On King County Trails, Keep Dogs On Leash
There are many great reasons to obey the leash laws in effect on King County Parks trails, from avoiding steep fines to keeping your dog safe to creating a trail culture that welcomes dogs. Also: tips for wearing out your pup without breaking leash laws.
On many lands and trails across Washington, dogs are required to be on leash, even if they are trained for voice control. The patchwork rules can be confusing, so when you and your pup head out on a trail, it's best to assume that leashes are required.
On the hundreds of miles of King County Parks' regional and backcountry trails, leashes are the law.
An increase in off-leash dog violations has prompted King County Parks to launch an education and awareness campaign. Beginning this weekend, King County Sheriff’s deputies will patrol several parks and trails to remind hikers about leash laws and other rules intended to keep everyone safe.
Use a leash, help create a trail culture welcoming to dogs
Flagrant violation of the King County Parks leash law can result in a fine of up to $500.
Besides avoiding the steep fine, there are many great reasons to keep your pup on leash —including protecting your dog and being courteous to your fellow trail users.
“King County’s parks and trails are valuable assets that link communities and enhance our region’s tremendous quality of life,” says WTA's Executive Director Karen Daubert. “By following a few basic rules, visitors are ensuring that these wonderful places can be enjoyed by all.”
Tips for wearing out your pup(s) without breaking leash laws
How do you wear out a puppy or energetic dog if they have to stay on leash? Here are a few tried-and-true methods the WTA staff uses for our hiking dogs. If you have others tips, please share them in the comments below.
- Visit an off-leash park. Dog owners who want to give their charges some off-leash time are encouraged to visit King County’s amazing 40-acre off-leash park at Marymoor Park. It offers dogs plenty of open space for running, romping and even a quick splash into the Sammamish River.
- Wear out their brains. Pack tons of treats and work on intensive training along the trail. Test their stays against squirrels and passing dogs. Hone their heel into a thing of beauty. Use a stump for some up-down agility work. After even a mile of brain-work, your pup will stop pulling and begin to poop out.
- Add some weight or give them a job. While they aren't essential, dog packs can be pretty handy. Wear out young, energetic dogs by giving them a job—to carry their own water, bowl and snacks. We also know hikers who outfit their dogs with an empty pack and baggies for the sole purpose of packing out dog waste.
- Two dogs? Take two shorter hikes. If juggling two dogs on leash feels overwhelming, try heading to a trailhead with multiple trail options. In the cooler months, you can try taking two shorter hikes, one with each of your dogs, while the other one hangs out in your car. King County Parks trail systems are perfect for this kind of mix-and-match.
Tips for sharing trail space with hikers, kids, equestrians, bikes
- When meeting hikers, bikers or horses, step off trail (downhill if you can) and let others pass.
- When passing other hiking dogs, ask the owner if it's okay for the dogs to greet one-another. Don't assume that because your dog is friendly, a greeting will go the way you expect.
- For small children, even a medium-sized dog can seem huge and frightening—especially with their wet noses and tongues right at face-level. In the quest for a more dog-friendly trail culture, every restrained, polite dog who quietly steps out of their way is one dog closer to breaking down that fear.
Dog owners aren’t the only ones with a responsibility for amicable greetings. Teach curious kiddos, just like adults, to ask if they may approach a dog or puppy. If your child is afraid of dogs, it's important to their safety to coach them about how to act around an unfamiliar dog.
More resources for hiking with dogs
- Hiking with dogs
- Acclimating a dog to a new pack
- Puppies, poo and plastic bags
- Trip reports for trails hiked by dogs