaches a person afraid of dogs, they may harm your dog out of fear. While most dogs are friendly, aggressive dogs do visit the River Park with their owners, and the odds of a dog fight increase when one or both dogs are off-leash.
The leash law is not new.
As development increases and cities grow, so does the demand for recreation opportunities in open space parks. To preserve the qualities of the River Park and Lake Hodges area, we must take actions to protect these areas, not destroy them. Always leashing and cleaning up after your dogs are two easy ways we can protect the environment every day.
Resources to find off-leash parks and beaches within San Diego County: Your Dogs and City Parks, (posted on the City of San Diego website).