Scenario 1: A couple goes out for a hike in a remote wooded trail. Coming the other way are a few other people with a dog. The dog is on a leash, friendly and seems to be enjoying itself along with its human counterparts. The two groups say hello, friendly comments are made about the dog, and then they go their separate ways.
Scenario 2: The same two groups meet up. The dog, unleashed, sprints toward the other group, barking as it goes, then jumps up on the woman who had been coming the other way. No harm is done, but the woman is startled by the dog, and some angry words are exchanged. “Where’s your leash for that thing?” the woman’s companion asks. Members of the other group gather their pooch, mutter something about being able to do what they want and that their dog has a right to the trails, too.
If you read any message boards regarding outdoor activities, this issue is bound to come up. Should people bring pets on the trails? Or in the backcountry? If they do, what’s the proper way to care for the animal so that its safety as well as those of others is taken into account?
First, a little disclosure. I am not a pet owner, but I’ve had dogs in the past. I’ve been camping with dogs and have never had a negative incident with them. Every time I’ve run into other hikers and campers who had dogs, the animals have been well-behaved, whether they’ve been leashed or unleashed.
I know this is not always the case. Some people will let their dogs do what they please without regard to others. They’ll let them chase wildlife, even in times where wild animals are trying to bulk up for the winter and pile up calories (a dog chase or two could mean the difference between life or death for some animals if they have to spend a lot of energy escaping your dog).
I’ve seen cases that were strange, too. While ascending Mount Yale a couple of years ago, I saw a man with his dog, a beautiful lab, who ended up carrying the animal to the summit when the terrain got too rocky. Why bring it up there if you know it can’t manage the terrain?
In another instance, I saw a couple hiking along the banks of the Gunnison River in the Black Canyon. With the woman was her dog – a very small breed – tucked away in one of those dog purses. I guess that’s her choice, but what a strange thing to see on the trail.
I’ve also seen some really cool dogs that are strong companions, good protectors and even carry their own weight – quite literally, with dog packs strapped to their backs – up the trail.
There are some places that don’t allow pets at all, or restrict dogs to leashes. Other places lack such restrictions.
I’m fine with people bringing their dogs on the trail, as long as they take care of the animal and don’t allow it to ruin other people’s experience in the wild. But I’m curious what you all think. Generally speaking, we love our dogs, maybe now more than ever. Any stories, good or bad? Opinions? Write me here or e-mail me.