Dogs Lovers Trail Etiquette

If you are like me you love going out on the trail with your dog or dogs. In my case we don't go too far: ours is an English bulldoig by the name of Myrtle. She's full of energy, loves playing in the water and never meanders too far from the trail, which is especially nice. But she's a bulldog and not a trail dog per se so we never go too far.

Because she loves to sniff and snoop, whenever possible she's off leash so she can roam a bit and because many of the area trails are managed by the Forest Service, which allows dogs off leash, there are a fair amount of opportunities for us to head out for a walk and for her to explore on her own.

While going off leash frees both Myrtle and I to enjoy our walk without being tied to one another you should know that many trails are open to dogs only if on leash. All Santa Barbara County Park trails require dogs to be on leash  as well as the state park lands and most of the area trails within the cities. In practice, even on trails where dogs are required to be on leash, that is not always the case. Taking your dog on these trails means you aren't following the rules, which could open you up to serious liability issues if there is a problem and potentially expose you to recieing a ticket.

Regardless of where you take your dog and whether the rules call for dogs to be on leash or not, it is your reponsibility to ensure your dog is under control, that it is not being harmful to either the wildlife or the natual surroundings and that you pick up your dog's waste immediately and carry it with you.

For an humous look at the issue of dogs and poop you might check out the following article I wrote for the Santa Barbara Independent titled "OP Your Trail Treat". While the article is tongue the sentiment is not: no one enjoys seeing your dog's waste tied up in a little baggie and left on the trail.

Having said this, please keep in mind the following things when you're out on the trail with your dog:

    • As a hiker, you are responsible for your own actions. As a dog owner, you have an additional responsibility: your dog’s actions. 
    • Rules for dogs vary from one land agency to another, but what doesn't change is that dogs should always behave in a responsible manner. 
    • You may have the nicest dog in the whole world, but other people don't know that. They think: Is it friendly? How is it going to react to meeting my dog? My kids? Where are the owners?
    • From their short perspective, dogs appear very big to kids. And the stakes are high. A frightening encounter with a dog on trail can lead to a life-long fear of dogs or of hiking. 
    • Even in areas where dogs are allowed off leash, your pet should always be under voice control—this means that your dog will come when called.
    • If your dog does not come when called, you should keep your dog on a leash. And no matter where you are going, you should always bring your leash with you.
    • Always have doggie bags with you and never leave them on the trail.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015