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15 Trail Etiquette


This article is from the Hiking/Backpacking With Canines, by Terri Watson with numerous contributions by others.

15 Trail Etiquette

Dogs are required to be on-leash on most maintained public trails. In
many places, the leash is required to be 6 feet or less in length. You
should always respect these rules. The reasons for this are numerous,
I'll list a few examples here. Your dog might frighten others by
running up to them. Even if she's friendly, people that are afraid of
dogs might become agitated and get seriously injured indirectly
through falling or backing into something in their fright. Your dog
might chase other animals, scaring them, injuring them, or being
killed or injured by them. Your dog might startle a horse on the
trail, injuring either horse, rider, or the dog herself.

Just having your dog on-leash is not sufficient. You should keep him
calm when passing others on the trail, preferably training him to sit
quietly to one side of the trail as others walk by, or to calmly walk
by others without barking or straining against the leash to jump on
them. Even a polite sniff can be intimidating to a non-dog person,
especially children. Good canine manners will go a long way towards
creating good will and increased tolerance of canine presence. Know
your dog. Be aware of what situations may make him act strangely or
provoke an agressive or defensive reaction. Then prevent these
situations or, if unavoidable, be prepared to deal appropriately with
them. You should never take a dog out on the trail if you feel there
is any chance of someone being injured by him.

Of course, not all trails require leashes, and even on the ones that
do, many people do not obey the rules. You and your dog may be
accosted by other dogs, some of which may be agressive. When you
encounter other users on the trail, the following guidelines apply:
horses have right-of-way over hikers, and hikers are supposed to have
right-of-way over mountain bikes. Hikers going downhill have
right-of-way over those coming up. Especially with horses, try to get
well clear of the trail and leave them plenty of room to pass. Again,
don't allow any barking or jumping to the end of the leash. You can
quiet some dogs by preventing them from being able to see the horses.

Always pick up after your dog on the trail. On your way out, consider
packing out other people's trash if you have extra room in the dog's
pack. Be friendly and courteous to other people on the trail. If they
have questions about your dog and/or her pack, try to be informative
and helpful. I have often encountered people on the trail that reacted
positively to my dog "carrying her weight" and wanted to know how to
get their pet to do the same. The more responsible, educated
dog-owners that want to bring their pets with them on the trail, and
that themselves in turn leave a positive impression on others, the
more likely we are to stave off additional closings and possibly even
get other trails re-opened to our canine friends.


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