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Happy Tails


Happy Trails


by Fran Jewell

           The Wood River Valley has long been known as the doggie friendly community.  As such, many doggie people and their canine friends have moved here to enjoy the recreating available.  The trails here are full of enthusiasts and their beloved canine enjoying the incredible outdoors.

            Along with the bliss of unleashed freedom for our dogs, comes responsibility.  Just as the larger a town gets, it becomes a city and the more rules and restrictions become necessary to keep everyone’s rights intact.  The same is true for our canine companions.  The more people and the more dogs that enter our recreational areas, the more we need to be considerate of each other so we may all have safe, and exhilarated fun.

            Just what does that mean?  I don’t know many dog owners who don’t quiver at the idea of doggie restrictions and rules.  I prefer to think of it more as etiquette, not rules and regulation.  It is a common courtesy to be sure your dogs do not intrude upon the shared recreational events of others.  I like to think that we are all caring enough individuals to recognize how our behaviors, and those of our dogs, affect others.

            Here are a few simple things to help you consider doing when sharing your pooch with others on the trails:

  • Teach your dog a strong reliable recall.  A dog that cannot come when called has not yet earned the responsibility of freedom. This can be a life threatening issue for your dog.  If your dog decides to chase wildlife or chase an unfriendly dog, it could mean his life or injury. Dogs do not know instinctually how to “come” when they are called. Practice at home or take an obedience class to learn new, exciting and FUN ways to teach the “come” command.
  • Carry a leash.  Leashes are not evil things to be avoided at all costs. They can help you control your dogs when the need arises.  Leashes are not a life sentence. They can be used for 5 minutes while another hiker passes.  Hook the leash back on itself at the handle, then put it over your shoulder.  Its out of the way and easy to get to.
  • Teach your dog basic manners and obedience.  This gives you tools to work with on the trail.  A dog that can come when called, then sit or down and stay while others pass you on the trail and is a joy to recreate with.  AND, he is a joy to others who meet you along the way!
  • Always ASK another dog owner if it’s okay for your dog to greet and play with their dog.  Never assume that the other dog is friendly.  This can prevent unwanted dog fights and plenty of heartache.  Once again, carry a leash so you can leash your dog momentarily while you pass the other dog.
  • Don’t assume everyone on the trail will love your dog.  Everyone on the trail has a right to be there.  And, not everyone loves dogs and there are plenty of people who are terrified of dogs, especially big ones who jump on them.  If your dog loves to jump on people because he is friendly, please temporarily leash your dog when you see another person a ways down the trail.  Teach your dog BEFORE you hit the trails how to greet nicely by sitting for petting and not jumping on people or other dogs.
  • Call your dog over to the side off the trail when you see others coming.  Again, this is just common courtesy.  Especially horseback riders, llama travelers, etc. may have an animal that does not particularly like barking or jumping dogs.  This could end up being a life-threatening situation for the other person as well as you and your dog.  A dog that runs up to a mountain biker could cause a terrible accident.  The best way to make this a happy situation for your dog is to carry treats with you and reward your dog every time another person approaches.  Pretty soon, when your dog sees someone coming, he will be by your side in an instant waiting for his reward.
  • Test your dog ahead of time to see what a good citizen he really is.  AKC offers an excellent way to evaluate your dog to see just how friendly and well behaved he really is.  It is called the Canine Good Citizen test.  Any dog can take the test.  Those that pass are well on their way to fitting nicely into our community.  Those dogs that don’t pass may just need a little help.  It’s a good barometer!
  • Be sure your dog knows friendly greeting with other dogs.  This does not mean that jumping on another dog with his tail wagging, and face licking is friendly.  Other dogs jumping on or licking feverishly in the face may offend many dogs. It the human world it is equivalent to someone kissing you on the mouth the first time you meet them.  It is an invasion of personal space.  The same can be true for dogs.  Teach your dog appropriate friendly greeting and be cautious of the dog that is “fresh” or overly friendly to other dogs. This can cause a very unhappy dog encounter.
  • Clean up after your dog.  There is nothing fun about hiking up a beautiful trail, or skiing across new snow to find a pile of dog mess right in front of you.  At least flip it off to the side and cover it where others don’t have to see it or smell it.
  • Put a BELL and REFLECTIVE collar on your dog.  This is a simple way to always know where your dog is because you can hear him.  Secondly, it lets all the woodland creatures know someone is coming.  This can prevent your dog from actually SEEING a deer, porcupine, skunk or any other animal.  Many times if a dog cannot see an animal, he will not chase after it, preventing unwanted and sometimes life threatening confrontations.

Having a doggie friendly community not only means that our community accepts dogs readily, it means that we accept our responsibility as dog owners to partake safely and courteously with each other.  Our attitude will affect not only our enjoyment of this fabulous recreation area, but the enjoyment of this area for everyone – people and dogs alike! 

If you have more questions about, or need help with doggie trail etiquette, contact Positive Puppy Dog Training, LLC.


Fran is the Owner and Trainer at Positive Puppy Dog Training LLC. Founder, Executive Director of
Positive Partners Assistance Dogs, Inc, Professional Member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers, AKC Good Citizen Evaluator, and Certified Delta Society Pet Partner team.