The Dogs of Bozeman

Four Legs, Two Ears, and an Adventure

Natalie Waddington  |  Monday Jun. 3rd, 2019

Some come in black; some come in white. Some are covered in brown or gray fur. Some have a mix. Some have long, thick coats; some have wirey, thin fur. Some have long tails, while some have short stubs, or no tails at all. Nevertheless, they all have two ears, four legs attached to four adorable paws, and faces which give away every emotion. They wag their tails, pant their long tongues, bark at squirrels, and love us with every ounce of their being. Where would we be without dogs? Where would we find the kind of pure joy dogs provide?

Bozeman’s culture optimizes the bond between people and dogs. With the incessant urge for Bozemanites to get outside and explore, the connection between man and canine seems to take on a new meaning. The dogs of Bozeman rely on their owners’ love for the outdoors, while the people of Bozeman rely on the dogs’ love for them to get outside. This kind of relationship is built in earnest and is one of the purest forms of true loyalty and love.

Currently, I live with two roommates and their dogs: a Newfoundland/Border Collie mix—Pippin—and a lab mix, named Olly. Living with them for the past year has given me the opportunity to get to know the dog culture of Bozeman. We often take the dogs to the many dog parks Bozeman has to offer in order for the dogs to get some exercise, and so we can experience some fresh air. Bozeman has 5 off-leash dog parks, which allow the dogs some unrestrained freedom. They create the happy, kind-spirited atmosphere we all crave when being outdoors.

Bozeman Pond Park
This park has it all. Between the beaches, sport courts, fields, water access points, and pavilions, this park offers Bozeman dog owners the perfect place to pack a lunch and spend a day outside without being too far from home. Everyone has a place to take their dog and let them play and explore without the fear of them getting away. Bozeman Pond Park has a specific, fenced area for the doggos to run around and socialize. This gives owners a great option for getting some fresh air for both themselves and their dogs. Who can resist a day in the park in sunny Bozeman, after all?

Burke Park or “Peet’s Hill”
Everyone (and their dogs) knows Peet’s Hill. But just in case you’re unfamiliar with this classic outdoor spot, I will give you the rundown. This is a very popular spot among Bozemanites since it encompasses a small hike and a great view (and the view of the sunset from the top of the hill isn’t half bad). There are often quite a few people there throughout the day, but if you and your dog are in the mood to make friends, be sure to take advantage of the popularity of this place! Aside from the hike, though, there are plenty of open-park areas perfect for your dog to be let off-leash and explore!

Cooper Park
Cooper Park is a great spot for you and your doggo if you’re looking for something a bit more low-key and off the beaten path. Though it is located in a highly populated part of town, many people don’t know about the off-leash policy the park has. This is a great spot for playing a game of fetch and getting away from the busy “dog park” that so many people go to. Taking a quick jog or walk over to the park is a great way to get outside, get active, and get a big smile from your furry friend! Not to mention, this park is a great spot for a spontaneous picnic or a first date for all of you low-fund college kids.

Snowfill Recreation Area

Snowfill is well-known in the dog community of Bozeman due to its amazing views of the Bridger Mountains and the breathtaking Montana landscape. There are many trailheads and hiking options found here, too. Because dogs are allowed off-leash here, there are plenty of exercise opportunities for your canine companion. With a game of fetch, the opportunity to chase a rabbit, and a quick getaway from the backyard or apartment, your dog is sure to love this place; but you will, too, with the fresh air and escape from busy everyday life. Your adventure starts here!

Softball Complex
Though this may not seem like an obvious choice, if you and your pup are looking for a quick spot to hang out during a walk or jog, the softball complex may be your spot! Since it is not known as a specific spot for dogs, the amount of people, and their dogs, are bound to be pretty minimal (especially in the evening). The complex has an off-leash policy which can be fun for the dogs looking to explore, but not go too far. I suggest going at sunset because the view of the field mixed with the ombre colors creates quite a breathtaking sight to behold.

These parks are just the beginning of opportunities for taking your dog out on the town. In Bozeman, there are about 28 restaurants that allow dogs on their patios. The town loves its dogs and wants to encourage those with dogs to bring them out and let them see into the world of humans. 

Being one of those humans, I know the impact dogs can have on those around them, and when my roommates and I are out at the dog parks with Pippin and Olly, we feel part of a different kind of atmosphere you can’t find anywhere else. The dog community feels like a family. Dogs initiate the release of oxytocin (the cuddle chemical) in our brains, which makes us feel love and connection. Pets for Patriots, a source dedicated to the study and well-being of dogs in society, includes, “Research published in the journal Science in 2015 reported that simply gazing into each other’s eyes causes a tremendous spike in oxytocin levels in both dogs and dog guardians.” I know most of us have experienced the rush of petting a soft, loving doggo while out running errands. This is what contributes to the familial aspect of dog life in Bozeman.

Even though their influence may be a small one, I firmly believe the role of dogs in the culture of Bozeman is one which makes the town so friendly and good-spirited. Pets for Patriots says, “Physical exercise causes the human body to release endorphins – chemicals that make us feel happy. Research has also found a possible link between a lack of vitamin D – obtained through sun exposure – and depression. By walking our dogs or just spending time with them outside on a sunny day we are likely to become more content.” By going hiking, camping, swimming, walking, running, and even sunbathing amongst the trees in a hammock, our dogs give our brains the opportunity to release chemicals which make us feel good. Everyone loves the dogs here. Lynn Kujala, who has lived in Bozeman her whole life, says, “I love taking Macee outside because it gives me a reason to get outside everyday. I get to see the beautiful place we live, and she makes me stop for a minute to appreciate those mountains which are so close.” It is true. In a life filled with nine-to-five jobs, college classes, homework, and the endless list of mundane tasks, it helps to have a motivating factor which brings us back to Earth (literally). The world has so many places to see and explore, so it helps to have a four-legged friend drag us out the door with the enthusiasm to see those places, too.   

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