Why we leash our dogs with trekking lines (99.9% of the time)

A little “Off-Season” post, for educational and awareness purposes…

edgar june sterling 24

Yes, your dog can be happy while hiking with a trekking line!


This is not a post about the pros and cons of keeping dogs leashed on the trails…merely an explanation of the reasons why we choose to keep our dogs under the physical control of a trekking line, even when not required by trail rules. We are often questioned about this policy, and have even been chastised for it. Our lines are 9-10 feet long, with bungee components, so the dogs can wander a bit, explore and sniff, vary their speed, roll and romp, while we engage in an efficient choreography! Hands-free trekking allows us to use poles, cameras, etc, while the dogs are still “on leash”. The dogs each have multiple well-fitting harnesses, and we use trekking belts from Nooksack Racing Supply, or clip the line to our pack belts. On particularly technical areas, we may release them, for the dogs’ safety and ours, but for the most part, we are “attached at the hip” for all our snowshoeing and hiking exploits. Our dogs get plenty of free time to play and run in their enclosed yard, and certainly get lots of exercise with the amount of outings we do. We do selectively let them romp leash-free on some trails,fields, and beaches…but that is the exception. They are both trained in obedience, rally, and agility, and are taught, and practice, recall to voice, whistle, and hand signals. For us, it is more relaxing and worry-free if we consistently use our trekking lines when we head out for a hiking or snowshoeing adventure…no judgements on others with well-behaved off-leash dogs, but here are the main reasons we have made this choice.


  1. So they don’t get lost (and end up on a poster in Shaw’s or on Front Porch Forum). I think this is especially important when traveling (even with ID and microchips, a dog getting lost hundreds of miles from home creates havoc) That poor fellow from Utah, biking with his dog (off-leash) in VT..now the dog is gone forever.
  2. So they don’t follow someone else down the wrong trail, or follow other dogs…I have lost count of the number of times we run into hikers looking for their dogs who have done just that!
  3. So they don’t slip on ice; we hear of so many dogs with joint injures from slips and falls resulting in surgery and activity restrictions . Though there are no guarantees (Griff has an injured knee fram an unknown cause), it sure seems like cheap insurance.
  4. So they don’t fall off ledges or cliffs. This has happened to dogs in our hiking areas…all it takes is the distraction of a chipmunk, and the dogs could be over the edge.
  5. So they don’t get injured running in the woods ( i.e. impaled on hidden sticks, posts, old barbed wire, caught in leg-hold traps etc). My “old brown dog’ once ran into a hidden section of old barbed wire fence, and received a nasty gouge on his  chest…our woods are full of such old fences!
  6. So they don’t chase wildlife ( we love wildlife, and are in their habitat…and dogs who chase deer in VT can legally be shot) Besides, if we permit them to chase squirrels, how can they be expected to ignore fishers, skunks or porcupines? And Bears..if a dog sees a bear, and runs back to its owner, the bear is likely to chase it back, right in to the face of the dog’s owner!
  7. So they don’t get skunked, quilled, or tangle with fishers, bears, etc. The only dog I had that ever got quilled while hiking was off-leash, many years ago. In the past few years we have encountered a number of porcupines, but since our dogs were leashed, no vet visits were necessary!
  8. So they don’t fall through partially frozen/thin ice ponds. Every spring we hear of this happening to dogs, who cannot judge the thickness of ice. Many do not survive.
  9. So they don’t interact or get into problems with other dogs. With our dogs leashed, we can supervise and monitor their meetings with other dogs. Yes, dogs. They are not children, and certainly not fur-babies! They do not need “play dates”, or new “friends”!
  10. So they don’t bother people who may not like dogs. We all share the trails, and it is not fair to inflict our dogs on others!
  11. So that if they poop on trail we know it, and can clean it up. I know (anecdotally) that most of the dog crap left on trails is from off-leash dogs…the owners have deniability, since if they do not see their dog do it, they feel they can ignore it.
  12. So they can practice our commands for other dog sports, such as Gee, haw, on-by, etc. It makes for quite a nice partnership ,as we exhibit teamwork hiking along the trail.
  13. So that if I get hurt, they won’t run off, or get spooked by rescue people; our dogs, especially Griff, are very reticent around unfamiliar people.
  14. To monitor them at all times for hot/cold exposure issues.
  15. To protect them from BC skiers and their sharp ski edges, and from snow-machines on trails. We have encountered both of these hazards, and thankfully, we could pull our dogs in close to us to avoid a catastrophe.
  16. It sure makes it easy on the dogs when we hike in an area where leashes are required! It is also so relaxing to hike without constantly having to check on the dogs, call them, or wonder where they are….

So that is our explanation, just FYI.  Nothing earth-shattering, but we felt perhaps we should give more information on why we have made our choice. Not looking for arguments or discussion, but we preach responsible dog-ownership, so we felt it was an opportunity to present our position. Thank you!


Leaving paw prints in the sand…well, in the snow anyway. Our snowy trip to Maine!

April came in like a Yeti this year. Our annual trip to the Maine Coast coincided with the April Fool’s snowstorm of 2017, which made travel interesting, and presented us with more hiking in the snow. However, this time, we were hiking to the beach.

We had been asked in January to once again present at the New England Paddlesports Show, sponsored by the Kittery Trading Post. Our seminars in 2016 had been well attended, and we had enjoyed the chance to socialize and share stories with other dog paddling folks. So when we were approached about a repeat performance, we had readily accepted.  Now, last year we had also encountered some snow, so we had not expected to face that weather situation again. But we did, and though the roads were in terrible condition, and travel was slowed but the conditions,  we enjoyed the change of pace and the opportunity to share our love of paddling with dogs.

We returned to the same hotel we had utilized last year, and once again enjoyed its convenient location, and dog-friendly atmosphere. This year, Aunt Jackie joined us…the dogs absolutely love their favorite aunt, and we all had a great time.

Our beach visits were interesting to say the least. Lots of snow, huge waves, and loons! It was so delightful to see our first loons of the season, as they prepare to head west and back to Vermont.

We saw two loons, as well as Long-tail ducks and Red Breasted Mergansers…and of course, lots of gulls,geese, and other smaller birds. But the loons are special to us, as they are our companions on many paddling adventures.

And of course, running on the beach is a special treat for our mountain dogs.  They no longer seem fazed, or startled by the loud wave action as they were on our fist ocean trip a few years ago.

Of course, the incentive for our trip was our presentations at the show. This year, we had two different presentations. One was a tweaked version of the well-received Intro to Dog Paddling lecture we gave in 2016. We also did a second presentation on Canoe and Kayak Camping with Dogs. The weather was absolutely horrible on the day of the show, and overall attendance was way down from prior years. However, we had good showings at both our seminars, and also had regular visitations to our display table set up in the lobby. We met some nice fellow paddlers and their dogs, and also were able to pick up some gear for our upcoming paddling season.

Since the show is sponsored by the Kittery Trading Post, we had to visit this immense store, located in Kittery Maine. In the store, there are numerous taxidermy wild animals…check social media, and you will see that it is tradition for visitors to take photos of their kids, grandkids, and selfies by these animals. The store personnel were so nice to us, and they permitted us to bring Gryphon in for a photo op…next year it will be Edgar’s turn. Yes, next year! At the end of our second presentation, we were invited to return next year.  Hopefully, we will have some great adventures to share from our trip paddling our way across Canada!

I feared that Griff would be terrified of the moose, but he was curious,and then ignored it!

After the weekend snowstorm, which dumped lots of snow at home, as well as in Maine, we returned to some wonderful snowshoeing conditions. However, after being immersed in the paddling world for 2 days, we are anxious to get our boats on the water. The lakes in our part of Vermont are still pretty much frozen over, so we do have to wait a bit longer. However, if conditions permit, I should get out with Griff in the next 10 days or so, on a pond that already has open water, about an hour from home. My dry suit needs a test run, and Griff has the neoprene liner for his life jacket, so all we need is calm winds, temperature over 50, and sunny skies. I think we had had enough of snow for this year!

Keep safe, keep your dogs safe, and enjoy your shared adventures. Be sure to check out our Instagram Page vermontpaddlepups or our Vermont Paddle Pups Facebook page for reports from our adventures.


                                                      Edgar snowshoeing 4/11/17