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Off Leash Dog Activities

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Hiking Off Leash

Let's face it, dogs aren't meant to trod along at a human's pace of 2-miles an hour on the end of a leash, but hiking off leash creates additional safety concerns to the ones already present.

  • Parking Lots - Please keep your pup on leash in the parking lot. Just when you get arrive and your pup is all excited to get out and investigate their new surroundings is the WORST time for them to be off-leash in an area with cars, possibly near a road AND a lot of other new dogs you don't know. Keep your dog safe and give everyone the chance to meet each other one-on-one vice the new dog getting gang rushed by all the other dogs. Once we get on trail just follow my lead, when I go off-leash you can go off-leash at your discretion.
  • Voice Control - Your dog should be under good voice control so he doesn't become a nuisance by jumping to greet other trail users you pass, scare small kids, chase down critters, etc... Work on and use a number of appropriate commands such as Leave It, Heel, Off, Down, etc... If your dog won't listen to these commands from a distance, then he should not be off leash. See our Training Tips page for more suggestions.
  • Recall - A dog should never be off leash in an unsecured area who does not obey the recall command the first time it's given. If you have to yell "Come" more than once, it may be too late to avoid a hazard.
  • Whistle - Train your dog to respond to a whistle either emitted vocally from you or by using a hunter's dog training whistle. If your dog is out of vocal reach or out of sight and can't hear your recall command, a whistle will carry much further. Your dog should perceive the whistle the same as a recall command and respond instantly by returning to you.
  • Leash - The leash is still a very important piece of gear to have on hand even if you're not planning to use it on the trail. Always use your leash at trailheads and road crossings or anywhere else cars may be present; there is too much at stake to risk it. Use discretion in steep, wet, rocky, or otherwise rough terrain. To avoid accidents, it may be safer to keep your dog on leash in such conditions to keep him out from under feet - human feet. Also consider using a leash around other trail users who may not be comfortable with an off leash dog. Your dog's presence on the trail is not a right, it is a privilege. Respect other trail users so dogs do not become banned from your favorite trails. If you come across another off leash dog, put yours back on leash until you are certain the other dog is friendly. Bottom line, always have your leash on hand, there are too many other scenarios to list that could require the leash in a moment's notice.
  • Wildlife - So you have a hunting breed, it's only natural he should want to chase down a rabbit or a deer right? Yes, that's true, but allowing him to do so is harmful to local fauna. Dogs are perceived by wildlife as a predator. The presence of predators causes wildlife to leave an area. You hike to enjoy nature and wildlife in their environment as they were meant to be. Don't let your dog become a nuisance that causes wildlife to leave their natural habitat. Remember, your dog may be chasing down the scent of an animal much larger than itself, it's not always about the little critters. A dog who returns with an angry momma bear in tow is a real problem. A dog who approaches a wild boar is not likely to outrun it for long. Your dog is a domesticated animal who 'thinks' he should revert to the ways of the wolf, but in truth, he has no business trying to play a role in the wildlife food chain.
  • Trail Traffic - Check ahead of time to see what types of use a trail is open to. Be on the lookout for equestrian, bike, and other types of trail traffic. You and your dog should always yield the right of way to other users. Make sure your dog won't bark at and startle horses or other pack animals, won't nip at and try to herd mountain bikers, etc... Do your part to avoid trail accidents. Use your leash if necessary.
  • Hunting Season - Your brown dog may look a lot like a deer moving through the forest. Check ahead of time to see what hunting seasons are in place in the areas you'll be hiking. Both you and your dog should wear blaze orange for safety. Use a bell on your dog if he's prone to investigating smells a few feet off trail. Don't assume that hunters won't fire in the direction of a trail. They may not know a trail is there, or they may not care about safe hunting practices. If you hear gunfire nearby, it's a good idea to keep your dog on leash until you're out of range.
  • Water - Your dog will be moving faster than he normally does on leash. He'll be working harder and will require more water than normal. Be aware of temperatures and force your dog to pace himself and take it easy on particularly hot days. Don't forget that dark coated dogs and dogs with thick, double coats can overheat just as easily in the winter as they can in the summer due to overexertion or exposure to the sun. Make sure you and your dog stay well hydrated at any time of the year.
  • ID Tags - You hope to never have to rely on ID Tags, but in the unfortunate event a dog takes off (it only takes a few seconds for a dog to be out of sight) and doesn't return, an ID Tag may be your only chance at ever seeing him again. Make sure your tag has a number where you can be reached while away from home (i.e. cell phone that will be turned on). Make sure the tag is secured to your dog's collar and has up-to-date contact information. A flat ID Plate riveted to a collar is less likely to get snagged and come off than the typical hanging tags. Also, while most people who live forests and wilderness areas won't have a scanner, they may take your dog to a shelter or vet who does have a scanner. Always microchip your dog and keep your registration up-to-date. If your dog's collar becomes snagged and he pulls out of it, or the ID Tag falls off, a microchip is the ONLY chance you have at him returning to you.

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Table of Contents

Page title Most recent update Last edited by
Puppies!!! December 17, 2013 7:16 PM Alex
Trail Dog Hiking Gear Reviews December 17, 2013 7:19 PM Alex
Healthy Dog Policy December 17, 2013 7:17 PM Alex
Off Leash Dog Activities January 31, 2013 9:26 AM Alex
Previous Trail Dog of the Month Winners October 9, 2008 7:13 PM [Amy]
K9 Charity Events April 14, 2008 5:03 AM [Amy]
Trail Dog of the Month April 4, 2008 10:01 AM [Amy]
Tips for Trail Dog Safety December 17, 2013 7:19 PM Alex
Trail Rating System December 17, 2013 7:18 PM Alex
K9 First Aid Kit April 27, 2009 10:23 AM [Amy]
Trail Dog Gear April 27, 2009 10:22 AM [Amy]
K9 Training April 27, 2009 10:22 AM [Amy]

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