BY LEAH HOWARD, DNRT LAND STEWARD
I love walking my dog on land trust trails. We get to enjoy nature and my dog gets lots of exercise from running along the trails and smelling all the pheromones released by different animals. Unfortunately, lately we have had a lot of unpleasant experiences while out trail walking. With the increase usage on land trust trails that comes with warmer weather, I wanted to share some tips that will keep you and your dog safe when out walking on your favorite trails.
Have Control Over Your Dog: The number one way to keep your dog safe is to have control over it. What does having control over a dog mean? It means that your dog listens to you and obeys your commands every time or you restrain them with a leash. A controlled dog will not run off trail chasing after an animal, will not run up to people or other dogs, and will not be out of your sight. This will protect them from getting a face full of quills from a porcupine, fight with an unfriendly dog, and getting lost.
Constant Vigilance: Being constantly aware of your surroundings helps keep your dog safe. I tend to walk multi-use trails which means a person on a mountain bike could come flying around the corner any second. I am always listening to what may lay ahead on the trail. I also always have eyes on my dog so I can call her back to me quickly and prevent her from getting hurt or lost.
Be Respectful of Other Trail Users: I understand that some people may be afraid of dogs or at least do not enjoy getting jumped on. When I am walking on the trail with my dog and we see a person walking our way, I always call my dog back to me and we step to the side to let the person by. My dog is good at coming back to me, but I usually have to hold on to her collar or put her back on leash when others pass us, because she wants to say hi. Having control of your dog is really important, especially when passing another dog.
Always Ask: When we see another dog approaching us on a trail, I recall my dog to me, go to the side of the trail and hold onto her. I then ask the owner if it is alight if the dogs say hi. If they say no, I respect their answer and keep hold of my dog telling her to “leave it.” Some dogs do not like having other dogs invade their space. If an uncontrolled dog ran up to them a fight may occur. It is safer for both dogs to always ask the owner if they can say hi and to keep your dog under control. Always ask if you can pet a dog too. My dog hates it when strangers pet her head and may nip at them, however she loves a butt scratch so when someone asks me I tell them to pet her rear end.
Pick-Up the Poop: The last way you can keep your dog safe while trail walking is to always pick up, bag, and throw away your dog’s poop. Dog poop contains harmful bacteria that can make other dogs sick. If everyone got into the habit of picking up and throwing away their dog’s poop, then few dogs would get sick. Make sure you throw the poop away in the trash. Biodegradable plastic bags cannot decompose in woods or fields, they need high heat compost systems to actually break down.
We need everyone to help create a safer and more enjoyable walking experience for all. Happy Trails!