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Proper etiquette needed for pooches on trails

Owners should know how to be courteous to other users, supervising ranger says
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
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Local trails can be a place to connect with nature but have also been the site of conflicts when animals and humans sometimes get too close. Frequent trail rider Luanne Thomas and State Parks ranger Scott Liske both say they have seen and heard of their share of scary situations involving unleashed dogs. Liske, supervising state park ranger for the Auburn State Recreation Area, said there have been a number of incidents over the years involving dogs, horses and cyclists conflicting in the Folsom Lake and Auburn State Recreation Area, including one where a dog chased a horse down Foresthill Road. The dog owner has never come forward. Thomas said as an employee at a local farm and feed store, she has heard horror stories, including of a time when a horse tumbled down a canyon wall because an unleashed dog attacked. That’s why Liske and others hope that as the weather warms and local residents are hitting the trails, they keep in mind safety when bringing along a canine companion. Victor Rogo, owner of K-9 101 dog training, who has been training dogs for 38 years, said California law states that all dogs must be on a six-foot leash in public. “It is the safest thing for your pet to be on a leash,” Rogo said. Rogo said although owners believe dogs should be allowed to roam and smell, this lets dogs feel they are in control, which should not be the case. Even on a leash, a dog should know who is in charge. “We should be the leader, not them,” Rogo said. “If the dog’s front leg is even with your front leg, you are the leader. But if a dog’s front leg is even with your toe, they are the leader. It’s not much of a difference, but to the dog it’s the world.” When exploring the trails and meeting other dogs, there are several important things to remember to prevent conflict, Rogo said. “Whenever you pass another person with a dog on a leash, you should pass person to person, not dog to dog,” he said. “The friendliest dog could not like this particular dog. The friendliest dog could think this dog could hurt you, who they are supposed to protect.” Rogo said this should be the case for every person or other animal on the trails, including horses. “The best thing to do is keep moving,” Rogo said. “Don’t let the dog stop you. If you stop because the dog is afraid, the dog is controlling the situation.” Rogo said when owners want their dog to interact with another on the trail, they always get permission first, because it’s never obvious how another dog will react. “Don’t allow the leash to go out and greet another dog until you have OK’d it with that dog’s owner,” Rogo said. “I’m not going to walk up and give your child a Snickers if they are allergic to peanuts. I’m going to say, ‘Oh, they are allergic to peanuts? I have a Milky Way right here.’ That’s just the right way to do it.” Rogo said retractable leashes are also not good for controlling dogs, because it’s not as easy, so a typical six-foot leash is preferable. Liske said owners need to evaluate how to control their dogs responsibly before heading out on the trail. He said he understands it’s difficult to leash a dog while on a horse, so riders should think before bringing a canine along. “I think it’s a responsibility of all the user groups … to evaluate do you really need your dog with you, and if you do then (think about) how can you be a good trail user, and that’s going to be having a leash,” he said. Liske said there are consequences when rangers come upon dogs not on leashes, including a $250 citation with added court costs. “It’s not worth the hassle to get the citation, and have to make the appearance in court and pay the fine,” he said. “It’s just easier to have your dog on a leash, and I usually make a point to say thank you to people who have their dogs on a leash.” Jim Ferris, who sits on the board of directors for the Auburn Area Recreation and Parks District and is an avid hiker, said he thinks dogs are fine on trails as long as the leash law is followed and it is an appropriate trail for a dog. “When I hike … and lead hikes and go on hikes that are lead by others, I believe that the right policy is for anybody going on a group hike to have the courtesy to ask the leader if dogs are appropriate or permitted,” Ferris said. “Because a group leader … has the obligation to say, because they know where they are going, this is an appropriate trail for dogs or an inappropriate trail.” Thomas, who works at Echo Valley Ranch, said she’ll ride her horse with her dog off leash, but she is cautious. “I’ll ride with a dog, but I’m careful,” Thomas said. “On the weekends when it’s busy I don’t take him.” Thomas said although she knows of a couple incidents where dogs have attacked horses on the trails in the past, in her experience people seem to respect each other. “Most riders are actually quite courteous with their dogs, and people out there are courteous with their dogs,” she said. Thomas said because of wild animals, it usually makes a horse feel more at ease to have a dog with it on the trails. Thomas said it makes her feel more comfortable to see dogs on leashes when she is riding her horse. “It’s always good as a rider to see that a dog is on leash,” she said. “It makes you feel a little bit better. I’m always happy when the people are courteous. For the most part everybody is polite out there. The main thing is everyone has to get along on the trail.” Reach Bridget Jones at bridgetj@goldcountrymedia.com ------------------------------------------------------ K-9 101 Obedience Training Classes run through the summer for the beginner and intermediate sessions at Ashford and Meadow Vista parks. Instructor: Victor Rogo Information: Visit auburnrec.com or K-9-101.com Call: (530) 88K9-101 or (530) 885-8461 Cost: $105 resident, $110 non-resident