Running, Dogs and Trails – Part 2

In my Running, Dogs and Trail – Part 1, I discussed meeting dogs on the trail, when running or walking and offered up some observations and tips.

This post is from the other perspective having a dog with me, while walking or running on a trail and then encountering runners, hikers or walkers on trails.

Yes I have a dog and yes I walk him on trails and eventually plan to run with him on trails. However, unlike some of the characterizations in my first post, I would like to believe that I am fairly considerate of others who use the trail also.

Trail Rules for my Dog

These are the rules I try to follow when I walk my dog on a trail:

  • Don’t leave dog poop on the trail, we carry bags with us to clean it up with. I know how I feel when I step in dog poop, it pisses me off.
  • I keep my dog on a leash at all times. Not because he is a vicious, but because I know that he will run, bark, jump up on people and not obey my commands well enough to be off the leash.  In fact we use a double-system collar and harness – he can be a Houdini and escape just one of them. Bennie is a Jack Russell Terrier with an extremely short attention span, who is very inquisitive and with a mind of his own. Other dogs might mind better, but it is best to leash a dog when approaching stranger or when being overtaken by other trail users.
  • If possible I move off the trail when I see someone coming or catching up to us, warn them that my dog will probably bark and lunge at them, and allow them to go by, while holding onto my dog’s collar and the other hand on his rump forcing him to sit-down.
  • If someone asks to pet my dog and I think it is okay (I have told some people I would prefer they didn’t – just a feeling, but I go with them). I firmly have a hold of his collar and have my hand on his rump while he is sitting down and ask them to move in slowly to pet him, while I am talking calmly to Bennie.
  • I wait until the other people are at least 10 feet away before continuing our walk.

What Can the Runner/Walker Do

As a runner or walker what can you do to make this brief meeting both safe and enjoyable.

Just because you are panting and stomping your feet into the trail, doesn’t mean that a dog or the owner know you are coming up behind them. If they are immersed in thought or looking off the trail at a gorgeous scene, looking at some other critter or otherwise occupied, they might not see you coming towards them.

When you notice that they are not looking back at you and moving to leash or take a hold of their dog, there is a pretty good chance they do know you are there.

Warn Me You are There!

If that is the case and you suddenly are only yards away from them when the dog notices you, most people and their dogs will be startled and the dog(s) will probably bark and lunge at you.

The owner will have much more difficult time reacting appropriately to your presence.

Then you get pissed because the dog is barking and lunging at you, that you were slowed down, had to go around them or that in their state of surprise might have been said something rather unflattering to you.

So when running or hiking please warn people with dogs that you are coming up on them for your own safety, if you don’t see or hear them getting their dogs ready for you to go past them.

Ask before attempting to touch or pet any dog, you might not like the results if you don’t.

Don’t Be an Ass

Really you don’t need to be an ass, just because someone is on the trail with a dog. Most of the trails are public and open for all to enjoy appropriately.

If you start yelling at the owner, telling them to get to f#$* out of the way, acting all impatient and important, while they are trying to restrain or move their dog, it only makes the situation worse. The dog(s) will pick up on their stress level and start to get stressed as well, which will cause even more delays.

Most dog owners will not purposely delay you, but if you are acting like a jerk, it is much easier for them to be a jerk too.

Dogs Not on a Leash or Aggressive

If you see that a dog is not on a leash watch it carefully, if it starts moving towards you, or stops and starts growling or barking at you. Stop running and give the owner a chance to get their dog leashed or restrained before you start running by.  At this point I recommend you go into a defensive posture and ask, then tell the owner to ensure that their dog is leashed if they haven’t attempted to so by that time. It is okay to talk to the owner to find out what they are doing and which direction is best to get around them.

I don’t care how fast you think you are, you are not going to outrun a dog, unless it is an ankle bitter and then they run faster than you think, so don’t just keep running.

If you keep running, the dog might think you are playing, attacking us or you will activate their hunting instincts and they will chase after you.  None of which is what you or the owner want to have happen.

Yes I know that it is a pain in the ass to stop while the owner gets their dog under control, but if you do stop for a few seconds there will be less problems and issues for both of you and you will be able to start enjoying your run again sooner.

You wouldn’t step in front of a car with a green light, you might get hurt. Think of an unleashed dog as a stop light and your continuing to run in the same manner, if you keep running, you could get hurt, so stop until the owner has their dogs ready for you to go by. A dog growling and barking aggressively is definitely a red light and you need to stop running until the situation is safe to proceed.

Most dogs believe they are protecting their humans from you. For some reason you smell wrong to them?  If that is the case take a defensive posture and wait to see what the dog and the dog’s owner is doing, it is better to be a little patient than get bit. Then move on as soon possible.

Part of the Family

Dog owners do not consider their dogs to be vicious attack dogs, they are their family pets and a part of the family, a companion that they know and love.

The owners often honestly don’t understand why you are intimidated, concerned or a little afraid of their sweet little Cujo – be aware of that. In their eyes, they see the sweet cuddly little furball that sits in their lap or by their feet, not the snarling, growling, red-eyed demon from hell that you see.

The reality is that

I understand that coming up on a dog while on a trail might be an inconvenience to you. You might have to break stride or having wait a minute while the owner gets their dog out of your way. Stop and think I am a runner also and the person you are meeting on the trail might be a runner too.

Ninety-five percent of the time, most people I have met on the trails are great and share my interests in being outside with or without my dog.

To that other five percent that thankfully I don’t run into you very often. Get off your high horse, show a little patience and respect for others who you are sharing the trail with. You may be the center of your universe, but you are not the center of mine or my dog’s.

Final thoughts

  • If you have are a dog owner on a trail – keep it on a leash when people are around (many times there are leash laws and dogs are required to be on a leash- just follow the laws in place) and then restrain your dog while the rest of us go by.
  • If you are a runner or hiker – show a little patience, while the owner is restraining or leashing a dog, so you can go by.

We all have the right to use the public multi-use trails around us for hiking, walking, trail running and yes even walking our dogs. However, we need to treat each other with respect when meeting each other on those trails.

What are your experiences with obnoxious runners/hikers?  What caused the problem and how could they or you changed it so it wasn’t a problem?

Dog owners, what is your advice for runners or hikers who meet you on the trail that I didn’t mention above.