By Terry Jester
I think we’ve all been there. Strolling down the trail, enjoying the flowers, birds, and quiet, when all of a sudden, out of nowhere, a large, excited dog, no leash, no manners, executes a drive-by crotching, rudely shoving his nose in your privates, pawing your clean shirt with muddy feet, and then galloping off, owner far behind screaming, “it’s OK! He’s friendly!"
Yes, too friendly, perhaps, and certainly out of control. Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone obeyed the leash laws and had perfectly well-behaved pets? But then again, if everyone had perfectly well behaved pets, there would be no need for a leash law.
So, what should owners do while on a trail with “Gonzo"?
As a dog owner, trail lover, and horseback rider, I’ve devised some dog trail etiquette suggestions for people taking their dogs on multi-use trails.
First of all, obey the leash law. If there is a leash law, keep Gonzo on a leash. If there is no leash law, keep him near you if he’s not well-mannered. Near enough to snap a leash on him if necessary. If he’s a canine model of good manners and training, then have him do a down stay or come to you, if you see someone approaching your location, especially if that person is on a bike or a horse.
The rules of the trail dictate that a hiker must move out of the way should a horseback rider approach. Make sure your dog doesn’t get under the feet of something that weighs 1,200 pounds. Especially something wearing iron shoes that would like nothing better than to send your dog sailing into Wyoming with one swift kick if your dog gets too frisky around his feet.
Some horses are great with dogs. Some aren’t. They don’t wear signs stating which they are so just assume all horses want to commit dogocide and be safe.
Also, most dogs love to chase bikes. Even a well-trained dog will think about chasing a bike — if he thinks he can get away with it. Make sure he knows he’s not going to get away with it.
I used to get compliments from people when I’d walk my dogs on the trail. When I’d see someone coming, I’d just say, “Dogs, down", and all six of them would immediately plop down to the ground.
It takes a lot of time and effort to train dogs to immediately respond like that. But it was worth every second to see the looks on the faces when people would see my dogs obey.
Much better looks than what I see when Gonzos are loose on the trail. If you’re the owner of a Gonzo, please keep him safe and on a leash.
Think about the looks people give you on the trail. Think about a dog training class. Think about the looks you’ll get when you say “Gonzo, down", and he does, instantly.
Think about that.
Terry Jester is a nationally recognized expert on companion animal behavior. She is regarded by The Humane Society of the United States as being, “Humane and effective in dealing with problem pets and their owners." Connect with Terry on her website.