Important Trail Etiquette You Should Know When Walking Your Dog

Important Trail Etiquette You Should Know When Walking Your Dog

I love walking with my dogs on the local rail trail in New Hampshire or on the beach in the off-season on Cape Cod. I feel rejuvenated after getting some fresh air and some vigorous exercise and I know the dogs are better for it.

They are more content, less destructive and there is an overall calmness. My partner likes to say that dogs need more energy-withdrawals than deposits. Dogs that sit around the house, day after day are making energy deposits. Dogs that are walked regularly or go on hikes are having energy withdrawals.

I believe there is dog etiquette on the trail and on the beach. When I see someone approaching me on the trail or beach, I call my dog to me and leash him or her. Although hard to believe, not everyone likes dogs, even friendly dogs. I think it is a common courtesy. If someone is walking towards me and their dog is leashed, I will also leash my dog. I’m not going to second guess why their dog is leashed. Maybe she doesn’t have a good come when called, but maybe their dog isn’t friendly to other dogs. And finally, if someone is approaching me and their dog is off leash, I’ll let my dog stay off leash too.

Recently, I was walking with my partner whose ten-year-old-female dog is a “recovering reactive dog,” meaning she used to react to every dog she saw when she was leashed. She would turn into the twirling dervish, spinning like a helicopter and screaming at the top of her lungs. We’ve worked really hard for the past three years so we can walk her past other dogs without any issues. Just to be clear, she doesn’t interact with them, we just want to be able to walk her calmly past other leashed dogs.

There is nothing more frustrating to me than to hear someone call out, “don’t worry he’s friendly,” as their dog is torpedoing towards us. I’m happy that your dog is friendly, but please don’t assume our leashed dog is friendly.

Not too long ago we were walking on the rail trail and spotted a runner with a loose dog. In an effort to avoid the other dog, we moved far off the trail and into the woods only to have the loose dog follow us. The runner never looked at us or her dog and never made an attempt to call her dog back to her.

Last month when I was visiting my mother on Cape Cod I was excited to take my dogs to the beach to run and exercise. Both my dogs have a great come when called. One dog is afraid of other dogs and one dog is super friendly with other dogs and people. I prefer to not let my dogs interact with other unknown dogs. It’s not necessary for our dogs to greet every dog they meet. Also, being a professional dog trainer means that I’ve seen too many bad things happen at these impromptu meetings, so I choose to avoid them. I was pleasantly surprised that when other people with dogs, saw me walking my dogs on leash, they leashed their dogs until we had passed.

When out walking your dog please be considerate of other people you encounter.

If you are approaching people without dogs, call your dog to you and leash them until you are safely passed. Of course, some people will indicate that they love dogs and there is no need to leash them. If other dogs are approaching you and they are leashed, it’s always considerate to leash your dog as you pass each other. Practicing common sense when out with our canine friends will ensure that you, your dogs as well as everyone else has an enjoyable outdoor experience.

Denise MazzolaDenise Mazzola

Certified Professional Dog Trainer Denise Mazzola is the owner of Denise Mazzola’s Everything Dog. She has been working with people and training dogs for over 25 years. Everything Dog provides services to clients throughout the Monadnock Region of NH by offering private lessons, group classes, board and train, as well as day training services. Everything Dog offers a 6 day Canine Behavior & Training Academy. Denise and Amy are the East Coast instructors for dog*tec’s Dog Walking Academy. She is also a mentor for Animal Behavior College students and CATCH students. Denise has been published in the trade journal, Chronicle of the Dog, and writes a monthly column for the Monadnock Ledger Transcript. She also hosts a monthly “Ask the Trainer” radio show on WKBK. Denise lives in Keene with her life and business partner, Amy Willey CPDT-KA, and they share their home with two dogs and three grown daughters. For more information, visit

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