Last Updated on August 5, 2021
We love when we can bring our dog Comet along on our dog-friendly hiking adventures. Hiking is so good for your body and soul, but hiking with your dog makes it even better. I seriously feel that we can see his joy and how much fun he is having on the trail. Comet has been a great hiking dog and he shows us time and time again that there are so many benefits of hiking with a dog.
There are, however, some simple etiquette rules to keep in mind when you’re hitting the trail with your adventure buddy, and ways to stay safe. These simple etiquette rules will help to ensure that everyone is able to use the trail and enjoy it.
Benefits Of Bringing Your Dog Along
Hiking with your dog has many benefits for you and your adventure buddy:
Staying Active: Having a dog helps you to stay active and keep moving. It will help both of you be the healthiest versions of yourself. When you do not feel like lacing up and getting outdoors, your adventure buddy will continue to be your inspiration. You will also want to switch up the trails you take your dog on, inspiring you to try more challenging terrains that will help to build endurance for you both.
Quality Time: Spending quality time with your pup will help to foster trust and establish companionship.
Safety: You will feel safer. Dogs have a great sense of sounds, sights, and smells, and can recognize when something is not right faster than a human is able to. You can feel more secure knowing that your dog will raise alarms whenever necessary.
Stress Relief: Getting out into nature is a fantastic way to step away from the hustle and bustle of life. Fresh air and the magic of Mother Nature will do wonders for not only your physical health but your mental health as well.
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Trail Etiquette For Hiking With A Dog
Hiking With Dogs Is A Big Responsibility
Bringing your dog along with you leaves a huge responsibility on your shoulders, both to other trail users and the environment.
We have witnessed bad behavior by others with dogs several times, whether it is letting their dog poop in the middle of the trail right in front of us, and when I offered a bag, laugh, and walk away. Or, letting their dog off-leash on an on-leash trail, where they obviously have no control. One time a dog came up so fast behind the kids on the trail, that it knocked them over in excitement, with the dog’s owner nowhere in sight.
Incidents like this can really throw a wrench into the fun of hiking for others on the trail.
Plus, we aim to set a good example for our kids of caring for our dog when we take our Golden Retriever hiking. Set a good example for those around you too. If we can do it while hiking with four young kids and a dog, surely you can too. When others see this thoughtful behavior on the trail, they are more likely to think twice about what they should do. Do not be that guy that gives dog owners a bad reputation.
If you have been thinking of taking your furry adventure buddy on the trails with you, keep these few tips in mind:
Pick Dog-Friendly Hiking Trails
Before you hit the trail, find out if your pup is welcome. For example, dogs are not allowed in most national parks, except designated areas. However, they are welcome in national forests. Never bring a dog on a trail that is off-limits to dogs.
Yield To Other Trail Users
Even if you have an endlessly friendly dog as we do, not everyone likes dogs. Sit them on the other side of you while you allow others to pass. Usually, if someone wants to say hello to your dog, they will ask.
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Obey Leash Laws
These rules are in place for a reason. Recently there have been a few rescues and furry companion losses in Vancouver from dogs being off-leash in unsafe areas and falling, or making a bad decision. When a trail is off-leash, ensure your dog follows voice commands and stays within your sight. Plus, hikes can have sensitive ecological terrain, so it is important to keep dogs on the trail.
Find out what the rules are on your desired trail before heading out and respectfully follow them. Some trail users may choose trails based on it being an on-leash trail, and they have the right to assume that dogs will be leashed. By using such trails, you agree to leash your dog as per the rules set by whoever manages the land.
Pick Up After Your Pet
Leave only paw prints on the trail. Bring bags and remove the poop. Do not leave the bags along the trail or chuck them into the forest. It is inevitable that if you leave a bag along the trail, you will forget to carry it out on return, only remembering when you’re back at your vehicle. So, pack it out. Nobody coming along the trail after you want to step in it!
Another alternative is using a Poo Vault to seal in the stink until you can properly dispose of it. A Poo Vault is great because it is a hard-shelled container, seals in the stink, and should be able to hold what you need.
If your dog wears a pack on hikes, let your pup carry it out.
If you’re in the snow, always pack it out. Any dog waste left will still be there in the spring, or will be sucked into the closest water source during the snow melting process.
What If I’m On A Long Trail?
If it is a long trail and packing out is not realistic, follow leave no trace principles, just as you would for human waste. Put the waste in a hole six to eight inches deep and 200 feet from water sources. Dog bags cannot be buried since they will not decompose.
What Is The Big Deal About Dog Poop?
While you may assume that any animal poop is natural in the forest, it is not. It can be hazardous to other wildlife and ecosystems. When a wild animal eats and leaves scat in its own environment, it is consuming food from that environment. Those resources are then returned.
When a pet leaves his mess in the forest, it comes from dog food that is nutrient heavy to ensure the pet gets proper nutrition. Dog food has had things as nitrogen and phosphorus added. The excess nutrients promote the growth of algae, and an easy environment for invasive weeds and plants to grow. Eventually, the air and water can become polluted, having a negative effect on native plants and animals. Dog poop also contains bacteria and parasites, and those bacteria can spread diseases, pollute the soil and contaminate water as the waste breaks down. This is also why humans must dispose of their waste properly as well in the backcountry, using the leave no trace principles described above with digging a hole.
Do not allow your dog to bark at wildlife; it can provoke an attack. Also, chasing wildlife can be deadly for your furry adventure buddy, as well as dangerous for those around you.
Before choosing your climb, consider the level of fitness both you AND your dog have. This also means researching the area and the terrain you will encounter to ensure the hike is suitable. While you want to make sure you are not choosing a trail that leaves you biting off more than you can chew, you need to make the same assessment for your dog. If you do not, you could end up carrying them out of the trail. If you have a big dog, that may not be fun, or even impossible.
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