hiking tip #1 – trails are not dog parks

For the next week or so I am going to be posting hiking tips for our dog/owner teams. Success on the trail is my goal, for everyone! Please feel free to use and pass along. Also, please leave your comments that will add to the conversation on hiking …

Dog parks have officially been around since 1983 or so. Ohlone Park in Berkeley was the first official park designated for off leash use after a leash ordinance was passed. The concept spread rather quickly with 100’s of parks popping up every year.

Increased socialization and room to run was the original concept, and a good one at that. Who doesn’t want to see their dog meeting up with friends and flying across the park?

Fast forward to 2012, we have now raised twenty nine years worth of people with the dog park concept. Walk to a place, take your dog off leash, and let them run and do as they please. While some dog park users actually interact with their dogs while there, kudos to you by the way, most do not.

This concept has left the boundaries of dog parks and leaked into neighborhoods, all city parks, most open spaces and even our trails.

Trails are not dog parks. Trails whether front or back country are a means to go from one location to another, and usually passing through or around private, forest service, wilderness, or public lands. You and your dog are at best guests on a trail. And as a guest, using the trail politely and responsibly should be the number one goal.

Most trails are what are referred to as multi use, meaning the users on the trail will be varied. In our area we have; horse packers, llama packers, goat packers, mountain bikers, skiers, hikers, fisherman, hunters, joggers, dog/owner teams, etc. Motorized use is limited. With this type of use, all users need to be aware of each other and learn right of ways.

tip #1 – When you step onto the trail with your dog you are in fact taking a predator and opportunistic scavenger for a walk into the wild. If a trail sign says ‘dogs must remain on leash’, that means all dogs, not all dogs except yours.

On trails that do not have a leash designation sign, your dog should be on a leash unless they are with you and under 100% voice control with all trail distractions. Dogs that chase other trail users, chase wildlife, barge into other trail users space, or are too young to know any better, should be on leash until you have put time into these skills. Be a polite guest on a trail when hiking with a dog.

Even if you believe your dog is the reincarnate Mother Theresa, other dogs and trail users may not, your dog should be with you.



10 Comments Add yours

  1. Ed says:

    Thank you for this post – I wish all dog owners were as responsible as you are.

  2. cerebralcanine says:

    My most favorite line of all time occurred when Emma (my one-year-old black Lab) and I were hiking on an ON-LEASH ONLY trail recently. I have spent the past several months training her to ignore all things distraction…she suffers from the syndrome of loving everything and everybody way too much and wanting to go become part of everyone’s personal space. As we were walking, ON LEASH, another Lab charged aggressively towards us, and as it rapidly approached, I heard the owner (seated comfortably on a fallen tree) yell, “Don’t worry, she doesn’t bite….she only nips!”

    Come on, people!!

    1. Nancy Tanner says:

      although this is so wrong, it cracks me up that someone would even let those words come out of their mouth. Because I tend to be a bit sarcastic I might have said, “yes, but I do bite…” Thank you for working so diligently with your dog on trails… we all need that inspiration…

      1. Tiffany says:

        My favorite response to those types of statements is to say “but mine does”. Now my lab takes after this posters and considering everyone and everything a friend but I wish folks would realize that they are responsible for their dogs safety too. What if the animal it is approaching isn’t friendly or doesn’t do well with other dogs, I might be too eager to try to put a little fear into them by invoking concern for their beloved pet when I hear “don’t worry, she doesn’t bite” or “don’t worry, she is friendly”. Now don’t get me started on owners not cleaning up after their dogs when hiking, that is another pet peeve I’m sure you will hit on in this series. Thank you!

  3. Nancy Fisher says:

    I experienced an off leash dog running toward Bridget when she was young. I hollered to the person to get their F……n dog under control. Response was , my dog is nice. My response was my poodle may very well eat your dog alive. She does not like strangers approaching me!! Human or canine. She made a great effort to get to her dog before dog got to us. I held Bridget off until she go her dog.

  4. Jeanne Allen says:

    YES! I wish all people would head these words! When I am walking off leash with my dogs, I call them back to me and make them sit while people or other dogs pass by. I think it is the polite thing to do! But what really rubs me the wrong way is that some people think my dogs are bad dogs and make a wide birth around us!

    1. Nancy Tanner says:

      Hi Jeanne, spread the word around… that’s how it starts and the bar gets raised. I myself am not into self policing people and dogs when i am out and about. But I hope through my actions and my friends and clients actions that great things will continue to move forward…

  5. JIll Tressler says:

    Great post! I was on a leash walk with my 13 month old pup last week on a trail across a pasture from some homes. The walking trail is almost hidden from view of the homes and the grass in the pasture is getting long. An off-leash dog from one of the homes across the pasture bolted towards us with his owner following and screaming behind him. I did not react quick enough and the dog caught up and began attacking my dog. Luckily, the owner was close enough that he could take over laying on the dog (I actually fell on top of the dog trying to keep him from my dog’s throat), so I could walk off with mine. My dog did not react agressively on leash and was just as surprised that a doggie friend would not play nice. Anyway, he had some scratches and small puncture wounds, but is ok. I’m having a little PTSD after that incident. What would you have done in this situation?????

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