By LEAH HOWARD, DNRT LAND STEWARD
Many dog owners like to walk their dogs on trails where the rule states “Dogs must be under control.” They assume this gives their dogs the freedom to run around off leash and get more exercise. But what does “under control” really mean?
A controlled dog will stay by your side under any circumstances, whether it is enforced by a leash or by voice. A controlled dog off leash will return to its owner 100 percent of the time it has been called. They will not run after wildlife. They will not jump on other trail users. They will not run up to other dogs. A controlled dog will remain by their owner’s side throughout the duration of the walk.
My dog has good recall most of the time. It is when she is tired or excited that she becomes anxious, misbehaves, and will not listen to me. When she is in these moods, I will leash her because I do not want her or anyone else to get hurt. Even when she is in a good mood and well-behaved, I will hold on to her when we pass other trail users because not everyone is a dog lover. I respect others’ space and do not want anyone to be uncomfortable when passing us.
If you are working on recall with your dog, I recommend going on less popular trails and practicing by recalling your dog every few minutes. Bring treats or a toy (something very special to them that they love) to lure your dog back to you. You may still encounter another trail user, so listen to your surroundings for the sounds of people coming your way. When you do hear them, recall your dog ASAP (every moment counts when training recall), either leash or grab onto their collar, and step off to the side of the trail. Reward your dog with lots of love after the other trail users pass. If you practice often, you will soon have a controlled dog.
The “Dogs must be under control” rule is not a suggestion. It is meant to keep both dogs and trail users safe. You never know how another dog or trail user will react to your dog, so you must have your dog under control to keep them safe. We hate getting reports of dogs getting hurt. Please follow this rule so everyone can enjoy the trails and be safe while doing so.