As a bit of a newcomer to Oregon’s trails, I’m always a little shocked to see trails where dogs must be on-leash, or worse yet—not allowed at all. When it says, “dogs are a disturbance to nature,” I think, “don’t they have the same rights to be in nature as we do?” I mean, after all, aren’t we both the result of the domestication of our ancestors? Both mammals, both companions, and both, well…natural?
After recently taking a look at the FAIR campaign—a campaign raising awareness for giving dogs off-leash access to outdoor spaces—I wanted to know why anyone would be opposed to that. Turns out, there are a variety of reasons, but if we take responsibility for dogs on trails where they are allowed, the likelihood of keeping those spaces available to dogs (and making more spaces available) is higher. So, as reminder to those who frequent trails with their dog (and an education piece for those new to the trail) I have compiled a list of canine trail etiquette for your viewing pleasure:
1. The only dogs that should be barking are your feet. You wouldn’t let your dog run after cars and chase them on a walk—same rule applies to the trail.
2. When the cat’s away, the mice will play. The same rule applies to dogs. What your dog is doing when he’s no longer in your view, is probably something you would not approve of—chasing wildlife, fishing through the trail garbage can, pummeling passerby’s, jumping in the water…Even good dogs are known to act out on occasion so it doesn’t hurt to keep them in your line of sight.
3. Three things you should calmly pull your dog aside for and let pass: horses, people with children, and bikers. The trail is not a good place to confront horses or children with their canine phobias; nor is it a good place to become a speed bump for a mountain biker.
4. Pack the poop. You don’t want to be the reason for the swearing-hiker-that-stepped-in-dog-poop’s bad day. And I’m a big believer in dog poop karma—it’s bound to come back and haunt you.
5. Do not blaze your own trails. While dogs make great trail blazers, it can disturb nature, so keep them nearby and minimize the disturbance to nature. “Leave only footprints, take only pictures.”