Friday, March 6, 2009

Hiking PET’iquette

If you’re anything like me, you prefer the great wide open to the confines of a dog park and there’s nothing wrong with that. Like me, my dogs also prefer to hit the trail. But, there are rules of etiquette in the wilds, just as there are in the city. Here are a few tips to Doggie Pet’iquette on the trail.
Leashes. Always...
Just because you’re in the wild doesn’t mean your dog gets to act like a wild animal. Especially if you live in the West. Out here, we carry guns and most know how to use them. In the west, there is the potential to run across a rattlesnake (which is no fun when you’re two miles into the mountains and have to carry out a 100 lb dog), and if you’re in the East, you could run across lots of other creatures. So keep your pet on a leash at all times. Trust me – they’ll still enjoy their time! All those smells, new sights, fun things to explore… Yeah, they’ll love it even if on a leash.
Size Matters
The rule is, the bigger the dog, the more of an interred threat. As dog servants, we know that this is not always true, but to the layman, they associate a big Rottie with an eminent attack. Now, if you have a friendly Rottie, you can teach the newbies a thing or two, but never force your knowledge on another. Generally people who fear dogs are fairly unreasonable to begin with, so just show how great your Rottie is by having him sit quietly by your side and letting the person pass by you. Don’t let your big dog off leash – ever. You never know when someone will take their friendly bounds as a sign of aggression and react like prey. We’re all instinctual creatures after all.
Keep small pets off the trail. There has been a recent increase in reports of prey animals (cougars, coyotes, even owls and hawks) snatching small pets from the arms of owners on a trailhead. And just for the record, this is due to human encroachment, not increased aggressiveness on the part of wildlife.
Trail Traffic
Traffic on the trailhead (and you should always be on a trailhead), is largely the same as on a sidewalk. Move to the right to let other people and pets pass, keep a wide margin of error between you and other pets (even if your dog isn’t aggressive, others may be), and if you pass someone who is obviously terrified of animals, put your dog in the sit position and let the humans pass.  The rule is, “dog and owner yield right of way to hikers.”
Clean Up
Be sure that you bring along a lot of plastic baggies and a way to pack out waste. Your dog’s waste can seriously impact the delicate ecosystem and even pass along disease or parasites to the wildlife, but it’s also a matter of having respect for the environment. Be sure your dog is well away from water sources before allowing it to eliminate. 
Additional Resources

Photo Credit: Copyright PetsWeekly, 2001

Stacy Mantle

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