Last September, our family brought home a miniature dachshund who we named Frankie. He is a sweet little dog that has brought our family immeasurable joy and enrichment. Frankie is also a feisty little guy with lots of energy like most doxies. His favorite things are playing tug and going for walks.
Lucky for Frankie, we love going for walks too. Over the winter, both weather and Frankie’s tender age kept us in a little more. But now that he is a big boy, we have gotten him out on the trail with us several times this Spring. Walking Frankie on the trail presents a natural opportunity to teach the kids another aspect of trail etiquette: minding your pets.
Any aspect of trail etiquette is a shared responsibility among us. When we all mind our manners, everyone can enjoy the trails. The three main points of pet etiquette for the trail are hiking where dogs are allowed, proper leash use, and cleaning up after your pooch.
We’ll assume that you have chosen a dog-friendly trail for your walk or hike. Our furry family members are not allowed in most national parks except in certain areas. Most Rail Trails and national forests welcome dogs, however. Research your destination with a quick google search such as, “are dogs allowed at…”.
Always abide by the rules of the trail. Bringing your doggo where he is not allowed can result in unnecessary confrontations with other hikers. Plenty of people are genuinely afraid of dogs regardless of how friendly your dog may be.
Leash Skills and Laws
Walking on a leash calmly by your side is a skill you must teach your puppy. Whether you attend a class or watch online videos, you should begin training your dog in proper leash skills as soon as you can. I have benefited from Michele Lennon’s videos on YouTube.
Know and abide by the leash laws in your area. Most dogs must be on a leash with few exceptions, such as highly trained service dogs. Some trails require a 4′ or 6′ maximum length and forbid retractable leashes. Keeping your dog close keeps cyclists and your dog safe from getting entangled.
Yield to all other occupants on the trail. In general, hikers yield to cyclists and horses anyway. When you hike with your dog, you should give the right of way to other hikers too. The key is to be aware of your surroundings and tuned into your dog’s behavior. An oncoming hiker or bike could stimulate your well-behaved pooch into chase mode. Beware so you can stop problems before they start.
Clean Up on Aisle T
On my last trail walk with Frankie and the kids, a blue bag sat neatly tied and sitting on the side of the trail. My daughter asked why someone left their doggie clean-up bag just sitting there.
Always carry bags to clean up your dog’s mess (you know what I mean). Just because the bears and the deer poop in the woods doesn’t mean you should leave Fluffy’s number 2 in the side brush. You can leave the bag in an obvious place to pick up on your way back to the trailhead if you are far from a trash can. As I explained to my daughter, that’s why the little blue baggie was next to the trail.
Having a furry walking buddy is excellent. But with great companionship comes great responsibility. Knowing the rules and etiquette makes a happier experience for all parties involved, including you and your dog.