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
Other Posts Featuring Bowie: