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Dog Etiquette 101

‘Tails and Trails’ addresses proper canine behaviors

Keeping dogs — and people — happy on trails is the purpose behind Wednesday’s “Tails and Trails” talk. This happy dog is Lulu. (Journal photo by Christie Bleck)

MARQUETTE — You see a large dog barreling down at you on a trail while you’re walking your small, timid dog.

Or you come across a large pile of canine feces.

These make for a less-than-wonderful trail experience.

Dog etiquette was the focus of Wednesday’s latest installment in the Noquemanon Trail Network Singletrack’s Trail Talk Series. It was appropriately titled “Tails and Trails.”

Leading the session was Lindsay McWebb, a resident of Ishpeming Township, an owner of 13 dogs and a skijorer — a cross-country skier pulled along by a dog.

Lindsey McWebb discusses dog etiquette on trails during Wednesday’s “Tails and Trails.” The event was part of the Trail Talk series. (Journal photo by Christie Bleck)

McWebb acknowledged not having an official certification regarding canines, but has been handling and working with dogs, specifically for dog-powered sports such as skijoring, for about 10 years.

“The other thing that I like to really work on with people is dog behaviors, being responsible on the trail and being active with your dog,” McWebb said.

Along with a number of harnesses participants could try out with their dogs, she brought along her dog Lulu, a greyster, to Wednesday’s Trail Talk.

“She has been bred specifically for pulling,” McWebb said. “She looks a lot like a German short-haired pointer.”

So, Lulu made for a good demonstration dog.

However, regardless of the dog breed a person owns, McWebb believes responsibility is key; people with dogs are responsible to the animals and the community to make sure that not only are their dogs healthy and safe, but that their dogs aren’t going to be at risk for hurting others as well.

McWebb pointed to a dog brought to the event — a small, well-behaved Cavalier King Charles spaniel.

“Who wouldn’t love this cute little dog, right?” McWebb asked. “There are a lot of people out there that don’t love cute little dogs. There are a lot of people that either have allergies or they’re just really not interested, and they’re like, ‘I don’t want your dog to approach me.’

“While we can’t understand that as dog people, it still needs to be respected.”

That’s one of the problems with loose dogs on the trail, she said.

“Some people are really afraid of dogs and we have to be really mindful of that,” McWebb said, “and while we know and understand our dog’s behavior, other people may not.”

She stressed dogs have been bred for particular purposes, and that never really goes away.

Again, McWebb used the Cavalier King Charles spaniel, a breed raised to be a companion dog.

Other breeds are herding dogs, which can be problematic when encountering bicyclists.

“They like to chase them, and then those are some of the ones that are going to go and bite the ankles,” McWebb said.

She believes owners need to address that innate behavior.

“It is our responsibility to have a good understanding of our dog and its background so that we can be aware of that potential behavior, and we can help prevent some things from occurring,” McWebb said.

One option available to trail hikers with dogs is the use of a pulling harness, which McWebb noted allows people to pull in their dogs when other dogs quickly come up to them.

She said they also can be used in the presence of bicyclists on the trail.

“I have a lot more control now with my dog, so I am a big fan of using harnesses whether you’re just walking or whatever,” McWebb said.

Michigan law requires dogs be on a leash in public, with one exception being dogs on a hunt accompanied by the hunter.

McWebb said female dogs in heat have to be leashed while hunting.

“As these trails keep growing and the people keep using them and there’s more activity, while that’s really good, all of a sudden you’re going to have to start managing animals in another way,” McWebb said, “and if all of us dog people aren’t responsible about it, there’s a lot of places that all of sudden, dogs aren’t allowed.”

She also believes dogs perform better when they know what’s expected of them — such as being in a harness.

So, she urged dog owners to be responsible — and that includes picking up dog feces.

“Dog poop is similar to human feces,” McWebb said, “and it’s nasty.”

So, why is it OK for bear scat to be in the woods, but not dog poop?

A bear’s natural diet, such as berries, goes back into the environment.

“Dogs poop in the woods just like any other animal,” McWebb said. “However, dogs are the only animals eating dog food out of a bag pooping in the woods.”

McWebb said people who let their dogs defecate in the woods could introduce many different bacteria and substances that aren’t in the natural environment.

“Now take that and put it by a water source,” McWebb said.

Again, dog owners have to do their part by picking up their dogs’ feces and taking it out of the area, she said. In her case, she uses plastic bags from grocery stores and wrapping them around a carabiner to keep her hands free.

Sarah Hagerl, an NTN trail ambassador, watched Wednesday’s Trails Talk.

“These trails are for everyone, and dogs are family, so that means the trails are for them too,” Hagerl said. “It is important for everyone to be responsible to leave no trace and to keep each other safe and accountable — dogs, hikers and bikers alike.

“Please educate yourself and your fellow pet owners and trail users on how to have the best trail experience.”

The next Trail Talk event, “The Way of the Compass Rose,” will begin at 6:30 tonight at the NTN Forestville Trailhead in Marquette Township, the subject being the use of map and compass to navigate new terrain.

“Speak for the Trees” is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the NTN Singletrack Trailhead off M-553. That event will focus on threats to natural resources.

“BLP and Me,” which is set for 6:30 p.m. Sept. 6 at the NTN Singletrack Trailhead, will touch on the Marquette Board of Light and Power, and hydroelectric power in the area.

The events are put on by NTN Singletrack and sponsored by Travel Marquette.

Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250.