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On King County Trails, Keep Dogs On Leash

Posted by Loren Drummond at Feb 07, 2015 02:55 PM |

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.

Madigan and Tyler on Squak Mountain
Try training your dog to follow you on leash. It will cut down on pulling and help you manage encounters. Photo on Squak Mountain by Loren Drummond.

Tips for sharing trail space with hikers, kids, equestrians, bikes

When it comes to meeting others on trail—hikers, horses, bikes or other dogs—yielding and passing can be one of the most fraught spaces of misunderstanding. With your dog on leash and some basic training, it doesn't have to be.
  • 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



Where then?

I would love to know about the areas that do allow dogs to be off-leash. dog parks are great, but they really only allow you to do so much. I abide by the rules and fully agree with them for a lot of the steeper and busier hikes. However, there is something very special about wandering the woods with your K9 free to roam and smell around (as long as they are trained and stay near).

Being from the midwest I use to get to ride my bike with my dog in the woods frequently, now this never happens and its sad. There needs to be more shared areas for dogs to be allowed off leash. You can't say it is because a lack of space! The argument for dogs to be on leash could easily be made for Children in the same respect.

Posted by:

ErikLef on Feb 09, 2015 11:58 AM

Oh, Erik

Erik, your comment was reasonable until your last sentence. Really? Dogs = Children? Get help.

Posted by:

venom on Feb 10, 2015 11:55 AM

We're not all irresponsible owners

It's such a bummer that it's so black and white. I generally run on super low traffic trails, sometimes not seeing a single person. Being tethered to a dog out there feels stupid. I am ALWAYS aware of my surroundings and put him on a leash when anyone comes by and I don't let him approach other dogs unless requested by the other owner. I hate to know that I have to take away from him those few minutes of freedom. I understand it's the law, but it seems strange to have a blanket law that covers all the trails and city parks.

Posted by:

tarynlee on Feb 10, 2015 12:01 PM

Oh, Venom.

First off, great name. Fitting for any 10 year old who is into reptiles, or maybe marvel comics... As far as Dogs being similar to children- Is it really that far of a stretch? Children fall into rivers, fall down, hurt themselves constantly, are unaware of their surroundings, and typically need an adult to make decisions on their behalf. Get Help? It's really not THAT hard to connect the dots.

Posted by:

ErikLef on Feb 10, 2015 12:15 PM

Keep it up, scofflaws

Land managers are aware of the huge dog problem in recreation areas. If the laws continue to be ignored, the next step will be to ban dogs. If you can't follow the laws, then keep your pets at home (or go somewhere else).

If nothing else, following the laws will keep your pets safe.

Posted by:

venom on Feb 10, 2015 12:44 PM

responsible = respecting the rules

I've had the experience more than once of being charged by a dog who was off leash on trail that was low traffic and I'm sure the owner thought they were aware… The last time was in a state park on Whidbey. There were probably only two or three of us in the whole place, which I'm sure made the owner sure it was just fine, but there we were on the same trail and the dog who was probably larger and heavier than I am had run far ahead of the owner, came around a corner and charged when he saw me. I'm just lucky it was a bluff. Thing is he never should have had an opportunity to do it at all if his owner was really responsible.

I tire of scoff laws. Last time I hiked in a place where there were dogs allowed 5 of 8 dogs counted were being run off leash in an area where they should not have been & two of the three who were on leash were there with the same owner… not very good compliance.. I've even seen people bringing their dogs into the national parks and wildlife sanctuaries where they are not allowed on the trails *period*. Do the right thing - leash your dogs and only take them where they are allowed. If you want to run them off leash take them to a dog park where they are expected to be off leash and won't be a problem for other people who use the same trails. And don't forget your poo…. some more used trails are absolutely disgusting with poo bags.. I don't believe for an instant that you will really pick it up on your way out.

Posted by:

ehiker on Feb 10, 2015 04:55 PM

unleashed dogs are a nuisance

I love dogs, but have nearly fallen on steep rock stairs twice because of unleashed dogs pacing up and down trails ahead of their owners, running between me and my legs/poles. (I'm not a frail person, either!) Your dog is not indigenous to the woods, it is not wild, it has no special right to run free there. There's no exemption in the rules for nice dogs, owners who "always" control them, or personal opinion that the law is silly. Your dog doesn't have to be a huge aggressive beast to be a nuisance to others. BTW - thank you responsible dog owners who keep your dogs leashed on trail, I do enjoy sharing the trail with you!

Posted by:

amy on Feb 11, 2015 10:22 AM

Thanks for the feedback. Please keep comments respectful to each other

Thank you all for sharing your perspectives. Many of us at WTA hike also with dogs, and we know from first-hand experience and from listening to our community that there are a *lot* of different views when it comes to dogs on trail.

One of the best aspects of the trail community is how generous and kind hikers tend to be toward one another. In addition to trying to find our way towards trail experiences in Washington that are more positive for hikers both with dogs and without, we'd like to encourage the same kind of experience here on

As you share your ideas, training tips or alternative solutions here, please continue to keep your comments constructive and treat each other with the same respect online as you do on trail. - Loren

Posted by:

Loren Drummond on Feb 11, 2015 12:28 PM

What's WTA's official stand on the 2nd Amendment?

I see my comment was removed regarding protecting yourself while on the trail. That was inappropriate? Is WTA against the 2nd Amendment? I'm sure there are MANY WTA donors out there that want to know!

Posted by:

venom on Feb 11, 2015 08:05 PM

Off leash dogs

After being attacked by an off leash pit bull up at Goat Lake, I have no sympathy with off leash dog owners. My friend brings her dog on our hikes, he has been complimented many times about his trail manners. She has worked hard on his training and gets very irritated with off leash dog owners who don't control their dogs around hers. And another 'pet peeve' Do you really think little bunny poo poo hops thru the forest, picking up your poo bags and throwing them in the can? Seriously, cathole it or PACK IT OUT!

Posted by:

Muledeer on Feb 11, 2015 09:45 PM

Comment removal

Hi venom - That comment was removed because the tone was perceived as threatening/calling for violence on trail. WTA has no position on the second amendment; we are simply striving to foster a community of respect on trail, as well as on this blog.

Posted by:

Loren Drummond on Feb 12, 2015 09:28 AM

OK, fair enough

OK, fair enough. Maybe I was over the top, I can't remember. I'll try to show more restraint. Dogs on trails brings out the best in all of us!

I hope WTA recognizes that outdoor activities including hiking and backpacking have been connected with firearms for hundreds of years. The mere sight of an outdoorsman carrying a firearm should not be construed as "threatening" to anyone on the trail. In addition, if comments or trip reports are being modified/removed because of simple references to firearms, WTA is going to have a problem with a good chunk of it's members and donors.

So, I'm hearing that WTA has some eyes on it now. I'm not concerned, I have the highest regard for the organization and I'm sure that they will do the right thing.

Posted by:

venom on Feb 12, 2015 07:11 PM