On a trail, to leash or not to leash?

Few issues get hikers more stirred up than what to do about dogs on trails.

The recent hub-bub (ado? fever?) about the proposed new rules to tighten leash rules in some of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area is a perfect example. The rules would require that dogs be on leashes in areas of the park where they can now run around, and they would be off-limits entirely in many other areas where they are now permitted. For the next three months, the federal government is asking people to comment on the proposed rules, and this being the Bay Area, the commenting – at least on discussion boards, blogs and trails – has been hot and heavy already. And there will be a handful of public meetings in the first week of March where you can show up and discuss it.

I’ve seen dogs on trails many times, sometimes as part of my hiking group and sometimes from other folks. Generally, they’re a positive part of the experience, and I like having them around. For one thing, they scout out what’s ahead, either by running back and forth on the trail or sniffing around and alerting us if there are snakes or other animals around. Also, it’s probably a great outing for the dogs, many of whom are stuck in apartments or small houses for much of the time. I can see though why some aren’t too happy to see them on the trails, especially unleashed. I’ve been biking a few times and nearly gone way off the trail to avoid colliding with a four-legged friend, and if I were to be on a horse, I’m not sure how pleased I would be to see an unleashed dog come bounding toward me. I suppose it also kind of depends how much you mind the presence of others – people and canines alike – when you’re wandering up some hill, escaping from the world.

But I’m not a dog owner so I can’t say I have the strongest feelings about this, one way or the other. Plenty of people do, though. What do you think – are dogs – unleashed or leashed? – a good idea on hiking trails? Comment below, if you want.

Here’s a link to the formal rules.

Click here for the news story on the proposed dog rules.