I bring my dog hiking with me 95% of the time, so I am not at all opposed to dogs being on the trail. They make fabulous hiking partners; they rarely complain, they rarely if ever slow you down, and if you’re a lone female hiking, they can keep sketchballs at bay.
However, there are a couple things I have striven to teach my dog because there is a certain etiquette that any dog should display while on the trail. Etiquette is important for dogs (and people…) because some people, believe it or not, do not like dogs. Sometimes those people are hiking. Parents can also be wary of dogs when they have small children with them on the trail. And honestly, I get nervous when a big dog comes running up to me with no human in sight.
I will say that during Jacks’ training period of about six to eight months, he was willy-nilly on the trail. Of course no dog can jump on the trail and be perfect, but I would like to see all trail-dog owners at least trying to teach their dogs these few things:
1. If you are not leashing your dog, it should not go out of your sight. Period. The reason I say this is that when you can’t see your dog, they know they can get away with anything. They can jump on people, go after other dogs, etc. Jackson knows that he is not to go much further than twenty feet from me, it’s just how I’ve taught him. When he was a puppy, I taught him the command “stop.” I would allow him to trot ahead of me and then after about twenty feet, I would say “stop.” And he would. And then I would catch up to him and he would trot ahead again, repeat process. Now he does not go further than that from me unless he is at home.
2. Your dog should not run up to people. This is totally attainable, for those of you who say it’s in a dog’s nature to greet people. When I am hiking with Jacks, he is always in my sight and if I hear or see other people, I command him to lay down and wait until those people either appear or give a go-ahead to let him come up to them. Your dog should be under your control while unleashed.
3. Your dog should not jump on people. If a person tells you on the trail that it’s ok for your dog to greet them, wonderful, but your dog should know that jumping is not ok. I’ve seen other dogs get into fights because another dog jumped on “their person.” It’s really dangerous, and additionally you do not want someone to mistake a friendly jumping-greeting for aggression, and press charges against you for being attacked. I’ve heard of it happening, and it is not generally a good ending for the dog.
4. Try your damndest to teach your dog not to chase squirrels/deer/fluttering leaves off the trail. This will save you time and heartache. Dogs are quick to chase things, and it’s the #1 way that dogs get lost on mountains. This comes back to knowing the command, “stop.”