Nothing wrecks the fun and tranquility of hiking faster than encountering an ill-mannered dog on the trail. When you hike a public trail, you’re expected to abide by some very basic rules. It’s part of the social contract of enjoying public lands. When you hike with your dog, you’re responsible for him or her, too. Every hiker needs to follow a few basic rules to have a well-mannered pup, starting with these common-sense trail manners:
Pick Up After Your Dog
It sounds obvious, but pick up after your dog. We all know to leave only footprints, so that means toting your dog’s waste out of the park or off the trail. Left-behind waste seeps into the soil, contaminates waterways, and can impact wildlife. Plus, it’s gross. Bag it and carry it out.
Pass to the Right
As hard as it is to believe, not everyone loves dogs. Also, some hikers are working towards a time or fitness goal. And still more are striving to stay socially distant. Regardless, if you encounter another hiker—with or without a dog—stay as far to the right as possible as you cross paths. If your dog tends to greet strangers, now’s a great time to work on a “heel” cue to keep him or her by your side. This is especially important if the hiker you’re passing has a dog. Both you and your pup: stay to the right.
Follow Leash Laws
Every park is different, so know before you go. Some stipulate leash length. Others permit off-leash dogs in certain areas or leashed dogs only. Whatever the rule, know it and follow it. This is vital. So many hikers make excuses like, “my dog has a solid recall, so it's okay!” Or, “my dog is friendly, so I let her run off-leash.” The problems, though, are many: off-leash dogs are a hazard for local wildlife, other dogs may not appreciate being rushed by an off-leash dog, you might not see your dog go to the bathroom and miss a pickup, and so on. Follow the leash law.
How to Bypass a Problem Dog (or Owner)
Even if you’re following all the rules, you’ll likely encounter dogs and owners who aren’t. The goal is to keep your dog safe. If you find left-behind waste, pick it up. If you see an off-leash dog in an on-leash area, head in a different direction. If you encounter an oblivious owner, step far off the trail (to the right!) and let them pass.
What if your dog IS the problem dog?
Confession: My dog can be a problem dog. He has high anxiety and intensity, and both can flare when he encounters strangers and strangers with dogs. We’ve trained a ton and can work together in any scenario, but I take a ton of steps to make sure he doesn’t become a problem to other hikers. So, I keep him on a two-point harness, (you can purchase a two point leash system here) and I always have a short leash clipped to my belt in case I need to keep him close to my side. We only hike in on-leash parks and preserves. And we count on everyone else to follow the rules so that we can enjoy our time outside, too!
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