Guidelines: owners responsibility & etiquette for dogs

Etiquette for dogs and their people

Owners responsibility
As a dog owner walking or hiking with your dog, you have an responsibility to manage your dogs actions. -- Rules for dogs vary by city, county and state, sometimes from one land agency to another. No matter where you are with your dog, it's up to you to make sure your dog behaves calmly and can respond to voice control - this means that your dog will come when called. Even in areas that designate dogs are allowed off leash, your pet should always be under voice control. If your dog does not come when called, you should keep your dog on a leash! And no matter where you are going, you should always bring your leash with you.

Obey the rules specific to each area and trail
Most Missouri cities, counties and trails that allow dogs, require dogs to remain on-leash. Some Missouri trails are closed to dogs. Check online, or with the land manager before you leave home or consult the signs at the trailhead.

Yield the right-of-way
-- To hikers, bikers, etc. When dog owners meet other hikers, the dog and owner must yield the right-of-way, stepping well clear of the trail to allow other users to pass.

-- To horses. When dog meets horse, the dog owner must first yield the trail. Make sure the dog stays calm, refrains from barking and doesn't move toward the horse. If possible, move to the downhill side of the trail (so you don't look big) and hold your dog close until the horse is well past.

Dog poop
Leave no trace. That means, pick up and carry out, or bury your dogs' poop. The only poop visible should be from the animals who live there. Consider packing a trowel and bury the waste as you would your own, or better yet, pack it out in a bio-biodegradable baggie.

Be courteous to other trail users
You may have the nicest dog in the whole world, but other people don't know that. All they see is a dog, sometimes a big dog, come careening up a hill or around a curve. They think: Is it friendly? How is it going to react to meeting my dog? My kids? Where are the owners? Keeping your dog on leash is especially important on busy trails and ones frequented by families with children. From a childs perspective, dogs can appear very big. A frightening encounter with a dog on trail can lead to a life‐long fear of dogs or of hiking.

Respect the wildlife
There are few dogs that have the self control not to dart off after creatures who live in the woods. A leash protects these critters and makes sure your dog doesn't get lost or hurt dashing off after them. If your dog encounters and corners an animal a fight could ensue. Many areas are designated protective animal preserves. Check online, or with the land manager before you leave home or consult the signs at the trailhead.

Protect the vegetation
Dogs, no matter how well trained, are not as mindful of fragile plants as hikers are. This can be the case on trail, when dogs veer off into the trees or romp in the meadow while bounding ahead of their owner. But it is particularly true at the hiking destination, especially lakes, when you stop to rest. These places usually get more impact from hikers anyway, and dogs simply compound that. The higher you travel, the more fragile the vegetation gets. So please, keep a close eye on your pets in these locations.

Keep your dog safe
There are a lot of natural hazards out there ‐ cliffs, sharp rocks, boulders, rivers and creeks to cross, wild animals. An off‐leash dog is more likely to be hurt off‐leash than on‐leash. Or get lost. It's a wild country out there and a dog can easily lose its way. And speaking of hazards, watch for broken glass and barbed wire fence too.