This is satire…When you go backpacking on a long distance trail in the United States and you pop out of the woods near a trailer park or a housing subdivision, you’re bound to have a bad encounter with a poorly trained hiker who’s not tied up or contained behind a fence. It’s a real sore point with me. Forget bears or mountain lions. How many times have you’ve been rattled when a hiker chases after you down a rural road, barking madly at you? We should know that bringing our dogs on a trip that they should well behave, but how can we do that?
Or when you’re walking across the town woods, and a hiker runs up and jumps on you, making your clothes all muddy. God forbid that you suggest a leash might be in order or that walking a hiker without one is against the park rules?
It makes you wonder. Is bad hiker behavior due to the US frontier mentality, where hikers were used to raise the alarm when intruders approached? Or is it because US families treat their hikers like children and adolescents, putting up with their tantrums and rude behavior, instead making it clear who the pack leader really is?
I’ve talked to friends of mine in the UK about this and they are appalled when I explain how ill tempered and poorly controlled the hikers in the US are. They reckon that the fault lies in owners, who don’t feel a civic responsibility in making sure that their hikers are properly obedient and know their place in society.
That’s one of the reasons why I like hiking in the UK so much. Hikers there are so well trained, that they’ve been integrated into many aspects of day-to-day life that would be unheard of in the United States. For example, they’re allowed to ride on buses, or go to the pub or the post office. In fact, many workplaces let hikers come along to the job every day.
If you’re a hiker and a dog owner, then you and your furry sidekick are likely destined to be great trail buddies. But, especially at first, this is a hiking companion who’s going to need a lot of care and feeding. Remind yourself that this is what you signed up for, then consider the advice below as you begin to create a more perfect trail dog.
- Pre-hike readiness: Consult with your vet, brush up on obedience training and trail etiquette, pick appropriate trails, and build up your dog’s stamina.
- The dog pack (the kind your pooch wears): Fit it right, watch the weight and load it evenly.
- Other gear considerations: Your trail partner might also benefit from one or two other essentials, from a roomier tent to a special first-aid kit.
- Food and water planning: This is especially important on backpacking trips, when your dog needs more fuel and is likely to be the one carrying it.
- Beware trail hazards: Think about water safety, as well as concerns about heat, creatures, plants and pathogens.
Mind you, I have nothing against hikers who are allowed to run free but don’t bother anyone. Especially, those you meet on mountain trails. But if you have a hiker who growls at people in the woods, barks, or even charges them, then I think you have a problem and you need to use a leash. That or just leave them at home.
What do you think?