A little “Off-Season” post, for educational and awareness purposes…
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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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 .
- 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.
- So they don’t get injured running in the woods ( i.e. impaled on hidden sticks, posts, old barbed wire, etc).
- 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?
- 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!
- 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.
- 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”!
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- To monitor them at all times for hot/cold exposure issues.
- 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.
- It sure makes it easy on the dogs when we hike in an area where leashes are required!
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!