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Why I leash my dog

Posted by Diane Bedell at Jul 22, 2010 09:45 AM |

Why I leash my dog while hiking.

OK, I admit it. I'm an unabashed dog lover. I've lived with a dog pretty much my entire life, and I can't imagine not having the jangle of a collar wake me up in the morning or the clip-clop of doggy toenails on my kitchen floor. Nothing gives me more joy than being able to take my pooch on a long hike to tucker the both of us out.

The question always seems to be: to leash or not to leash?

I'm a big fan of leashes. I share my household with a very large Alaskan malamute named Tatoosh- a big, fuzzy, lovable oaf with a highly-attuned prey instinct. He heals on trail much better than I ever thought he would, but I have to admit that I don't have absolute voice control should the inevitable horse/dog/squirrel/little boy catch his attention. As a result, I err on the side of caution and keep my dog leashed.

Even though Tatoosh is a sweetheart, other people don't know that. I especially worry about little kids on the trail. A bounding/smelling/licking/jumping dog can be incredibly intimidating to a small child, and I don't want to be responsible for instilling a fear of dogs or a dislike of hiking.

But we want our dogs to have a good time, right? And running along the trail in total freedom has got to be the best, right? Not necessarily. It's a lot easier for a dog to get hurt out there than we think. I've come to my opinions through a lot of trial and error. One New Year's Eve, with not one vet to be found, I got to pin my dog down on the arm of the sofa to remove two dozen porcupine quills from of his muzzle. Ouch.

So how do we make sure our dogs get enough exercise? Fun exercise? Well, Tatoosh wears a pack to carry his own drinking water and snacks, and this adds to his workout. I also give him a job to do. I usually use a hands-free leash system, with the leash attached to my hip belt, and my pooch wearing a harness (all the rage these days!). He gets to tug some; I get to resist some; we all get some benefit out of the deal. And uphill is much easier this way, I have to admit. 

My final trick of the trade is that I find some spot away from others (if leash-free is an option) and let him off leash for five to ten minutes. He romps through the brush and runs circles around me or back and forth between me and my hiking partner, and then he goes back on leash. It's been a fun game, his tongue is hanging out, a smile is on his face, and I still get to be a responsible dog owner.

WTA has put together a compendium on resources for hiking with dogs. Where you can go, what to bring and more. Read more about it here.


hiking with dogs

I too am a fan of leashes. I also have a hands free system - works really well.! 2 other benefits of dogs on leashes is a better control of trailside "grazing" and rolling in those sweet smelling gross things.

Posted by:

Karen on Jul 22, 2010 09:02 PM

Leashed dogs

I really appreciate when dog owners leash their dogs on trails and are responsible owners. Nothing worse that a muddy or dirty dog jumping up on you or running towards you with a look of menace. All dogs are "nice and wont hurt you". How many times have I heard that. My daughter got bit by a dog while running on a trail and now has a phobia of dogs. Please try to remember that not everyone has had a positive dog experience and that you need to be respectful of other hikers that dont have dogs or aren't dog people. Even off leashed dogs commanded by voice control is still not assuring when you have someone that has a phobia of dogs. I always appreciate owners that see oncoming hikers and quickly leash up their dogs before reaching us. Makes me know that they are being respectful and are aware of our presence which also takes the pressure off the dog to be protective. Thank you for being considerate of others.

Posted by:

Brabbit on Jul 24, 2010 08:20 PM

Thanks, and please DO leash dogs

Thanks for the article and to all the responsible dog owners out there who do leash.

For the record and in many places like the Alpine Lakes, leashes are not only courteous but the law.

Of course, that does not stop unscrupulous dog owners from ignoring the law and ruining the experience for countless others because of their arrogance and self-centeredness.

I like to hike with my dog as well, a little chihuahua who loves to get out on the trail! She's gone as far as 8 miles in a day, and when she's done I just carry her.

Anyways, twice (once on the Melakwa trail and once on the Copper Lake trail) we were set upon by unruly, less-than-friendly dogs who were hundreds of yards away from their completely uncaring owners, who did not care one iota that their aggressive, unfriendly dogs were behaving in threatening manners and ruining the backcountry experience for every other person they (their dogs) came upon.

In one case I had to resort to using my trekking poles and Asolos to dissuade three (!!!) aggressive, angry dogs from getting too close. Their owners were easily 200 yards away up the trail.

And when their owners came around the switchback to spy me forcibly fending off their dogs who had me cornered against trail side boulders, the owners called off their dogs only to start threatening to kill me (literally!) for having had the gall to "attack" and "kick and hit" their dogs!!!

Just so the irresponsible dog owners know, I now carry a can of bear mace to defend myself against any animal who does anything like that to me again.

Posted by:

CreakyKnees on Jul 26, 2010 07:22 AM

No dogs at Lake 22

The picture of Tatoosh is cute, but dogs actually aren't allowed at Lake 22! They can have a blast at nearby Heather Lake, though.

Posted by:

Chris Hoffer on Jul 26, 2010 10:26 AM

Dogs allowed on leash at Lake 22

I just phoned the Verlot Public Service Center and the ranger said that dogs are allowed on leash on the Lake 22 Trail. We've posted the leash rules for the MBS here: Leashes are required for trails leading into the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, and are not allowed in the Enchantments or Ingalls Lake areas.

Posted by:

Susan Elderkin on Jul 26, 2010 12:12 PM

Dogs allowed on leash at Lake 22

I meant to say that dogs are not allowed in the Enchantments or Ingalls Lake areas. (Not that leashes aren't allowed;>)

Posted by:

Susan Elderkin on Jul 26, 2010 12:13 PM

Dogs allowed on leash at Lake 22

I was hiking back from Ingalls Lake on the Ingalls way trail yesterday. Suddenly this unleashed dog (on a dogs free trail) comes bounding at me. What do u say to owners like these. It is sad that these rules are not being enforced.

Posted by:

fizalk on Aug 02, 2010 02:22 AM

Dogs allowed on leash at Lake 22

Thanks for checking into this, Susan! My Seattle-area hiking guide is in error (Moon's Take A Hike Seattle).

As always, WTA is the definitive trail resource - I'll add this hike back to the list for me and my (leashed) pooch!

Posted by:

Chris Hoffer on Jul 26, 2010 05:50 PM

Even the friendly ones are a nuisance

Yesterday on PCT near Windy Pass my husband and 1 yr old Lab (who was leashed to a tree) were enjoying some snacks and the view. Here comes a loose lab mix running our way. He looked friendly (and was) but my dog is really still a puppy and went nuts trying to say hi. My husband grabbed the loose dog by the leash and the 3 little 8 year olds who owned the dog eventually showed up but were unable to control the dog. Finally, one of the adult owners showed up to apologize, but did nothing to further restrain their dog.

It's not fair for the leashed dogs to have to defend or control themselves in a situation with an unleashed dog.

Diane, you're spot on about the best way to keep a dog safe is on a leash. It's too bad there are alot of inconsiderate people out there that don't think the same.

Posted by:

sherryi on Jul 28, 2010 10:01 PM

Dogs on leashes

Great article and right on target. I would like to add that this can be even a greater problem on trails used more for exercise and short walks than mountain trails. I walk the Tolt Pipeline Trail several times a week and see many dogs of all sizes running off leash and often not in control by owner. I too, when walking my dog on leash, have heard "oh..he's friendly, he just wants to play, he just needs to be touched (really..heard that)", etc. only to have their or my dog decide it doesn't want to be sniffed or jumped on.

If I find a place along that trail where I can see a long way in front of or behind me, I may let my dog walk with me off leash....but only if I know I have immediate verbal control. Then, when a horse rider, walker, other dog, or biker appears in the distance, it's back on the leash....more for their consideration and just normal courtesy. I may know my dog is completely unconcerned with a horse or a runner. But, they don't know that.

Use leashes, folks. Its just common courtesy and the smart thing to do.

Posted by:

seabeav on Jul 30, 2010 02:20 PM