Hiking is the perfect opportunity to strengthen the bond you have with your best friend.
Hiking with your dog is a one-of-a-kind bonding experience that allows both you and your canine companion to interact with nature, all while appreciating each other's company.
Logging a few miles on the trail is great exercise, and there's something about staring out at a majestic mountain view that calms the soul and releases stress.
My pup, Copper, loves a lot of things, but hiking has always been at the top of the list. We know we're not the only human/canine partnership that loves a good hike, but when we run into other hikers on the trail, not all our experiences are positive.
I'm always worried about being "that person" that ruins a hike for someone else, but I follow these three hiking etiquette tips to make sure that doesn't happen.
Follow Leash Laws, Or at Least Know Your Dog
Your pup loves to run and roam wherever his natural instincts take him, but when you're out hiking with your dog, you have a responsibility toward every other hiker (and dog) in the area.
Copper loves meeting and interacting with other dogs, but he has an issue with strange canines bursting through the woods and popping his personal bubble. Can you blame him?
When dogs are off-leash, there's nothing keeping them from running up and pushing their way in to say hello. For dogs that are scared, anxious, or reactive, this could lead to a dangerous encounter.
Your dog may be friendly, but you don't know that mine is. I can't predict how our dogs are going to react to each other, and neither can you.
The same goes for human hikers. You and I love our dogs, but not everyone feels the same way. If your pooch is off-leash and runs up to someone who is seriously afraid of dogs, that person's hiking experience is essentially ruined.
You know your dog just wants to say hi and maybe earn a friendly pat or two, but other people don't know that. If you insist on letting your dog off-leash, you need to be 100% confident he's going to stay by your side and not react to fellow hikers and their dogs.
Pooper Picker Upper
I admit that putting something completely biodegradable into a plastic bag and then into another larger plastic bag doesn't make sense. When you think of it that way, leaving your dog's poop in the great outdoors doesn't seem like a big deal.
But then you remember that dog poop stinks, and it gets stuck to your shoe.
Leaving your dog's business where he drops it is inconsiderate, and it's also not as good for the environment as you might think. Every ecosystem is carefully balanced by native plants and animals.
When hundreds of dogs pass through an area on a yearly basis and leave their feces behind, they're offsetting that precious balance. So instead of leaving it where it lies, double bag your dog's poop to block the smell, and carry out what you carry in.
Stick to the Trail
Copper loves exploring just as much as the next dog, and if I let him, he'd go tree to tree until the sun went down and I drag him home. But as tempting as extra exploration might be, it's important for both you and your dog to stay on the designated trail.
Cutting switchbacks, taking shortcuts, and forging your own path damages that natural ecological balance. It causes erosion, kills vegetation, and when tiny seeds attach themselves to your shoes, you unknowingly assist in the spread of invasive plant species.
Keep your pup on the path to preserve the beauty that brought you to the trail in the first place.
Whether two legs or four, hiking is meant to be enjoyed by all. There's no reason why you and your pup can't spend your days traversing the countryside one hiking trail at a time. So lace up your boots, grab the leash, stock up on poop bags, and hit the trail.
How do you make sure you are polite on the trail? Tell us in the comments below.
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