Route Rules: Tips for Proper Dog Etiquette on the Hiking Trail

Kate Hoehn

As a Vermonter, I like to take advantage of the few months of warm weather we get. One of my favorite things to do this time of year is hike with my dog. Hiking with your dog not only means that you are responsible for your own actions, but for your dog’s actions as well. This means we must be the epitome of respectful and responsible trail users and prevent actions that could lead to additional trail closures or restrictions for dogs.

Hikers should keep their dogs on a leash at all times or under strict voice command. While some hikers may be dog fans and want to pet your dog in passing, others may not, so don’t leave the decision up to your dog. If under strict voice command and not on a leash, your dog should heel when told, stay at heel, and refrain from barking. In general, the hiker moving uphill has the right away, but I like to yield to others either way if the other if I’m the one with the dog. When meeting bicyclists or runners, the hiker should always yield since it is easier for the hiker to step off of the trail.

I have yet to pass horseback riders on trails while hiking, but if that situation does arise, the dog owner must not only yield to the person and their horse, but also must make sure the dog stays calm and does not bark or move towards the horse. Some horses are easily spooked so it is the dog owner’s responsibility to keep the dog quiet and under control.

To keep trails clear for others, it is useful to carry a small plastic spade with you while hiking with your dog. That way, if your dog decides to make the trail its bathroom, you can dig a small hole to bury the dog’s feces. This is more convenient than picking up waste with a plastic bag and having to carry it until you reach a trash can.

These are just a few helpful tips to make hiking with your dog more enjoyable for you and other trail users. Most importantly, just use common sense and simple courtesy.