One of our favorite things to do with the dogs is to get out for a hike on a beautiful day. It’s good exercise for us all, and when you combine it with fantastic scenery and some off-leash time for Buster … well, there’s really nothing better.
We spent ten days checking out the local scene in Boise, and frankly, we didn’t find much that would make us want to go back. They do have a lovely Greenbelt that runs along the river for 25 miles, but the city itself felt kind of meh – people were not particularly friendly, there wasn’t much going on, and pet friendly activities were pretty limited. The highlight of our trip was finding the trail system at Table Rock – so let’s talk about that!
Table Rock is a few miles southeast of Boise and parking at the Old Idaho State Penitentiary gives you access to the trails. Because it’s a local landmark, we chose the hike to the summit – and with the fall colors just starting to pop, the views did not disappoint.
The rules for pets are pretty generous: dogs can run off-leash if they are not disturbing wildlife or causing a safety concern with other trail users. Dogs must be under their owner’s control, not more than 30 feet away from you at any time, and dog owners must carry a leash and waste bag with them.
Though it’s less than two miles to the top, the climb will definitely get your heart rate up and make your leg muscles burn. Fortunately, once you’re there, you’ll find benches where you can catch your breath and have a look around.
From the parking lot, there are a number of trails to choose from, but if you want to hike Table Rock, my suggestion is to go before the crowds arrive – especially if you want your dog to run off-leash. This is a heavily used trail for runners, site seers, and families. We were back to the car by 11am and the trail was already pretty congested.
Off-leash trails can create a bit of a challenge for us, because our dogs are so different. Buster loves to run, has a solid recall, and does well with other dogs when he’s off-leash. Ty is basically the opposite – he’s afraid of other dogs and will lunge if he’s approached, and cannot be left off-leash because it would be the last time we ever saw him.
Living with these two dogs that are so different has given us a unique perspective on how to best handle encounters with other dogs on trails. Here are our suggestions:
- When we meet a dog that is off-leash on an off-leash trail, I assume he’s friendly with other dogs and fine for Buster to approach without asking permission. However, I keep an eye on the body language of both the strange dog and my dog while they meet and stay ready to call Buster to me if need be.
- When we meet a dog that is leashed on an off-leash trail, I don’t let Buster approach without first taking note of the dog’s body language and asking if it’s okay with the owner. Perhaps they’re working on training and would rather not have Buster get too close. Perhaps the dog is scared of other dogs, like Ty is, and just wants to be left to his walk in peace. Either way, I don’t take offense – it’s good practice for Buster to use some self control and let the dog pass without a thorough sniffing.
- When we meet off-leash dogs on a trail that requires leashes, my first reaction is to get angry. These are the trails where I allow myself to relax, because (presumably) any dog-on-dog interactions will be managed at the end of a six foot leash. So, when a dog comes bounding down the trail unfettered, his owner is responsible for stealing my tranquility. I how have to deal with corralling this dog before they get close enough to startle Ty while the owner calls from somewhere down the trail, “Don’t worry, he’s friendly!” My reply is usually pretty snarky and goes something like, “Putting ME in the position of having to control YOUR dog isn’t friendly, and I don’t appreciate it.”
Do you agree, or am I over-reacting? I’d love to hear your tips for dog hiking etiquette – please leave a note and share your experiences in the comments!
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