One of the endearing qualities of the Little Miami Scenic Trail is that it is a multipurpose trail, able to be enjoyed by so many people in diverse ways. This diversity of use can also create challenges which require give-and-take among various trail users. One activity, dog walking, which combines human use with that of a tail-wagging sidekick, comes with its own unique set of such challenges. Both dog walkers and other trail users bear responsibilities to ensure that everyone, humans and animal friends inclusive, can use the trail safely.
For their part, dog walkers should follow appropriate etiquette including the following:
1. Obey the trail rule, instituted by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), which requires that pets must be on a leash no longer than 6 feet. Now, six feet seems to be awfully restrictive and it is, but there’s a good reason for this rule. The trail itself is narrow, and requiring a short leash ensures that a dog does not stray into the path of other trail users. If your dog needs greater freedom of movement, find another venue.
2. Control your dog and train your dog not to bark, lunge at or sniff other trail users. Not everyone is comfortable around dogs.
3. If need be, move your dog to the side of the trail and command it to sit while other users are passing. Doing so signals to other trail users that it is safe to pass and prevents your dog from getting overly excited or scared.
4. Clean up after your dog as a common courtesy and dispose of doggy waste responsibly.
For their part, trail users who approach dog walkers should exercise caution and adhere to the following etiquette:
1. Announce your presence in advance, giving the dog walker time to take appropriate actions with their dog before you pass.
2. When passing, be defensive. Slow down and be ready to react in case the dog veers in front of you. (Unfortunately, many trail users fail to obey rule #1 above, either walking their dog on a long leash or, even worse, unleashed.) Only execute the pass when you are completely sure you can do so safely.
3. Do not approach a dog (no matter how adorable) without first asking the owner’s permission.
The allure of the Little Miami Scenic Trail lies not only in its natural beauty, but also in its diverse users and uses. By following a few basic principles of mutual respect, trail users, including dog walkers and others they encounter, can enjoy the trail together and safely.
by Erick Wikum