Hiking with Dogs Etiquette – How to Set a Good Example
UPDATED: January 1, 2021
Search the internet and you will find that dogs on hiking trails is a topic that is hotly contested. There are very passionate voices on either side.
Most of this controversy boils down to complaints about dogs and dog owners – both from doglegs hikers that don’t want to be bothered by hiking dogs and people with dogs that complain about the bad behavior of other dogs on the trail or their people.
I am of the belief, obviously, that it is ok for dogs to be out on the trails. However, bringing your dog along comes with great responsibility to both people and the environment.
I admit, I did some things that weren’t cool when I first started hiking with my dog.
I’ve also been a witness to a lot of uncool behavior by others.
When A Happy Hiking Moment Goes Bad
A couple of weeks ago I was hiking with some friends. We got really lucky and got to enjoy a very popular lookout by ourselves for a while.
My friend spent all morning making a delicious sandwich and she was really looking forward to it. She was eating one half with the other on her lap when, out of nowhere, a lone dog came running out of the woods.
It ran around for a second, sticking his nose in our faces to see what we were eating, and then honed in on my friends sandwich.
As she was frantically trying to protect her food, the dog snatched it from her and ran off.
The dog’s owner was nowhere to be seen so I yelled out “Please come get your dog, its eating our food.”
The man came out of the woods and grabbed his dog. He dragged it away by its collar, shaking it and yelling at it for being a bad dog.
I felt bad. The dog was just doing what dogs do. It was the owner who was complacent or, dare I say being irresponsible.
My friend was very upset by what happened – both to her sandwich and to the dog – that she couldn’t get it off her mind.
I was upset that, even though leashes are legally required on the trail, the owner chose to not leash his dog or even keep it in his sight! And it was the dog who suffered for it.
The incident definitely put a damper on our hiking fun.
9 Rules of Good Etiquette When Hiking With Your Dog
Over the years, I’ve seen a lot of dogs, dog behavior, and human behavior on the trail.
I compiled a list of big don’ts when hiking with your dog based on my 15+ year of experience and observation.
I am sharing this because I don’t want you to be “that guy” that ruins someone’s hike.
Worse, I don’t want you to unknowingly do something that gives all dog owners a bad name in someone’s eyes.
These are some of the ways you can ensure you are being responsible and respectful dog owner when on the trail:
1) Make sure dogs are allowed on the trail
Research the trail before you go and if it says “No Dogs Allowed” leave your dog at home, don’t go, or make arrangements for someone to watch your dog while you are hiking.
Rules regarding dogs on trail vary from State to State and from land use to land use s don’t make assumptions.
For example, dogs generally aren’t allowed on trails in National Parks but are generally allowed on Forest Service trails.
Even on Forest Service land there are areas, like the Enchantments in Washington State, where your dog is not allowed though.
For a good summary of requirements on Washington trails see the Washington Trails Association Website.
2) Follow the leash rules
Leash laws vary depending on the trail and what entity manages the land.
Some places require the use of a 6 foot, non-retractable leash at all times and others are ok with using only strict voice control (aka. a verbal leash).
There are some areas where strict voice control (where the dog comes instantly on command every single time) alone is ok.
Be sure to find out what the rules are in your state and on your trail before you go and be sure to always follow them. Besides it being the law, it is the courteous thing to do.
For more on why you should leash your dog, read this great article from Ahimsa Dog Training in Seattle.
Note: If you are going to hike with your dog off leash on a trail where leashes are required by law, please be aware that users of the trail expect that all dogs that they encounter will be restrained. Please be respectful and leash your dog or hold their collar when you see other hikers coming.
If you want to find trails where your dog can legally hike off leash, check out my article How to Find Off Leash Dog Trails.
Note: It’s written specifically for Washington state but the information is generally applicable to most western states.
3) Scoop the poop
I know…it feels like poop from animals in the woods is natural. Poop from dogs is not natural though.
At least in the frequency and volume created in one area by hundreds of dogs hiking the same trail day after day.
No one wants to step in poo left on the trail either.
The bottom line is bag it and carry it out (double bag it, or place it in a smell-proof, sealable bag, to reduce the smell if you need to).
PLEASE do not stash that bag on the side of the trail unless you are vigilant about picking it up on the way back down. I see WAY too many sad, abandoned bags of poop on the side of the trail.
It’s way to easy, when you are tired from your hike or distracted by a great conversation, to walk right past the poop bags you intended to keep up.
If you must stash the poop bags of the side of the trail, using brightly colored bags can help you find the bag in the bushes.
4) Yield to other trail users
I’m of the mindset that it’s the most courteous for me, with the dog, to always step aside to let others pass no matter who technically has the right of way.
However, there are actual rules about who should yield to whom.
The people hiking uphill have the right of way.
When encountering other hikers, the people hiking downhill should step aside so the the people hiking uphill can pass.
An exception to this rule is if the uphill hikers, welcoming the break, step aside and wave you on.
There may also be times where it’s too dangerous for the uphill person to step aside. In this case, it’s ok to shout down the trail to ask the uphill hikers to step aside for you.
Note: be sure to let them know why because of they don’t understand they may just think you are being rude).
Horses and livestock
Hikers should always yield the right-of-way to horses and other livestock.
Make sure your dog stays calm, refrains from barking, and doesn’t move toward the horse.
If possible, move to the downhill side of the trail (so you don’t look big) and hold your dog close until the horse is well past.
If there is space to step way off the trail without damaging vegetation, it’s ok to do so. However, keep talking to your friend or your dog so that the horses don’t think you are a predator lurking in the bushes.
People riding bikes
Technically, bikers are required to yield to hikers.
However, they are going faster than you so they might not see you until they are almost on top of you.
They should stop and let you pass if they see you in time but that is usually not the case.
It’s just best to step aside of you see a biker coming.
It’s a courteous thing to do too because it takes more work for them to get off and on the bike than it does for you to step aside for a second.
Don’t let your dog bark or lunge at other dogs, people, or animals
Don’t let your dog bark or lunge at other dogs and hikers no matter what size dog you have.
Just because you have a small dog does not mean that other trail users find this behavior “cute”. Many perceive it as aggressive, which can scare them or their dog.
It’s just poor manners.
Along those same lines, don’t let your dog repetitively bark and interrupt other trails user’s peaceful experience.
5) Don’t let you dog run up and sniff people or other dogs
Contrary to popular belief, dogs don’t need to say hi to every dog that crosses their path.
First, a trail is not a dog park. It shouldn’t be a place you take your dog to socialize them.
Your dog should be properly socialized, understand how to ignore other dogs if asked, and how to greet other dogs respectfully and in an unthreatening way, before you hit the trail.
Second, all dogs have a right to use the trail.
Some dogs are anxious when approached by strange dogs and people, either because they were born that way or because they’ve had bad experiences in life.
This is NOT a reflection of the quality of the dog, the dog owner, or how much training the dog has.
Dogs are not predictable. They may be our best couch snuggle buddies but they are still animals with a different communication style than people.
Even normally well-behaved and friendly dogs can feel threatened when a strange dog comes running up to them in a confined space (which a narrow trail is).
A dog may be “friendly” 99% of the time but all it can take is one wrong look, a snarl, or a strange smell to set them off, resulting in a negative experience for both dogs (and probably you too).
Thirdly, as hard as it may be to fathom, not everyone is a dog lover. Some people are allergic, are just not dog people, or are afraid of dogs.
To be safe, don’t let your dog go up and sniff or “say hi” to other hikers without permission.
If the person loves dogs and is ok with your dog approaching them they will make it known.
Or if they look like they want approach you and your dog, ask them to confirm.
Otherwise, assume they would like you and your dog to pass by without interacting with them.
6) Don’t let your dog be a food bandit
If you’re hiking with your dog, whether it be on or off leash, and you come up on what looks like a snack or lunch area, which is usually a lookout on the trail or summit, be sure to keep them very close to your side.
Don’t let your dog beg for food from other hikers at lunch/snack stops, stare at them while they are eating, or try to get inside their backpack.
Every dog will be curious when they hear crinkling or smell food but do your best to redirect your dog or keep their eyes on you.
7) Help protect the environment
Hikers and dogs should stick to the trails and practice leaving a minimum impact on nature.
The standard in trail etiquette to protect the environment was developed by the Center for Leave No Trace.
They created seven Leave No Trace Principles that provide an easily understood framework of minimum impact practices for anyone visiting the outdoors.
I have a degree in the water sciences, and worked in the environmental protection field for 20 years, so I took the liberty of adapting these seven principles for dogs.
Read: How to Practice Leave No Trace Principles with Your Dog
8) Help protect wildlife
Whether your dog is on a leash or under strict voice control, do not let them wander off the trail to sniff or chase wildlife.
Don’t let them bark at, dig after, or otherwise harass wildlife either.
If your dog is barking it can traumatized critters and, in the case of large animals, they may think your doggie is asking to be eaten.
9) Teach your dog basic training commands for the trail
Besides basic obedience commands like sit and stay, here are some commands that are useful for your dog to know:
- Leave it – This is useful when you want your dog to ignore another dog, another person, wildlife, or something they shouldn’t eat on the ground
- “Here” or “place” – a command used to get your dog to sit or lie down in a specific spot until you say it’s ok to continue on
- Look at me (or simply “look) – An easy way to get your dog to focus on you instead of something they shouldn’t (it’s also handy for capturing that awesome Instagram photo)
- How to walk on a leash without pulling – Pulling can be hazardous for your dog’s health and the over-excitement can put other dogs on edge
Following these 9 etiquette rules are pretty easy.
In fact, several of them are closely related which makes them easy to remember.
By respecting nature, the environment and other trail users we can ensure that dogs will remain welcome on trails for years to come.
It only takes one or two to make a bad name for everyone else.
About the Author
Hi, I’m Jessica. I’ve been studying the Dachshund breed since 2007, owned 3 of my own, and shared in the lives of thousands of others through their owner’s stories. When I’m not sharing what I know on this blog, you can find me hiking, camping, and traveling with my adventurous wiener dogs.
Very good advice!
Amen to that!
Excellent post Jess. I have been hiking for years, but last weekend was my first with my dog. I always have their poop bags attached to the leash. I’m the one who was inquiring about the Spruce Railroad Trail. I am happy to report that it is officially open to dogs, there is a sign at the trail head stating that it is the only trail in Olympic National Park where dogs area allowed. We had a blast!
Your dogs are beautiful, and an inspiration to all adventure seeking pets.
Those are great rules. I would add another one: I have a dachshund, and she is terrified of other dogs a lot of the time (there are rare moments when she’s okay with them). A lot of people walking their dogs see mine and automatically bring them over to say hi, then my dog barks at them, and the other owner gets angry. Just like a child asking to pet the dog, other owners should ask to introduce dogs to each other, but that applies outside of hiking, I think. And the pictures of your dogs are so adorable!
P.S. I hate Flexi leashes. I used to work at a pet supply store and NO ONE knew how to use them. They are the bane of my existence. And the warning manual that goes with it is outrageous! It’s a leash, it shouldn’t have the capability of cutting of your fingers.
Absolutely agree. I hate the Flexileashes, that’s not actually a leash in my opinion, and often in the opinion of the law, as well. Many leash laws require a leash to be no more than 6 feet long, so, why even have a “leash” that can extend over four times that length.
My dachshund loves other dogs, but hates strangers, and will bite. I’ve had people “ask” to pet him as they’re reaching down to do so, or parents have no problem with their children running up to him, and then act put out when I say “no, no, don’t touch him, he bites”, as if I should have done something to make him a docile plaything for every stranger who thinks he’s cute and wants to pet him. It’s a bizarre thing, the desire to pet a stranger’s dog. It’s like going up to a stranger’s baby or small child and wanting to touch him or her (I know, there are actually creepy people who do this) because the kid is cute. Nobody would think it’s okay to touch a random woman on the street because she’s pretty, that would be assault, so why do some people think it’s okay to fondle an unknown animal (or small child). It’s bizarre if you think about it. If you have to ask (ie, because you don’t have a previous relationship with the animal or child), then you shouldn’t, and you shouldn’t even ask.
Great advice, maybe you could broadcast this message out loud and clear to all dog owners.
Thanks for the reminders. And I like Christina’s point above about not assuming that every dog wants to meet your dog on the trail. Happy hiking!
I just started hiking recently and I love it. It is one exercise routine that I plan on doing long term and I can certainly stick with. In general, I find it hard to be motivated to exercise. I have mostly led a sedentary lifestyle, along with having a weight problem for most of my life. I have tried gyms, aerobics, jazzercise and Zumba but was unable to commit. But hiking is one sport where you can benefit from fresh air, exercise, nature, and connecting with others. I find that this sport can become an obsession and I have started seeing results with how my body is starting to take shape. Anyway, I do not mind dogs on the trail as long as they are on the leash and their owners have them under control. From what I have experienced so far, all the dogs I have encountered have been well behaved. I always yield to others whether it’s my right of way or not. It is faster to yield and not have to wait until others do it so everyone can go at their own pace, as well as have their space. My pet peeve is when other hikers do not greet or do not reciprocate the greeting. A simple “Hi” or “Hello” is sufficient enough and everyone goes on their merry way. I’m not asking for a conversation but if people want to stop and converse, I do not mind at all since I am a people person 🙂
I love hiking for exercise! The closest trail to us is over 30 minutes away though so it is hard to be consistent with only that method. I am glad you enjoy it so much. I find most hikers here in the Northwest to be friendly but it IS just weird when you get that random who returns your greeting with a blank stare.
If someone greets me, I’ll usually return their greeting, but I’m not necessarily going to issue a salutation to every person I pass on a trail, that’s a bit much to expect. Sometimes I’m in the middle with a conversation with my wife, or sometimes I’m lost in reverie, and/or just “in the zone” on the trail. I come from Texas, where people tend to be especially friendly with strangers, but I respect and I think others should respect the fact that not everyone is like them, some people are more reserved, either by cultural background (Germans actually think greeting everyone you meet and/or making polite chitchat is superficial and insincere), or by natural temperament, and may actually find it tiring to have to greet every stranger they momentarily pass in public.
Great rules for hikers. Even knowing that a dog is friendly can be a little fearful. I didn’t even think about the possibility of allergies, which is another reason we have to be careful.
A lot of people don’t and that is probably the #1 reason one should keep their dog from running up to people. Allergies are so common these days and a case of runny eyes and sniffles can ruin a hike for sure 🙁
Great tips here! We are avid hikers, and have seen many of the missteps you describe. It’s frustrating as someone who does follow the etiquette rules, to see others showing disrespect for their fellow hikers.
It does take time to learn, so I try to be understanding when I see novice dog folks out there. Especially if their dogs are cute 😉
Out here in AZ, leashes are important for the dog’s safely too. I’ve seen too many dogs pulled off the side of the trail with their owners trying to pluck cactus thorns out of the poor pup. And rattlesnakes don’t ask if your dog is friendly either, they just attack when threatened.
Yes, very good point about the snakes. Dogs are curious but snakes usually aren’t having it if a dog sticks it’s nose in their territory. I suppose I should be more understanding too because the dog owners *might* be new to hiking. All of the ones I see with their dogs off leash seemed pretty seasoned though. I feel like it’s the new hikers that follow the leash law until they see others that have their dogs off leash on the trail…. and think well, if they are doing it then I can too..
You all act as if there is agreement that there should be etiquette on the trails and that this etiquette revolves around only what’s best for humans (for the most part) . The allergy comment is ridiculous. You want me to confine my dog it’s ENTIRE LIFE while hiking just in case some stranger that I’ve never met May with low probability have some sort of allergy and that they will get sniffles. I’m sorry but my dog is more important than some stranger that I may or may not encounter over the 12 years that I own my dog. I’m not going to confine my dog just in case I run across someone who doesn’t like dogs. I don’t understand people who don’t like dogs I’m suspicious of them and frankly I care more about my dog than those human beings. Your etiquette list does not this hardly think about what is good for the dog what the dogs want. It’s so dog unfriendly I question why you even have dogs. Nature is where dogs should be. Your solution is to keep your dogs confined at the entire time. Your dogs do not want to be confined. You are confining your dogs for the sake of people that you may or may not meet and therefore I question why you even have dogs. You care more about some stranger who may not like to have to encounter your dog off leash than you do about your dogs. Why do you even have a dog if you feel more feelings about them over your dog. If someone is afraid of dogs, and it’s a very small minority., then perhaps they should work to try to improve that. The solution is not to keep my dog on a leash its entire life just in case I might meet that person. We live in a crowded environment and it really sucks that you have to adapt to other people’s actions. But it’s a two-way street. I have every right to hike and we live in a society where it is allowed to have dogs. Therefore people have to grow up and just deal with the fact that they have to deal with dogs that they may encounter while hiking. If people can’t deal with dogs while hiking then they need to find another Pastime. Or they can Lobby their government to ban dogs. But in my experience a leashed dog has more social problems and psychological problems than those that get time of freedom to run around and do what’s natural. Excuse the grammar I’m doing speech to text.
Wow. You are clearly angry about this issue. I hope taking it out on a stranger made you feel better. I’ve been hiking with dogs, and talking to people about hiking with dogs, for well over 10 years. These etiquette rules were created from my experiences and feedback from people who hike with their dogs, as well as those that don’t own dogs. No one said anything about “confining” a dog or keeping it on a leash “it’s entire life”. Respecting other people’s space is just being courteous and there is no harm in making sure your dog stays by your side. Most trails where I live have a leash law. A lot of others that do allow dogs to be off leash require that a dog still be under “strict voice command”, which means they stay close to you and do not bother other people on the trail. The etiquette rules I listed still stand, regardless of your personal feelings about it. You will find many, many more resources – both online and in print – that site these same etiquette rules. Whether you want to follow them is up to you.
I don’t think it is clear that I am angry, what evidence can you provide of that? You may have read it that way or interpreted it that way but that doesn’t make it true. I am sure it is uncomfortable to read another point of view.
I well aware that these etiquette rules are widespread, not just from you. That, however, does not mean they are correct. You basic argument is that because it is widespread and many people agree that therefore it must be correct! I am challenging that notion.
Having a dog on a leash while out in the environment, I believe, is confining the dog. It does not want to be on the leash.
You speak of respecting other people’s space, but again you mention nothing of respecting what the dog wants! In fact, you didn’t even address and debate any of my points. Specifically, why do you leash your dog against its will so that you can be seen as being nice to someone you have never met who you may meet a year or so from now and be bothered that your dog is walking off leash? Why do you put that person ahead of your dog?
The vast majority of people I come across while hiking are very friendly to my dogs and have big smiles on their faces because most people love dogs. Why should we cater to the very small minority?…
You say “there is no harm in making sure your dog stays by your side”, but again you are not even considering what you dog really wants, which is to be off leash. I consider it harm to the dog if you do this all the time. You took what I said out of context. I wrote “You want me to confine my dog it’s ENTIRE LIFE while hiking”. You took out the “while hiking” bit to try to make a point, and I think that is wrong to do.
There are many ways to be courteous when a dog is off leash. Of course voice commands are utilized heavily to carry that out.
I just think we need to question things more. I see how incredibly happy my dogs are off leash, it is amazing. And every dog I see on leash looks frustrated. Why would you do that to your dog?
Greg – This blog article is about hiking with dogs so, yes, I assumed all comments you made were on topic (about hiking with a dog). Hearing a different point of view from mine is not uncomfortable. I’ve heard arguments similar to yours many times over. So many times that I know, in the end, this is not something we will agree on. I do not believe that all dogs are unhappy on leash and, in fact, there are many reasons – like safety – to use a leash. But I did not say in this article that dogs must always be on leash. Some people use a leash and some use voice control.. and that’s ok with me. I also do not believe that my desires, and those that I believe my dog has, comes before all other trail users. I believe in respecting others and ensuring that my dog does not impose upon them or ruin their experience. Quite frankly, I’m tired of defending my view (as I am sure you are of yours). I have examined this issue up, down, and sideways over the years and, as I said before, my opinion on etiquette still stands.
One last thing Greg, you ask Jessica if she ever asked her dog if he wanted to be on a leash – do you ever ask your dog if he wants to go hiking, if he feels like it that particular day? Do you ask him if he’s okay with going on when you want to keep going? Do you ask him if he wants to keep going when you’re ready to turn back? So spare us the sanctimony about supposedly respecting a dog’s agency.
People with your kind of attitude about their dogs, that their dogs’ “freedom” should come before other human beings’ comfort, also tend to be the kind of people who way overestimate their voice control over their dogs. Bottom line, a strange unleashed dog approaches me on a hiking trail, it just might get a face full of bear spray, and if it’s owner doesn’t like it, the owner might get to share the experience with his dog/ego extension.
Wow, Greg, I don’t think you know very much about dog behavior. What in the world makes you think dogs hate to be on leashes? Dogs love to be balanced. Dogs love a peaceful life. Dogs love being led by a strong, caring, pack leader. When a dog is unhappy on a leash, it’s because they live an unbalanced life with a weak or unstable human. In what natural circumstance would dogs just run up to all species of animals or even other dogs all the time? If a dog did that in to other dogs, even off leash domesticated dogs living in a pack in a city, the dog would likely get bit. Dogs have a greeting process, it is not normal for dogs to run up to every being they meet, it’s rude behavior in the dog world, not just the human world! My husband is disabled, he can barely walk. He enjoys birding and visits a national park that has easy access for him. A dog owner with a dog off leash did the typical “My dog is safe! Don’t worry!” as the dog ran up to my husband, jumped, and knocked him down. Nature ALWAYS have rules. Nature always has boundaries. No animal in nature does as they please whenever they please, if they ran around like a crazed maniac who owns the world they’d get hurt. A dog comes up to my family again without invitation is getting it’s face sprayed with bear spray. My family is more important than your dog, and I’d prove it with mace and a lawsuit. I love dogs, and my happy, well balanced pit-bulls love being on a leash because they know their amazing pack leader provides opportunities, safety, sustenance, leadership. Aren’t you glad I am not an owner who’d let their powerful breed run around like a bunch of idiots out of their minds? Wild does not mean total abandon, the wild (nature) has structure.
Agreed for sure. Even in nature, animals have boundaries (territories won/fought for, avoid certain place or time of day or get eaten, etc.). As it sounds like you would, I argue that dogs need some structure in their lives. It’s true we can all choose when and what kind of structure our dogs have, and some people don’t like using the “structure” of a leash, but a dog just follows boundaries. They don’t contemplate the fairness of it. There are plenty of places where it’s legal and safe for a dog to run off leash. Flouting leash laws designed to keep all trail users, and wildlife, safe is not one of them in my opinion.
I could not agree more with Greg. I am a lifelong hiker and have always hiked with my dogs- going on 30 plus years. My dogs hike off leash which is the custom in Vermont and New Hampshire where I live. My current pup – a beagle and golden retriever- get to enjoy the woods as I do, off leash. Check out the incredible book Following Atticus. Atticus conquered many a hike off leash. If someone can’t handle a dog on a trail, I question their connection to nature and feel bad for their dogs. Thanks for listening. Not angry at all btw. Maybe it’s just different on the east coast.
There are responsible and irresponsible dog owners everywhere. My friends are traveling in South America with their dog and they encounter many of the “don’t do”s” that I list here. I have no problem with responsible dog owners, who respect the environment and other trail users personal space, having their dog off leash. I can’t speak for the differences in attitude between the east and west coast as I’ve never hiked there but I’m happy for you if you are lucky enough to live where all dog owner are respectful (don’t poo-poo the law or people’s allergies, fears, rights, etc. because of their dog’s rights and potential suffering by being asked behave or wear a leash).
I’m very familiar with Atticus. There aren’t a whole lot of small hiking dogs out there. Especially not famous ones 🙂
” If someone can’t handle a dog on a trail, I question their connection to nature ”
Ummm, beagles and golden retrievers aren’t wildlife, nor are they native to New Hampshire and Vermont, (loose domesticated dogs would actually be considered an invasive species that represents a threat to native wildlife) so liking or not liking them on a hiking trail has nothing to do with one’s “connection to nature”)
And Exhibit A, Greg, the type of dog owner everyone else despises.
“You want me to confine my dog it’s ENTIRE LIFE while hiking just in case some stranger that I’ve never met […] I’m sorry but my dog is more important than some stranger[…]”
Condensed version: “My dog is more important than you. More important than your allergies, your dislike or possible fear of strange dogs approaching you, possibly jumping up on you, etc.” In essence, Greg’s dog is an extension of his ego, and so “my dog is more important than you” translates to “I’m more important than you, and how dare you expect me to show you a little common courtesy in a public space.”
Oh, and Greg,
1. Most public places, including hiking trails, have leash laws, so you’re breaking the law.
2. Dogs don’t “belong in nature”, they are a domesticated animal, and invasive when let loose in North America. And don’t start that “dogs are just wolves and we have wolves in North America” crap. Even catching a native species of animal in one area and releasing it into another area has risks and is frowned upon, even illegal, when not done by skilled wildlife biologists. Domesticated dogs, whose genome diverged from wolves millenia ago and have been manipulated by humans ever since, have no place “in nature”, except on a leash under their owner’s supervision.
3. Jessica is right, you come off as very angry and defensive. You remind me of my mother-in-law, five failed marriages, twice fired from tenured professor positions (which is hard to do), alienated multiple friends and family members, and also has the attitude that her dogs should be allowed to run free and anyone who doesn’t like being jumped on and clawed up and covered in mud, have their car paint scratched up, is just an uptight dog hater. Just like her failed relationships and career, her conflicts with people over her dog’s behavior are always everyone else’s fault, everyone else’s problems, true narcissist, and that’s how you’re coming off.
I love these tips. I have seen so many hikers violating simple rules such as cleaning up after your pets. This should remind them to be mindful of other hikers too.
Who wrote these rules and why should a one size fits all approach work? Just because some untrained dogs cause problems doesn’t mean that train dogs should have to suffer their entire life. That’s like saying because one black man committed murder that we should confine all black men in our society so that it doesn’t happen to anyone else. Just because a few dogs minority of dogs cause problems doesn’t mean we should confine all dogs on leashes their entire life. Dog parks are not not natural for dogs. Roaming is natural for dogs . Whoever makes these rules just doesn’t care about dogs or is it logical or just doesn’t want to try very hard because they’re just doing their an 8 to 5 job with it really don’t give a shit.
Who wrote these rules? In many cases, the US Department of Interior, state park and recreation departments, state and local governments, often in consultation with conservation and wildlife biologists. Dogs are not like black men and frankly it’s extremely offensive for you to make that comparison. Most black men follow the laws of society because they are human beings with the intelligence to be aware of and understand those laws, why they are needed, and the consequences if they don’t obey them. Dogs operate on instinct, they don’t know that it is against the law to harass wildlife. They don’t understand that leaving their feces in the woods risks contaminating soil and water sources with microorganisms, which in many cases are foreign to the wildlife in a particular area, and can make them sick, even kill them. That’s why they need humans who understand all this to control them, to keep them from harassing wildlife, to pick up after them. The only way to do that is NOT to let dogs “roam free”. If your dog is “roaming freely” there is a good chance he’ll take a quick crap while out of your line of sight, and you’ll never know that needs to be picked up. A dog that’s never seen a marmot or a skunk before might lunge at it before his owner even sees the wild animal, and/or might be too excited to heed his owner’s command to “leave it”. And too many people overestimate their ability to control their dogs through voice command only, especially in novel situations. Dogs that cause problems, which you claim are “the minority”, have historically not been “the minority”, they created a significant enough problem to necessitate these rules which have you so infuriated; even IF they are now “the minority”, it is only because enough people now know and abide by these rules, and “the minority” can and still does cause significant problems.
Domesticated dogs are not native to North America, there is nothing “natural” about them roaming our last semi-wild places. You’re all about what the dog wants, did you ask the marmots, raccoons, ground squirrels, skunks, lizards, frogs, if they were okay with you releasing an invasive species to “roam” their natural and rightful home, did ya, Greg?
Right on, Markin Tex! You are absolutely correct. I’d like to know what Greg thinks after your response. I am sure if he really thought about it, he’d be a nature lover and agree, I mean I am sure he loves the all the animals of the forest, not just his dog.
Ugh, I’m an animal lover and have a dog, a dachshund I don’t take hiking with me. I have been turned off to the idea of dogs on trails by my mother-in-law of all people. Until recently, she had a cabin in a national forest in New Mexico, with lots of trails used as a cross-country ski area in winter, and hiking/equestrian trails the rest of the year. She also had three obnoxious golden retrievers. She is one of THOSE dog owners, the kind who projects herself and all her baggage onto her dogs, believes they’re so wonderful that EVERYONE should want them to jump up on us with their muddy paws and stick their noses in our crotches, and anyone who doesn’t like that is obviously uptight. (She also believes that she’s some kind of dog whisperer and insists on petting strangers’ dogs and even criticizing how we take care of our dog – like a dog, not a spoiled toddler) She believed that these three untrained golden retrievers should be free to run in the woods untethered, AND she had no voice control over them. They would run through other peoples’ yards, jump up on hikers on the trails, spook horses (and their riders), and once the three of them got confrontational with a buck elk.
I know what you’re thinking, she’s an extreme example, and there are lots of people who are responsible dog owners, etc. I do appreciate people who keep their dogs on leashes, as I think a dog should ALWAYS be on a leash in public, no matter how we”ll-trained you think your dog is. Even so, dogs don’t know they aren’t supposed to bark at the novel species of wildlife they’ve never seen before, stressing the animals and scaring them off so other hikers don’t get to see them, or the person on a horse. And the kind of person who takes their dog hiking tends to be the kind of person who feels the need to take their dog everywhere, which is a symptom of seeing your dog as an extension of yourself rather than a being in its own right. A dog can’t tell you that he’s hot, or cold, or getting tired or his feet are hurting from the rough trail and he’d rather go back, or at least slow down. He’s going to try to keep up with his akeala, no matter how unpleasant it is for him. In most cases, I think dogs are better-off left home.
Thanks for commenting. I apologize for the delay in approving them for publish. I’ve been on vacation and not checking blog comments.
“the kind of person who takes their dog hiking tends to be the kind of person who feels the need to take their dog everywhere” – astute observation. I DO hike with my dog AND take them “everywhere”. Well, not everywhere. I don’t take them where they are not supposed to be, and some errands are easier of they don’t ride along in the car, but I do bring them most places with me.
While my dog can’t tell me the things you mention when we are traveling or hiking, I’m keenly aware of my dog’s behavior and have learned to detect when my dog is expressing discomfort or limits.
I didn’t take this comment as a personal attack, and appreciate you sharing your perspective, but I am definitely not one of those people that thinks a dog is better left at home. There are certainly cases for it though and I think the important part is to know when it’s causing more stress for the dog than good (mine LOVES car rides and the mental stimulation of watching the world from the car window.)
Thanks for this article. Its a really good concise list that covers all the common pitfalls of shared trails. I used to love dogs and have worked in many shelters, however a bad experience with a stranger’s (leashed – but on too long a leash to control!) aggressive dog I’m rightfully wary. Also, I’m a non-dog owner who lives in a dog crazy town so it can be frustrating at times. That said, 90% of dog owners on the trails I have not had any issues while and most people are courteous, I have had a few dog owners get seriously unreasonable.
For instance my favorite local hike was ruined by an older woman with a huge dog who lives in our neighborhood this evening. I was happily walking along a narrow trail that is hemmed in with brush on either side, when I spied a very large dog ahead that was on a leash but was making growling noises and tearing up the dirt with it’s paws. This dog was over my waist height and probably outweighed me as well, so I moved far to the side of the trail and said politely to the owner, “Please go ahead and pass”.
I was flabergasted when she did not pass and instead stood in the middle of the trail and glared at me and said, “No! This is my neighborhood and my dog is fine! It’s not mean!” I was shocked she wouldn’t pass along like the hundreds of dogs and owners I’ve passed on the trail and instead she wanted to obstruct my way and lecture me about her dog. She literally stood in the center of the trail and would not move on past me because she was irrationally angry that I shied away from her big growling dog.
I asked her to move again this time more firmly, “Please go ahead and pass, ma’am” I asked again, and this time added, “I’m afraid of large dogs,” which actually ISN’T true but I was hoping it would encourrage her to be understanding and continue down the trail like a normal human and stop arguing with me about it. Instead she glared at me and said, “Too bad! You shouldn’t walk this trail or live in this town if you don’t like dogs!”
At that point I’d had it with this stranger and her dog and used some very harsh language after which she took the hint and finally passed me so I could continue down the trail. The entitlement was baffling! I was very nice and she griped at me for giving her too much room to pass and being wary of a stranger’s dog.
It left me shaken and angry to be told I should not use the facilities in my own neighborhood unless I let people’s dogs come close enough to bite me. This is unrealistic and while they have the right to the trails as well, they should at least respect the concept that not everyone wants to be forced to come in biting distance of a large strange dog.
I’m very glad to hear that most dog owners in your area are courteous and responsible. That woman’s behavior was indeed baffling. I do know some people who own large or “dangerous” breeds who are so used to being treated poorly because of it that they are defensive. That is no excuse though. One should always respect other trail users.
Thanks for the response. The dog was actually some sort of large, friendly looking Lassie type dog, but much bigger. Had it not been making the growling noises, I would have passed without even thinking about it. So maybe that is a noise the dog makes at home to mean, “I’m interested in something!” and not “I’m agitated!” which is hard to tell as a stranger who only has moments to size the situation up. Maybe she thinks because the dog has a cute face people shouldn’t ever be wary of it?
Looking back I just think the situation was one where there wasn’t the best communication upfront – the trail is also overgrown so normally I would just step past her but can’t because of the high grass – she decided to argue about the dog rather than move on and it escalated. The lady is totally unreasonable to tell me not to use the trails though – that’s not her right to say, and while I want to be respectful of dog owners I also hope they will also be respectful of people who may not want to get close to their dogs (even if they look like Lassie and have a cute face!).
I appreciate that you can look at the situation with some empathy and perspective. I wish that was more common and that it went both ways more often.