An observation on California's dogs and their owners

I want to be off-leash, too!
Something we notices while living in California that I didn't get a chance to write about until now, was how common and accepted it is to let dogs off-leash. No matter what California city, whether it was Golden Gate Park in San Francisco or a neighborhood park in Fresno, the majority of dogs are walking beside their owner and doing their own thing with no leash whatsoever. Most of these dogs are in parks where leashes are required by law, the owners just ignore the signs much like the speed limit is ignored elsewhere.

The first time I saw this, it bothered me. The signs clearly say all dogs must be on leashes. There is no fence on this park. Is that dog going to harass me and my dog? After living in California for three months and getting used to it without incident, I wondered why other cities and states aren't similar. I started to feel like a bad pet owner for keeping our dog leashed even though I had to because she's likely to dart after a squirrel or say hello to others who may not be in a social mood.

What are owner in California doing to train their dogs so well? Do they watch a lot of Dog Whisperer? Is this the evolution of human-to-dog relationships?