Responsible dog owners will be rewarded over the next three months as a Bozeman nonprofit aims to encourage people to use leashes and pick up their dogs’ waste.

Run Dog Run kicked off its “Good Dog, Good Owner” program Wednesday. Volunteers and staff of the Gallatin Valley Land Trust will be giving $5-off cards to dog owners displaying responsible behavior in local parks, trails and neighborhoods for the next 90 days.

The $5-cards were donated by Dee-O-Gee and Bridger Animal Nutrition.

Terry Cunningham, a Bozeman city commissioner, is executive director of Run Dog Run. The nonprofit, founded in 2010, advocates for more off-leash dog parks and promotes responsible dog ownership. He said the two objectives are linked — that if people are going to support developing dog parks, they need to view dogs positively.

“When community perspective changes, access can change,” Cunningham said.

Bozeman city code mandates that all dogs are on leash “while on a street, sidewalk, public way, or in a park or other public space,” except for when in designated off-leash dog parks. The code says its unlawful for an owner to allow an animal to run at large or be left unattended on public streets. That includes leaving animals tied up to trees or posts.

According to Bozeman Police Department Animal Control, more than 700 complaints regarding animals off leash were made in the last year.

Cunningham, a dog owner himself, said that not everyone is comfortable or able to handle interactions with dogs. He said that with more than 30 lend-a-leash kiosks and dog waste bags stations scattered around town, there’s no excuse for someone to not be a responsible owner.

“Dog owners have to recognize that they are only a portion of trail users and park users, and we need to respect others,” Cunningham said.

At the end of the program, Run Dog Run will evaluate its effectiveness and consider whether it should continue.

Run Dog Run has partnered with Gallatin Valley Land Trust on a number of projects in the past. EJ Porth, spokesperson for the trust, said the organization likes that the new program uses positive reinforcement instead of punishment to encourage leashes and dog waste pick up.

Porth said that while the majority of owners are responsible with their dogs, the organization receives a lot of complaints about off-leash animals and waste on Bozeman trails. Gallatin Valley Land Trust has been working to expand and maintain the Main Street to the Mountains trail system since it was founded.

“It’s our mission to provide trails that are comfortable and accessible to everyone,” Porth said.

Shaylee Ragar can be reached at or at 582-2607.