Happy Trails and Tails

Trail etiquette for hiking with dogs

Dog Hikes

Outdoor enthusiasts often love exploring nature with their dog. If you’re like many pet parents, there’s nothing better than seeing your dog’s bright, happy eyes as it trots alongside you. However, it’s important for dog owners to know where their furry friends may or may not accompany them, as well as what leash protocols and good trail manners are, according to the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management.

There are very few places where you cannot take your dog, says Brian Long, district recreation manger with Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest. “However, dogs must be on a 6-foot leash or otherwise physically restrained while in developed recreation sites,” he explains.

In places where dogs are not allowed, such as the Lower and Upper Table Rocks, there is clear signage stating this rule, according to Chamise Kramer, public affairs specialist with Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest. “When you see the signs, respect them. They are posted for good reasons, whether to protect the diversity of the area or the landscape,” she adds. However, even in places where dogs are allowed, she says it’s important to practice good trail manners to ensure everyone has a quality outdoor experience. “When enjoying the outdoors with your dog, it’s good to remember that not everyone is a dog person. We want to be considerate of others and respect their experience.”

It’s important to practice proper trail manners, especially when hiking with your four-legged friend. One of the main responsibilities is to pick up after your dog and get rid of the waste, says Kramer. Not disposing of dog waste can pose a serious problem, she explains, as it’s not native to the environment. “When you don’t dispose of dog waste, it starts to smell and can be a health hazard to young children on the trail who might pick it up.” It’s also dangerous for local wildlife, she notes.

“When you practice proper trail manners, you’re being courteous, kind and respectful of others, all while enjoying a hike with your dog,” says Chamise Kramer, public affairs specialist, Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest.

Some people leave dog waste bags at the trailhead signs and think the Forest Service will pick it up, says Tyler Rhodes, district recreation manager with Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest. “Unfortunately, once one person leaves behind dog waste, it piles up. Throw out the waste in the proper trash receptacles or take it with you to dispose of at home.”

Just as if you were walking your dog in a neighborhood or park, you should also manage your dog while on the trail. “You should always have your dog on leash when it’s required, and consider using a leash even when it’s not,” says Kramer, adding that it protects your dog, other people and local wildlife. It comes back to the notion that we all enjoy the outdoors differently and have different expectations, she explains.

Kramer also advises dog owners to pay attention when hiking with their dog. “Expect to encounter other people and try to yield to them, if possible,” she says. If your dog is a barker, she suggests you don’t take them on heavily used trails.

Keeping your dog leashed also allows you to maintain control if something unexpectedly startles them. “You may encounter a mountain bike on the trail, and some dogs might be aggressive toward or fearful of bikes. If your dog is on leash, you have control if a bike passes by and frightens them,” says Rhodes.

With so many things to consider before hiking with your dog, Kramer doesn’t want dog owners to feel discouraged or leave their dogs at home. “We recognize the joy in having your dog outdoors with you. When you practice proper trail manners, you’re being courteous, kind and respectful of others, all while enjoying a hike with your dog,” she says.

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More to Explore

Leave No Trace ethics

pet waste

Leave No Trace is a set of ethics promoting outdoor conservation, says Chamise Kramer, public affairs specialist with Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest. It contains seven principles which are the best practices people should follow to enjoy and protect natural spaces.

When hiking with your dog, you should always pick up and pack out their waste. According to Leave No Trace, dog waste can contain E. coli, giardia, worms, pharmaceuticals and several billion fecal coliform bacteria. It could spread diseases — such as Parvovirus — and pollute the soil and water.

Additionally, it’s important to pick up your dog’s waste because it keeps people from stepping in it and other dogs (or wildlife) from sniffing or ingesting it.

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