Hiking is awesome. I grew up on Mt. Hood, so being outdoors was a huge part of our lives. Barely a weekend went by that we weren’t engaged in some sort of woodsy outdoor fun. As an adult, I kept my love of the outdoors and regularly enjoy time in the wilds either on horseback or with my tribe of hairless dogs. Although it’s a great time to get out and roam free, there is something that we should remember before lacing up our hiking boots.
Keep your dog on a leash at all times. “WHAT?!” You say. “That takes all the fun out of hiking!” I know, it seems crazy, but in reality we don’t know what might be around the next bend. A bear, an unfriendly dog, a person who doesn’t like dogs, or worse, a cliff! A loose dog, no matter how well we think is under control, can be in danger from any number of situations. Having your dog on leash can help prevent problems and really isn’t all that bad.
For my own dogs, I use body harnesses to help keep them safe. In an emergency, the harness would allow me to grab onto and hoist them out of danger if needed. I actually had to do this once while I was on a hike and encountered and off leash standard poodle. He was super cute, but a little clumsy. Luckily I was right there when he fell off the edge of the trail to a 20 foot drop down. I was able to quickly grab onto his harness and get just enough of him to be able to pull him back up onto the trail with no damage to him or me.
Keeping my dogs on leash also gives me the chance to relax and enjoy the hike without worrying that my dogs might be injured or scare someone (my big dog, although a total wimp has a HUGE scary bark!). It’s hard to believe, but not all people like dogs and not all dogs enjoy other dogs rushing up to them. Having my dog on leash clearly shows to my fellow hikers that I respect that they’re out having a great time too. It seems like such a small thing to do but makes such a huge impact. The little ‘inconvenience’ of keeping my dog on a leash far outweighs the large amount of problems that can be caused by them being free.
Obviously, not all dogs are great on leash. As a child, none of our dogs were really leash trained so any attempt at taking them on the trails usually ended up with me on the ground with skinned knees and the dog dragging the leash behind them, in a full run to the next turn. Making sure that your dog is well leash trained is very important! If your dog pulls or wanders from side to side, he can accidently trip you or pull you over. If your dog is fearful or reactive to other dogs or people, he may trip or pull you over in an attempt to get away from (or go after) what he’s afraid of. Either situation is not a fun way to spend your hike, and let’s face it, it isn’t very nice for the other people on the trail either. Leash pulling, reactivity, and fear are all things that can be helped with the right guidance and a little hard work. The pay off will be worth it.
So with that, I leave you to grab your backpack, pick your favorite trail and get a move on. Stop and smell the flowers, or even better, stop and thank your fellow hikers when their dog is on leash!
For more information on leash pulling, reactivity, fear, and how we can help you and your dog, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org 503.236.7833