On leash? Or do you let them run free?

Posted by: balzaccom

On leash? Or do you let them run free? - 09/06/16 01:56 PM

Just about everywhere that dogs are allowed in the wilderness they are required to be on a leash. In California's national parks, they are not allowed on trails at all--in fact, the rule in most national parks is that dogs are allowed only on paved areas--anywhere you can take your car, you can take your dog.

That doesn't include any trails that aren't paved.

But we'd estimate that of the fifty dogs we've seen in the backcountry this year, about three of them have been on leashes. It's the single most frequently broken regulation that we see in the wilderness.

On our last trip to Caribou Wilderness, we ran into quite a few dogs, and only one of them was on a leash. But that dog was within a mile of the trailhead, just starting out, and we wonder how long he stayed on that leash. We don't say that because the owners looked untrustworthy--but the trails the Caribou Wilderness are rife with deadfall trees. We had to climb up and over, or around more than 75 trees on our hike there. And we can't image what you would do with a dog on a leash in that scenario. Our guess is that you would get pretty darn tired of the tangles.

Of course, some dogs we've met are extremely well trained and behaved. But not all are. And we worry not only about dogs interacting with other hikers. More of a concern is how they might interact with the local wildlife--chasing squirrels or deer, or even worse, fighting with something that might fight back.
Posted by: OregonMouse

Re: On leash? Or do you let them run free? - 09/06/16 07:39 PM

Not every wilderness area requires that a dog be on leash. The usual requirement is that the dog be under voice control (using a leash when riding horseback is difficult if not impossible). Unfortunately, most people don't train their dogs that well. Up here in the Pacific NW, leashes are required mostly in crowded areas (Columbia River Gorge, or along I-90 east of Seattle). Unfortunately, there is no enforcement, and an increasing number of dog owners pay no attention to the rules. I also see an increasing number of people not picking up after their dogs (or at least getting the poop off the trail) or, even worse, picking up the poop and then leaving the plastic bag with its poop alongside the trail rather than packing it out.

When I had Hysson (until 3 years ago), I kept him on leash where it was required, where there were lots of people, or in forest where I couldn't see far ahead or behind. I also kept him on leash the first hour of the day until he settled down. When we got to open spaces, I let him loose as long as nobody else was around and I could see a fair distance ahead or behind (no wildlife in sight). I also let him loose in really rough or difficult areas where I didn't dare risk his pulling me off balance. Usually after an hour or two of hiking, he was calm enough that he would follow obediently behind me along the trail. I discouraged him from going ahead of me, because he loved to stop dead right in front of me every time he encountered an interesting smell, which was very annoying. Although he regarded "come" as an optional command, "heel" worked every time--he'd come and sit alongside me so I could grab his collar.

While I found on my one visit to Yosemite that I could take Hysson on any paved trail (per a park ranger I met and quizzed), including to the foot of Yosemite Falls, most national parks aren't that forgiving. For instance, at Mt. Rainier a dog is allowed only in the parking lots or in the car campground (on leash at all times), and not on any trails, paved or otherwise. On the other hand, dogs on leash are allowed on the portion of the PCT that goes through Mt. Rainier NP. That's just one small example of how the rules differ from place to place.

Posted by: balzaccom

Re: On leash? Or do you let them run free? - 09/07/16 11:14 AM

I hoped I would get comments from you, OM. And good ones at that.

I completely agree that these regulations are almost never enforced---and I have a hard time seeing how they can be enforced. How do you prove that your dog is under voice command at all times? Or is this just an example of "If you are responsible for a dog that attacks wildlife or other people, we now have a way of penalizing you?"
Posted by: toddfw2003

Re: On leash? Or do you let them run free? - 09/08/16 12:43 AM

This year I have done a lot of backpacking in Southern Utah and Arizona. In those area I have kept her on a leash do to rattlesnakes, bear and mountain lions. I like trekking poles and it makes it almost impossible to use them. REI sale a leash that you wrap around your body so you dont have to hold it. I am going to try that.
Other area I dont but if there are people on the trail I do. I have a pitbull, though she is friendly a lot of people are still afraid of them
Posted by: OregonMouse

Re: On leash? Or do you let them run free? - 09/08/16 01:37 PM

Take the dog on her daily walks using your trekking poles and you'll both soon become accustomed to working with leash and poles. The dog will learn to "heel" farther away from you to avoid the poles. Don't let the dog walk around you and wind you up in the leash! Teach her the "flip finish" maneuver (lots of instructional videos on youtube) so that when she's in front of you and you want her to move to the "heel" position, she won't go around you to do so.

Oh, and be sure to put rubber caps on your trekking poles during the daily walks so you don't damage the dog or your neighbors' sidewalks or the points of the poles!

As a plus, the poles turn exercise walking into a whole body exercise, using your core muscles!
Posted by: Pika

Re: On leash? Or do you let them run free? - 09/08/16 05:21 PM

If you are going to spend much time hiking in rattlesnake country you might want to check out a rattlesnake aversion course for your dog. I'm sure you can find one offered in Texas; check with a few vets and I expect you'll find one. I live in rural SE Arizona and have a lot of rattlers on our property. I have put our golden retriever Rosie through aversion courses twice: now she won't get within ten feet of a rattler but she will let us know by her behavior that one is around. I'm pretty sure it is a scent thing because often the snakes are/were pretty well hidden.

Around here the cost of a typical course of anti-venom for a snakebiten dog is about $3000. An aversion course costs about $50.

It would be nice if bear aversion courses were offered too but I don't think they are. I don't worry too much about cougars though they are not uncommon around here; we'll hear about an occasional sighting from neighbors. Bobcats too.
Posted by: BrRabbit

Re: On leash? Or do you let them run free? - 09/19/16 03:24 PM

I am a new dog owner. My dog is just 3 months old. So, I am yet to figure the whole thing out. But I found out that in my piece of the woods, dogs are allowed to be in the state forests while hunting. So... I guess I need to get small game hunting license and carry my revolver. Well, in fact, I have a good reason now to start hunting squirrels and rabbitses... Free raw food!
Posted by: Adventure510

Re: On leash? Or do you let them run free? - 12/06/16 02:55 PM

I would suggest to let the roam free depending on if you are in bear country. If in bear country I would probably put them on a leash.
Posted by: Barefoot Friar

Re: On leash? Or do you let them run free? - 12/07/16 09:25 AM

Maizy stays on leash. When hiking, it is because she is a weird mix of aggressive and friendly (i.e., "Leave my humans alone, but please pet me!") There are people who are afraid of all dogs or unfamiliar dogs, so when we meet other hikers we step off the trail and I let them see I'm holding her so they can pass without discomfort if they want. At the same time, I'm training her to be a lot calmer when we meet new people. I'm seeing slow but sure success.

When we're stopped it is because she likes to roam a bit, and I don't want her getting into some kind of a jam or failing to return. I have a short, light cable I take along which I use to keep her in our camp area. I take her on leash to do her business away from camp, trail, and water, just like at home.

I get very annoyed when an overly friendly or aggressive dog is barking or jumping on me and the owner is weakly yelling at the dog and saying "he doesn't normally do this!" Yes, he does normally do this, and you very well know it; you should either train him not to or restrain him. I like dogs, so I expect a lot from their owners.
Posted by: toddfw2003

Re: On leash? Or do you let them run free? - 12/13/16 09:28 AM

In bear or Mountain lion country I will leash my dog. Any other time she runs free
Posted by: hikerduane

Re: On leash? Or do you let them run free? - 12/27/16 01:58 PM

I do what OM does. I live in and quite a bit of the time am in areas where you hardly see anyone. Years ago in Desolation Wilderness in CA, the Wilderness Ranger even had her dog off leash, but we were back in there over 10 miles.
Posted by: TravelGenesi

Re: On leash? Or do you let them run free? - 08/30/17 09:58 PM

I agree with toddfw2003. I’m no expert and I’m not a 100% sure about its safety benefits, however, a leash would at least be able to garner your dog's safety and welfare from bears and other wild animals.
Posted by: wandering_daisy

Re: On leash? Or do you let them run free? - 09/01/17 08:01 PM

I take a leash, but only used it when needed. Our dog is very well trained and gets daily practice on not chasing animals. Our daily walks, even though in town, often encounter sqirrels, deer or wild turkeys. She will 100% follow a "lie down" command at distance. It took hundreds of hours of training to get our dog to the point she is now. And it takes repeated reinforcement.

On trails, we have the dog move off the trail and "lie down" if someone passes from the other direction. Our dog is a border collie, and as a herding dog, she thinks her job is to herd us, so does not leave our side. I have had to put her on the leash when I fly fish after 4PM, because she loves to swim, and I do not want a wet dog in the tent at night.

Unless you walk easy, flat trails, it is hard for a dog to walk on a leash without stressing their paws. Dogs do not naturally go up over a rocky section of trail the same speed or method we do. If the result is that the dog pulls on the leash, it is very hard on paws.

As for bears and such, we had a bear walk right by our camp and our dog just sat there looking at us, not making a move or bark. We just said "sit". We did put the leash on her then, just in case the bear charged. We did not want her to "defend" us.
Posted by: wandering_daisy

Re: On leash? Or do you let them run free? - 09/01/17 08:04 PM

Forgot to say, but the funny thing is that we trained the dog to backpack before she was old enough to qualify for "sheep herding school". She flunked the first day. No way was she going to chase those sheep.

The only things she herds are flocks of birds and fishing line when cast.
Posted by: troutstalker

Re: On leash? Or do you let them run free? - 06/04/18 05:12 PM

In my opinion, dogs should always be off leash and free when in wilderness areas, as long as they are friendly. If they're not friendly toward humans, then they should be on leash or maybe even not be out there at all.
Posted by: Glenn Roberts

Re: On leash? Or do you let them run free? - 06/04/18 09:01 PM

Depends on what you mean by “friendly.” If you mean the dog comes over to jump up on me, lick my face, etc., then I’ll disagree that they should run free. Just because you might like those shows of affection (and I realize that’s what they are: the dog expressing pleasure at seeing me.) However, I don’t particularly enjoy being jumped on, or licked. Just because it’s a natural reaction doesn’t mean I should be required to tolerate it.

This is not an anti-dog rant. I’d feel the same if you tried to give me a hug I didn’t want (or jumped up on me, or licked my face. smile )

However, I have no problem with the dog that comes up, tail wagging, and lightly sniffs me for a second, then leaves me alone.

And, for what it’s worth, a leash isn’t a guarantee against such behavior. I’ve encountered owners with those 30-foot reel thingies who just let them unwind as the dog runs over to “greet” me.

In the end, I guess I’d have to say that it’s as much the attitude and behavior of the owner as much as it is the dog. I feel more abused by the owner of the dog who says “don’t worry - he’s friendly” while doing nothing to control the dog (verbally or physically) than I do by the dog.

And just to be fair: those problem dogs and problem owners represent less than 5% of the encounters I’ve had in the backcountry. The vast majority are no problem, and there are some who are a downright pleasure to be around.
Posted by: OregonMouse

Re: On leash? Or do you let them run free? - 06/04/18 09:49 PM

I agree with Glenn.

A surprising number of people are nervous about dogs (probably due to being bitten at some point, particularly during childhood). IMHO, it's the height of discourtesy to allow your dog to approach strangers. Of course if the stranger is willing (and asks permission to pet the dog), that's different.

My late dog and I were once attacked by a dog running loose (illegally) on a cliffside trail. We came perilously close to going off the cliff! Since then I've been extra cautious about loose dogs.

In addition, a dog that is everyone's friend while at home may undergo a personality change when out in a strange place and become aggressive. I've seen that happen quite a bit!
Posted by: aimless

Re: On leash? Or do you let them run free? - 06/04/18 10:01 PM

My general take is that the owner of the dog needs to be making the decisions, not the dog. If the owner doesn't have their dog in view and under physical or voice control, then they are doing it wrong.

When dogs do rude things, like come sniffing right up to me while I am sitting on the ground eating my lunch, so that I have to snatch up my food and protect it, I don't blame the dog. I blame the damn fool owner. It is entirely the owner's rudeness I am being subjected to; the dog is just doing what comes naturally.
Posted by: OregonMouse

Re: On leash? Or do you let them run free? - 06/04/18 10:15 PM