In Defense Of Bowie: A Leashed Dog

Traveling with a dog is not always laughs and licks. Similar to long-distance hiking with a dog, it is not YOUR hike but the dog’s; it is very much the same when road tripping. My adventures are limited because of Bowie our Black Lab. She can’t hike as far as I would like too, I can’t go places I am sometimes interested in because dogs are not allowed, trails sometimes prohibit dogs, National Parks are not precisely dog-friendly, staying in pet-friendly hotel rooms is more expensive, boarding facilities and doggy day care expenses add up, etc. etc. etc. I, however, love Bowie, and I am happy I have her as a travel companion. I knowingly accepted the limitations in which her dog presence would have on my travels. There is however, one big thing I have noticed while traveling with her that I personally am bothered by: The LEASH or lack thereof.

***Warning! You Are About To Read My Personal Opinions!***

A Little About Bowie:

Like humans, dog’s each have their own personality. Also like humans, sometimes a dog’s temperament will change with age and Bowie is a prime example of this. Bowie was once friendly with any living creature she encountered. Now at eight and a half years old, she can be aggressive towards other dogs she hasn’t spent time with. Like an old lady, Bowie doesn’t pretend to like every dog she meets and is a little on the grouchy side. When on the road, she can also be protective of me and any other humans in her “pack” and aggressive towards people who approach her or the Clydesdale (our van) to quickly. This protective or aggressive nature increases as she ages.

Bowie does have many dog friends across the United States that she gets along with perfectly, however, upon meeting these friends for the first time, the meeting was supervised and a slow, relaxed process. She has been to dog parks and dog beaches and gets along great with other dogs in these settings. However, these environments tend to be contained and controlled. I let her smell around and adjust to her environment before letting her play.

The Leash Issue:

In now my two months of travel, I find it disturbing and unfair when Bowie and I get glared at or even verbally snubbed because Bowie is barking, snarling, or growling, at another dog OFF LEASH that has run up to her. Such incidents have happened periodically but recently seem to be almost a common occurrence. These incidents to me, show a lack of respect on the owners part for other hikers and the wildlife around them.


While at Big Sur on the beach, with signs stating that all dogs should be on a leash, two unleashed dogs ran up to Bowie and she immediately became aggressive. Where were the owners? Smiling and calling their dog’s names from several hundred feet back as they casually walked closer. No consideration for the sign they just passed stating dogs are to be leashed or for me, trying to control and calm my leashed dog.

Another incident happened while peacefully hiking in a National Forest, three dogs bounded out of the woods in front of us. Bowie, of course, went bezerk. Where were the owners? So far up ahead I never saw them. Did they consider the danger their dogs could have been in from either another dog or wild animal? I can only assume no. On our way back to the Clydesdale, another dog off leash again runs up to Bowie. This time I was able to step off trail away from the dog hoping the owners who were shortly behind him, would grab him. I guess I assume too much. They politely informed me their dog was friendly at which I politely told them, mine was not. How did they respond? They casually kept walking never restraining their dog but glaring at my snarling and barking one.

That same night at camp, Bowie was already asleep in bed, and I was reading when she immediately rose and jumped out of the van. She, of course, was still on her tether, which I keep her on until all the van doors are closed for the night. What was she after? A dog who came right up alongside the van. After I pulled her away, I began to look for the owner. I spot him on the other side of the Clydesdale; He waves, smiles, says he’s sorry and casually walks off, his dog still standing by the van until the man, finally called him away.

Why I Think The Leash Is Important To Bowie And All Dogs:

Using a leash or tether helps to protect smaller wild creatures like lizards, rabbits, and chipmunks from harm that Bowie may cause them. I can also restrain Bowie from running up on Snakes, Porcupines, Coyotes, Bears, and Mountain Lions or edibles that are found to be poison to dogs. A leashed Bowie protects me from dealing with a skunked Bowie and decreases exposure to poisoned plants that may leave residue on her fur which in turn can come in contact with me. I also have control of her if her instincts kick in causing her try to run after another animal. I don’t know what I’d do if she took off and I couldn’t get her back; I’d be heartbroken. If you think of it, there are lots of safety concerns for a dog off leash, and often you will find the leash is required in many areas by law.

Leave No Trace For Dogs and Laws:

Only a small few National Parks allow dogs on specific paved and unpaved trails and hardly ever in the backcountry. National Forests ask that all dogs be leashed in campgrounds and any other specially designated areas. Some National Forests encourage dogs be restricted in some way to prevent roaming freely, at all times. Leave No Trace (LNT) Principles state to manage your dog and obey leash requirements and private property. LNT also asks to respect others out in the wild and ask before allowing a dog to approach. It seems with all of the above there is still a lot of gray area, but it all seems to say “keep control of your dog”. Regardless, you should ALWAYS check on the specific park and forest you are traveling to for current rules, laws, regulations, what have you on dogs.

A Few Requests From Me And Specific Leash Related Thoughts:

Next time you’re out on a hike or even at a park with your furry friend, make sure you know for sure it is legal to have your dog off leash. If it’s not, please don’t ignore the sign. It’s not fair for the other dogs and their owners who are following the rules.

If planning on letting your fur baby go off leash, are you 100% sure you can prevent your dog from running up on a wild animal or up to another dog? Having previously worked at an animal hospital, I have met many an owner that was 100% sure of their dog’s actions before their walk, hike, camping trip, etc. and their minds were changed when an encounter with a wild animal or another dog, caused a visit to the hospital.


You may find all this nonsense and boring. You may see “Bowie” as the problem, or maybe you don’t even care, and that’s fine. But for those of you who have a dog or are thinking of getting a dog, take this as a learning experience from someone who’s dealing with it and as something to consider when traveling with man’s best friend. Overall, I personally feel a leash and tether are a must have in all traveling situations.

As for Bowie I know she’s not perfect and has developed some behavior issues in her older years, but I recognize that and keep her in control with a harness, leash, and tether. We always try to stick to the less dog populated trails/areas and Bowie will always be on a leash when required, and usually even when not for her protection and others. I only ask that if you see us, take control of your dog until you pass and please take into consideration that grumpy old dogs deserve to be outside too.

Have any experiences with a dog off leash or further thoughts you would like to share? Feel free to comment below, but remember to be polite! Also, make sure to check out the related links both above and below to learn more about the do’s and don’ts of hiking and traveling with a dog. 


(Bowie Exploring An Open Tufa; Bowie At Camp Staring Down a Tree) 

Things To Expect In Up Coming Blog Posts & Other Stuffs:

Another traveling dog-friendly website: Pet Friendly Travel

For more information on hiking with a dog check out My Open Country

Cool Thingys That I Also Do:

Our Etsy Store: TravelandTrail

Instagram: The_snuggle_diaries

Other Posts Featuring Bowie:

Bowie Poops and Bolted Floors

You, Me, Bowie and the Trees

The Dead-End Trail To The Couch


24 thoughts on “In Defense Of Bowie: A Leashed Dog

  1. We experience this on and off trail too often, here on our neighborhood trying to take the old beast out for a walk and fresh air , unleashed dog come running towards us as their owners assure us the dog is friendly! My response I don’t know that and neither does my old guy. BTW there are signs all over the park about leashes. Hang in ther Snuggles. Thanks from Tim

  2. I to see this all too often. My pups are great around people they know and hike on leash well. We have encountered the off leash dogs that charge up to our dogs to just sniff and check them out. My dog does not want your dog sniffing him, whether you say he’s friendly or not. We’ve been fostering dogs and this last foster became a foster failure and we ended up adopting her. She had a rough go at life, was fearful of ALL new things and people and she was hit. It took us a year to gain her trust and she has come a long way and is a great trail dog. She understands that we have her back. Sorry she does not like the unexpected dog coming up to her. Not all dogs are friendly, but that doesn’t give them any less right to hike or walk on leash. We’ve learned some tricks we’ve found that work to help keep our dog away from those that come charging up- like just keep stepping in between the off leash dog, and shooing them away with the excess end of the leash. All while their owners are just slowly walking. You are definitely not alone!

  3. I agree with you strongly about the leash behavior. Also, I must add that many owners do not pick up the poop off of the trail, often lying directly in the middle of the trail. Even worse I have seen the owners let the dogs run freely on pristine beaches, while letting them poop on the sand only to be washed into the water and stepped in by other beach goers.

  4. YES! I have seen the same! Or even picking up the poop in a poop bag and leaving the bag on trail! What is the point! Thanks for sharing Becky! – Snuggles

  5. I agree with you 100%. I have a dog who is getting older and was a rescue who never learned to dog properly. He has issues with other dogs and small children. I don’t know how many times I’ve dealt with unleashed dogs rushing him with their owners yelling from a distance about how friendly their dog is, while I yell that mine is not, all the while trying to keep everyone from getting hurt. Extremely frustrating!

  6. I spend a ton of time in Sierra Nevadas specifically John Muir Wilderness and Dinkey Lakes Wilderness. When you I pick up my wilderness permits, I am advised that my dog needs to be on a leash or voice command. Fortunately, for me my backpacking partner also doubles as my cow dog. Once I throw her pack on, she knows that she has to walk right behind me. If I see a fellow hiker, Maggie and I always stop and step off to the side. Unfortunately, most dogs don’t have owners that will take the time to teach proper trail etiquette. In short, I am of the opinion if a dog is not properly trained the owner should keep them on a leash so Fido is not a burden to others.

  7. Hi, Snuggles. I wholeheartedly agree!
    Quincy is a 5 year old German Shepherd and the sweetest, least agressive one that I have ever met. We frequently meet dogs on trail and it is almost always a disappointment. Quincy has a quick-draw leash that I can deploy in seconds, but he is often unrestrained and right at my heel on trail. We pass trail runners, families, horses, etc without ever having an incident, and he is always in leash whenever we encounter anything other than us. When we encounter other dog owners, though, whether they are on leash or off…Owners rarely know how to restrain a dog on trail, and often their dogs try to nip at Quincy as we pass. The issue is the narrow trail and the owners not having control of their dogs and not keeping their dogs to the outside of the trail so that we pass with me between them and my dog and them between me and theirs. They will say that their dog is friendly just prior to their dog trying to nip at mine…every time…but as an ex-Mailman, I expect this!
    With your dog on leash if you see another group with a dog approaching from the opposite direction, please ask them to keep their dog on the outside of the trail as they pass, regardless of how friendly or grouchy it may be…it affords an extra cushion at the crucial time when both parties actually pass each other.
    As to dogs running without supervision or restraint…this is irresponsible of the owners and shows not only a lack of respect for the rules and the rights of others, but a lack of forethought about what could happen, either to…or because of…their dog(s).
    I will be hiking the Lost Coast Trail this next week. It is a 24.6 mile hike on the Northern Coast of California. It requires dogs that may attempt it to be either on leash or within voice command. There are about 10 miles of the trip that are impassable at high tide and can be dangerous for all. There is Poison Oak. There are Rattlesnakes, reportedly…and we are required to carry Bear Cannisters.
    Although Quincy is an amazing dog, his safety is my concern and responsibility. He will be on a tether and within 8 feet of me for most of the trail. He also has dog tags that have our trailheads and dates, as welk as his name, my phone number, and my vehicle description and license plate number, just in case!
    As usual, I enjoy your blogs. I didn’t realize that you were in the veterinary field at one time! I am currently a 58 year old Registeted Veterinary Technician in California…finished school and got my license in 2016!
    Keep on keepin’ on, Snuggles! And give my best to the big “D” next time you see him!
    Happy Trails!!

  8. I am not a dog owner and I am always astounded at the amount of dogs whose owners don’t either respect leash laws or consider their dog’s safety for all the reasons you have listed when I am out hiking on trails. I am always worried for dogs I run into where you can’t see their owner, I have started to think that I am just overprotective and I don’t even have a dog. Thank you for being a considerate dog owner and thinking of your dog’s safety!

  9. Thank you for sharing your thoughts Snuffy! Its interesting to hear from someone that is not a dog owner that also has issues with off leash dogs… – Snuggles

  10. I had a dog who was skittish of people and dogs. She was very traumatized as a puppy apparently by men and some vicious dogs that belonged to some thuggy neighbors when I found her. She had been dumped in town by her previous owners who had her also terrified of water. She was a black lab so it makes me wonder what they did to her. The neighbor dogs had apparently gotten after her though she was fast enough to get away. As soon as I saw her I fell in love with her. With that back story she was rarely off the leash when out in public. I wasn’t worried about her going far but didn’t take chances. It irritated me with people and their dogs especially those not on a leash who when my dog & I weren’t enthusiastic about them rushing up on us would get mad at us. My dog was also very protective and had bowled over a much larger than her puppy for rushing up to me. I knew the dog but this was Angel’s first encounter with her. It was the rushing part that kicked in the protective mode. Even people without dogs would seem to get irritated with us because they couldn’t just come up and start petting her. Another thing that i never liked were the dog owners who let their dogs poop in the middle of the trail and never did anything to remove it. Angel went well away from where people were to do her business. My hubby & I love all of the videos you guys do. Thanks.

  11. The only thing worse than an unleashed dog is a dog on a Flexi-Lead with an owner who doesn’t use the lock button to keep them shortened up, allowing them to entangle other dogs (or humans.)

  12. New viewer/reader here, thanks for the great content Snuggles and Darwin!

    Just a few days ago while walking my dogs around the neighborhood, a dog came running out of her yard toward us. My boys are mostly well behaved, but they get a bit defensive when other animals get close to me or my fiance. Fortunately, the dog that came up to us eventually took the hint and ran back to her yard and there was nothing but some snarling. Was just kind of a startling episode when you don’t know the dog or how any of the dogs will react.

    I’m thinking about taking my boys on some short hikes to see how they do. Any advice for a beginner dog hiker?

  13. Hey Jason! So glad you found us! Thanks for sharing! I put some helpful links in this post along with a few in “The Ignored Leave No Trace Principles of A Bowie Dog”, you can find that link at the very bottom of this post as well. If you still want a little more info, feel free to email me! – Snuggles

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  16. I always leashed my dog on hikes, for the reasons you mentioned. Georgie was a sweet dog who liked everyone and every dog, even as she got older, but I would never let her off-leash. In camp she was always on a tether. She was a great hiking and camping buddy. She loved the tent! To her, it was a big doghouse! And the woods were an exciting buffet of new smells and adventures.

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