It’s finally hiking season again, and if you’re like us, you’re probably mapping out some trails already. But before you hit the trails, one Reddit user has sparked quite the debate — asking hikers not to hike with their pooches off-leash.
The Reddit user posted a photo in r/Hiking that illustrates why it isn’t okay to walk your dog off-leash.
“’It’s okay! My dog is friendly’” the sign reads. “No! No! It’s not okay! Just because your dog is friendly doesn’t mean other dogs are, some may be nervous, reactive, fearful, in training, or owned by people who want to be left alone.”
The Redditor accompanied the post by saying, “just leaving this here before you all take your dogs hiking off-leash.”
It’s a good reminder as the hiking season gets underway. While a dog out in nature may not seem like a problem, it can actually have an impact on the environment. One of the most obvious impacts is stress — or worse — on wildlife.
Off-leash dogs may chase other animals. “Some dog owners will characterize that as, ‘oh they’re just having a bit of fun,’” Mike Weston, a conservation biologist at Deakin University in Australia, told Discover Magazine. “But if we can put ourselves in the wild animal’s perspective […] if it doesn’t mount an effective escape, it’s probably dead or injured, right?”
When wildlife use up large amounts of energy fleeing from another animal, it can make it harder for them to find shelter, food, and rest. Continued stress for wildlife can even negatively impact their reproduction, growth, and immune systems.
But your pup’s safety is also a concern. Not only can wildlife turn on your dog, but so can hunters. Hunters may mistake an off-leash animal with a wild one. Some areas also allow hunters to set animal traps that could seriously harm a dog.
Finally, many parks with hiking trails have special conservation areas, fragile plant wildlife, or reconstruction areas. Letting an animal loose in these areas can be detrimental to the environment.
The post has garnered more than 7,000 upvotes and a couple hundred comments, mostly in support of the OP’s viewpoint.
“[Yeah it] sucks when I have random dogs just run up to me.” one person commented. “Thankfully they have been friendly but the odds won’t always hold. I keep my trekking poles ready or even my hand on my bear spray, especially if I don’t see the owner.”
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