Trail Tips and Winter Trail Etiquette for Dog Owners

February 15, 2014

One of the best benefits to winter activities with your dog is that most places have looser leash laws during the winter season, which means more unrestrained running, jumping, and snow dancing for your dog.

 If you are new taking your canine on these cold-weather adventures, there are few trail courtesies you should know about.  Whether you are snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, or just enjoying a cold-weather hike, keep in mind that the same courtesies exist on trails and outdoor spaces during the winter months, even if they are covered up with snow.

Winter Trail Etiquette and Tips for Dog Owners:

1. Leash Laws Don't Trump the Golden Rule. If even local leash laws do not require the use of a leash, if you have an excitable, boisterous, or space-invading dog, keep them on-leash when other trail-goers and dogs are present. A good rule of thumb is to leash up any dog not trained on voice command, no matter what time of year, or how empty the trails.  For dogs on voice command that like to wander off-leash on busy trails, consider a collar and leash in one, such as the Rad Dog Release N Run, which allows your dog to be "on leash" at a moment's notice, without forcing you to hold the leash when they are frolicking about.

2. "Leave No Trace" Goes Double for Dog Poop.  Have you ever seen a dog-friendly trail after the first snow melt?  It's not pretty! As tempting as it may be to kick the poo to the side of the trail or ignore the incident (rather than gallivanting through the snow in search of the stinky pile), leaving dog poop behind is just not cool. And Rad Dogs must be cool. So don't forget the dog poo's your doggy doodie duty!

3. Don't Leave Your Dog Behind. Dogs were meant to enjoy the trail with us, so don't leave them behind in the car.  They could be disruptive to others at the trail head or get too cold/hot in the car, so if you don't want them to come along for the hike, snowshoe, or ski, don't bring them at all.

4. Bring Lots of Water.  Even in the cold weather, dogs can become dehydrated, so make sure to bring plenty of water and keep your dog hydrated.  We recommend "traveling light" with the Rad Dog Pocket Dog Bowl.

5. Think Like a Dog. There are so many distractions on the trail--other dogs, small children, pedestrians, horses, and wildlife--it is important that you keep your dog in control at all times.  Even the best behaved dogs can act out of character if they encounter something new. Don't neglect bringing a leash just because the trail does not require one, and keep in mind that most trails require leashes be no longer than 6 feet long.

6. Know Your Dog's Limits. Just like humans, dogs need to build up stamina and endurance. Be sure you are aware of your dog's physical abilities before attempting a new trail. Check to make sure their paws, pads, and nails are in good shape before heading outdoors.

7. Be aware of How Your Dog's Presence Affects Others.  Did you know that a long leash can "close-line" a mountain biker? Or that a dog can spook a horse, causing injury to its rider?  As a responsible dog owner, it is important to understand the consequences of your decisions when handling your dog.  Stay alert, maintain control, and keep your dog on the trail and within your eye line at all times.

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