Hiking with your dog can be an incredibly rewarding experience to enjoy together. Many parks, especially National Parks, prohibit or restrict dogs from using their trails. It is important to remember that hiking with your dog is a privilege in many areas and there are a few important trail etiquette rules to follow in order to keep all trail users safe and happy. By following proper trail etiquette, we promote responsible pet ownership and help keep trails dog friendly. Below are 5 important trail etiquette rules based on our own and our fellow Dogs That Hike Explorers’ experiences.
- Follow Leash Laws
Most hiking trails have leash laws to keep everyone safe. Wildlife frequent trails and dogs can attract or endanger wildlife in their natural habitat. When hiking in parks with purposefully built trails, sticking to the dedicated path is a crucial factor in preserving ecologically sensitive areas. Many parks have leash laws, which have been proven to greatly reduce ecological impact by still allowing people to adventure with their four-legged friend. Following leash laws helps show responsible pet ownership and keep trails dog friendly. Multiple people not following leash laws can potentially have dogs banned on the trail. If the trail is off leash, your dog still should be under control at all times and have a reliable recall.
- Ask Permission to Greet
Having an off leash dog run up to an unknown dog can create an unsafe situation for everyone involved even if your dog is friendly. Leash laws also provide a safe space for dogs that are need space or are reactive, it gives them the opportunity to adventure with their humans. Keep in mind that leash greetings are not always ideal even for non-reactive dogs. When dogs approach another dog while on leash, it often created tension and prevents the dog from having a safe escape route from an uncomfortable situation. If your dog enjoys meeting other dogs on the trail, be sure to ask the other handler if it is okay to say hi prior to approaching. Not all dogs are social and like strange dogs running up to them. It can be beneficial to have your dog sit on the side of the trail, using yourself as a barrier between other dogs and humans.
- Yield to Other Hikers
Not all people enjoy dogs as much as we do. Allowing your dog to run up to other humans or dogs can be disrespectful and lead to an undesired reaction. When meeting other groups on the trail, remember to keep to the right of the to allow others to pass. Allowing others space to pass by shows responsible pet ownership and helps keep trails safe and dog friendly. Basic trail etiquette rules should be followed of giving uphill hikers the right of way by stepping to the side and allowing them to pass. Hiking single file is also important and helps reduce your ecological footprint.
- Pack it In, Pack it Out
Finding dog waste along the trail is not only gross, but poor etiquette. Nobody wants to hike along a trail with piles of poop. If your dog does their business, pick it up and pack it out! Biodegradable bags take years to break down so tossing it into the woods is not a viable option – dispose of it in a proper manner.This helps keep the trails clean and dog friendly. Remember that this applies to all garbage. If you bring food or treats, make sure you pack out the wrappers as well.
- Be Friendly
Most people who are out for a hike are hoping to enjoy nature while getting a bit of exercise. Help make the experience enjoyable for everyone by being kind. Say a quick “hello” while on the trail or throw a quick smile at the other hikers. Having a dog can bring a lot of joy to other hikers, or showing proper dog ownership can create a tolerable experience for those who do not love our furry friends. The simplest words or actions can make an adventure even more memorable!
By following these 5 trail etiquette rules, everyone has an equal opportunity to have a safe adventure. Being responsible pet owners will help keep trails dog friendly and an enjoyable experience for everyone involved.
About the author: Stephanie and Farley enjoy spending their free time hiking and camping in the Rocky Mountains. Give them a follow on Instagram to see where they explore next @farley_the_labrador