Hiking without a leash, when it’s allowed, is one of the most liberating and freeing ways to take your dog out on the trail, but there are a lot of things to consider. Make sure your dog, and you, are prepared with our tips.
Most important, don’t let your dog loose if it’s his first trail outing. At the very least, make sure you have at least learned some basic obedience skills. Your dog needs to come every time you call him or you could both get into some serious trouble. Coming occasionally when called isn’t good enough as there will be other hikers out there and even though you may think your sweet pooch can do no wrong, other people may feel scared or threatened by his roaming.
For instance, your dog needs to come every time you call him because if he doesn’t at least have that skill learned he could get you and himself into some serious trouble. Coming occasionally when called is not good enough as he needs to be well controlled and come whenever he is called. There’s going to be other hikers out there, and even though you may think your dog can do no wrong, other people can be genuinely scared of dogs and you need to respect their space and feelings too. There’s also likelihood of wild animals out there, so while it’s okay that Fido chases the occasional squirrel or bird, you probably don’t want him to accost a bear or mountain lion.
There are some hazards on the trails that even the most experienced dog owners may not realize. Dogs can get injured or killed chasing animals so it’s important he comes to should the situation arise. You should keep your leash handy as you need to be prepared to control him at a moment’s notice. There will likely be other hikers with off leash dogs and you never know how a strange dog is going to interact with yours. It’s always better to leash him when you see other animals because, if there is going to be a confrontation, one dog on a leash is better than two off.
Finally, be sure to take plenty of his favorite treats, because if he does have the urge to chase an animal that is new to him there is the chance your call may go unnoticed. Calling him and letting him know a treat is waiting give you a better chance of pulling him out of his trance. Always plan ahead, and be sure you’re aware of any potential hazards and confrontations that may arise, leash him when he needs to be leashed even if it’s only for a few minutes. Always respect other people on the trail, and most of all have a great hike.