Maybe it's time for a dog trail etiquette refresher course.

Yikes! It’s Dogs’ Day Out today. My pair of trail dogs and I just completed a three-mile jaunt, and we encountered five other dogs along the way. That almost never happens around here. And the passing approaches those pet owners took varied dramatically.

A few of the meet-ups were altogether uneventful, and we didn't even break pace. A couple were not. What made the difference?

Basic dog trail etiquette

Let’s consider some of the most fundamental matters of manners, when it comes to hiking, running, or walking with dogs on the trail.

Check local regulations. Some trails allow dogs, either on-leash or off. Others require leashes. Some don’t permit dogs at all. Many trails have right-of-way rules for dogs, bikes, horses, hikers, and others.

Train the dog before taking him on the trail. This sounds like a given, but it’s clearly not. The dog must be leash-trained. He needs to know and obey basic voice commands, such as “come,” “heel,” “stop,” “sit,” and “stay.” He must be taught not to chase wildlife – even birds, rabbits, or squirrels – on the trail. Ideally, any dog on a public trail will be leashed.

Take only as many dogs along as you can safely manage. Can you control one, two, or three dogs at a time? What if you encounter another person with multiple dogs or another surprise along the way?

Draw the dog close to you, as others approach. It’s a lot easier to keep a dog under control (and hold his attention), if he is within arm’s reach, rather than out on the end of a long leash. Some pet owners take along treats to lure their dogs out of on-trail interactions. Other disagree on this, considering treats an unnecessary temptation to wildlife along the way.

Announce a challenging dog, if you have one. Is your pup fearful, nervous, or aggressive? Hold on tight, but give the passers-by a clue, so they can steer clear.

It’s OK to ask a passing pet owner to collect his own loose or unruly dog. Don’t accept “Oh, he’s friendly,” if you and your own dog are unfamiliar with the other animal. Each owner needs to take control of his own pet.

Be aware that a dog may be in training on the trail. Never assume, when passing a dog, that he is a seasoned trail dog. Expect the unexpected, and give him and his owner a wide berth, if possible.

Don’t stop to pet an unfamiliar dog. Always ask permission. Discourage children from approaching unknown dogs. And, if you have your own dog in tow, it’s better to avoid stopping.

Keep moving, when you encounter others. This is especially true in dog-to-dog meetings on the trail. It’s best to avoid actual contact and march right along, if possible. Besides, some of us are timing our runs. Lingering can lead to tangles and other trouble. You may even have to encourage the other person (and dog) to continue moving as well.

Clean up after your own dog. Sure, there may be wildlife droppings on or near the trail. So it pays to watch your step. But domesticated pet presents are a no-no. And please don’t leave plastic bags filled with pet poo along the trail, either.

The basic idea is to be considerate of others, keeping dogs and humans safe along the way.

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