This last weekend I led a dog hike on a beautiful trail system in Loma Linda. My dog Hershey proudly wore his doggie backpack and when he pooped on the trail I got out his doggie poop bag, picked the poop up and attached it to his backpack. I had someone stop and ask me why I was bothering to pick up his poop on the trail. I was astonished, I would never think to just leave it on trail so here goes my newest blog on trail etiquette.
Why should you pick up dog poop on the trail?
Would you let dog poop pile up on your front lawn? I surely hope not, so why is the trail any different? It is a simple thing to carry poop bags and pick up after your dog on trail and it is the right thing to do and part of being a responsible guardian to your dog.
Where should dogs walk in reference to you on trail?
I recently had a dog lover who joined us for one of our hikes tell me that they were on another dog hike and were told that dogs should always walk behind you and if they try to get in front of you, you need to kick them. I was in shock, kick them I asked? Yes kick them. I’m sorry I don’t kick my dogs. He said well we were told that you can’t let them in front because that allows them to be dominant. Ah got it! Dominance Theory revisited, see my last blog post regarding this outdated theory. Number one please never kick your dog and if someone tells you that is training please walk away because that is not training that is power and control and there is no place for that in dog training. My dogs walk in front, in back or to my side. They walk where they are comfortable. If they pull we either stop or do a recall and continue. Again referring to my last article dogs do not pull because they want to be dominant, they pull to get where they are going faster, and if you let them pull they learn that works and they keep pulling. So you don’t want your dogs dragging you down the trail, but let your dogs enjoy the hike at your side, behind you or in front of you. There are so many smells on trail and with Hershey being a Coon Hound he is in heaven a little in front without pulling.
Should dogs be off leash on trail?
That depends on a couple of things. Does the trail your on allow dogs to be off leash? Do you have a reliable recall on your dog? My Shiloh dog was my running partner and I lost him at the age of 13 in June. He always ran with me off leash on trails that permitted off leash dogs. He ran in front because that was his preference. I had a reliable recall on him at all times. He would not take off chasing a rabbit or a deer. We even came upon a Mountain Lion on one of our many adventures and again my Shiloh did not chase after the big cat. When Mountain Bikers would come down the trail I would give him say “off trail” and he would go to the far side of the trail and sit while the mountain bikers went by. He did the same for horses. I never hesitated having him off leash because I knew that I could depend on him to respond to recall or commands off leash. So if the trail permits your dog to be off leash and you have a 100% reliable recall I say yes go for it let your dog explore. However, if your dog dashes down the trail and has to say hi to every person and dog they meet along the way I would say no. Some people are afraid of dogs, some dogs need space on leash. So the bottom line is know your dog before you let them off leash on trail.