This is a guest post from The Adventure Dog Blog, where Danielle Lindblom shares her adventures in hiking, camping, and traveling with her Border Collies.
Who doesn’t love hitting the trail with their favorite four-legged friend? The open air, reconnecting with nature, and exploring new places is good for the body and the soul. To have a great experience and ensure that these opportunities continue to be available for dog owners, follow these tips on trail etiquette.
1. Clean up after your dog. This is the number-one reason dogs get banned from trails. Always bring poop bags with you; then you don’t have to fret when your dog does his business and you weren’t expecting it. Want to go above and beyond? Pick up after others who have left their doggie doo doo on the trail.
2. Follow leash rules. It can be super tempting to let your dog off leash when no one is around, but what happens when another hiker comes around the corner suddenly? Or your dog flushes up a rabbit and is suddenly gone, heedless to your calls? You can never know what will happen out in the wilderness, and the best way to protect yourself, your dog, and other hikers is to stay on leash.
3. Pass others with your dog on the outside. Minimize interactions between your dog and other hikers or dogs by keeping your body between him and whoever you’re passing. You may have the friendliest dog on the planet, but not everyone wants to be greeted, people and dogs alike. Be polite and keep your dog under control while passing others.
4. Respect right of way. Anyone going uphill has the right of way, especially in steep sections. It’s disruptive to those trekking up a steep incline — head down and focusing on putting one foot in front of the other — to stop their rhythm and move over, and they may have limited visibility. Horses have the right of way. Move over for riders on the trail but make sure you and your pup stay visible to approaching horses, or they may become skittish. Stop fully, bring your dog in close, and talk to the riders as they pass by. Positive experience for everyone. If your dog is afraid of horses or unsure, feed some treats as they go past.
5. Advocate for your dog. Always. You know what your dog likes and doesn’t like. Don’t let others convince you to “say hi” if you know your dog will be uncomfortable. There are lots of things to be exposed to on the trail, and most of them are wondrous and exciting. Make sure you and your dog have a positive experience every time you hit the trail by advocating for your dog and listening to their signals.
6. Stay on assigned trails. If you’re at a park with dog trails, hiking trails, and horse trails, stay on the trails assigned for hikers with dogs. Trails are often segregated for specific reasons. Hikers without dogs do not want to be surprised by a dog on a hikers-only trail. Following trail rules makes it possible for dogs to continue to be allowed at those parks.
7. Hike what your dog can handle. Thankfully, in Minnesota we don’t have too many trails with dangerous inclines like in the mountains. However, you can still push your dog well past her limits by going on a seven-hour hike when she’s not conditioned for it. Dogs, like humans, need to be physically fit in order to handle long hikes. Make sure you take the time to work up to longer or more strenuous hikes, and always check with your veterinarian about your dog’s ability to handle hiking before hitting the trail.
8. Bring water for you and your dog, no matter how short the hike. Dehydration can happen fast.
9. Bring a trail map. Especially on large trail systems, bring a copy of the trail map with you. There may be signs posted, but it’s smart to have your own map to reference. One wrong choice at an intersection may add an hour or two to your trip.
10. Pack In, Pack Out. Yes, that includes full poop bags. Pack out all trash and waste with you, no matter where you are hiking. This keeps nature pristine and minimizes our impact on the landscape.
11. Put safety first. Your dog should have safe, non-restrictive gear for hiking, like a well-fitted harness. Packs for dogs are great, but be careful about the amount of weight you ask your dog to carry. Going over rough terrain? Consider boots for your pup. Hiking in cold weather? Your dog might need a winter coat. Trekking in the dark? Reflective gear and LED collar lights are available. It’s also a good idea to have a doggie first-aid kit in your car and your vet’s number in your phone.
When you hike with your pup, you are an ambassador for all dog owners. Make us look good! These rules of the road are meant to keep everyone safe and having fun. Adventure on!
Have questions about hiking and trail etiquette? Want to share a pet peeve? Leave a comment!
Danielle Lindblom is a Minnesota native who loves exploring the great outdoors with her two Border Collies, Mica and River. The Adventure Dog Blog is a source for inspiring adventure destination ideas, detailed local trail guides, and dog training tips. Her goal is to inspire others to get outside with their dogs.