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Reader Participation Day: Do Dogs And National Parks Mix?


Last week we had a story about enjoying national parks with your dog, and some "Bark Service" products from Eastern National.

The story made clear that not everyone is a "dog person, that some folks are afraid of dogs, and that it is the responsibility of park officials to provide a safe, enjoyable environment for all visitors, even if they aren’t “dog people.” These rules are in place not only to protect your dog, but to protect you and other visitors as well as the environs of the park.

But not all dog owners are always responsible in terms of keeping their dogs on leases, or cleaning up after them.

So, what should the Park Service do? Should it continue to embrace dogs, and levy fines were necessary, or ban them outright beyond parking lots?


Do dogs belong on national park hiking trails? We met Lucy the Jack Russell Terrier, Howie and Robbie, a couple of Welsh Corgis, and others on the trails of Acadia National Park, and found pets and owners all responsible.

Read our recent blog post about how Acadia is one of the few national parks allowing pets on hiking trails, and what's allowed and what's not, in the Northeast's only national park:


Having worked in parks for many years I have observed many things about dogs:

* They love to be outdoors

* They love to run free

* They are much stronger than any leash you can buy

* They don't always want to come when you call

* They are fast

* They poop proficiently

* Many of them are smarter than their owners

* Some dogs are not as mean as their owners

* Some dogs and their owners are really nice

I like what Yellowstone says about pets. Go to their website and look it up. Not only do they give you information about where pets are allowed and where they are not, but they give you good, solid reasons why. Over the years I have had some of my most heated exchanges with guests who had dogs off their leashes. One lady told me and another ranger recently that she likes to go to one particular park near ours to walk her dog off-leash because she has only once seen a park police officer over there! It didn't matter that the park and the county both have leash laws that she is breaking. She wanted to brag about it to two law enforcement rangers! (I did notify the ranger in the other park to be on the lookout for her) Unfortunately this is a prevalant attitude about almost anything these days. "If I don't get caught it's ok". No it's not; it is still illegal. And I can't tell you how many times pet leash violators have told me I should be looking for real crimes being committed and leave the pet owners alone.

Some parks have begun to have special "pet or doggie" days. This could be a good idea. One or more days a year when pets can be taken on the trails with their owners. Post it on the park's website so all future visitors can see when that will be and can plan not to be in the park if they don't like pets or not take their children if they choose. Just one idea that works in some areas.

I am not against pets in parks. I just think they should be limited to front country areas like Yellowstone does and I wish pet owners would be more responsible (some are) and law abiding.

I'm a dog lover and a motorcycle rider. For the sake of others, I do not expose either of my indulgences to others in the National Park. Motorcycles are loud and can be heard far into the backcountry and dogs are simply a nuisance in the backcountry and elsewhere, mostly because of their owners lack of respect for other people. It is a shame the irresponsibility of others, but that is the way it goes. Yes, there are responsible dog owners, but most all will let them off leash when the coast is clear. I've had them come at me on trails, in campsites and elsewhere because they are out of their element and become very over protective of their owners. Here in the smokies, we encounter hunting dogs that have been let loose miles from the park. They are emaciated and will follow you for days. Talk about a nuisance!

This will always be debated for many reasons. I have dogs that I clean up after, leash and spend a great deal of time training and traveling with. I plan to camp with my 2 sons and our dogs this summer. I love Rocky Mountain National Park but will choose the National Forest because there is not one trail available to walk my dogs. I wish you could see the need for families with pets that travel. I am not asking for the use of all trails just a 1-5 mile walk near the camp grounds designated for dog use. It's only common sense to recognize that I am the average family visiting the parks. Yes, bear spray would work and it is wise to carry it for animals and people that attempt to harm you! We always consider it our first line of defense in any dangerous situation. As for dogs being predators, my dog is afraid of the frogs in our Koi pond. I think she would starve to death before killing anything. On the other hand, I think we have a lot of human predators. I have seen more children being unsupervised in the parks than dogs. We have more than 30 years experience visiting the National Parks and I would like to continue but I do travel with our dogs and they are family!

Bear spray works very well on a dog.

I just wish people would keep their dogs off the boardwalks in the geyser basins in Yellowstone, let alone anywhere else. It's scary to have to edge by a big, energetic, unleashed dog on a path you can't step off of that's only three feet wide.

But people do that all the time, endangering not only other people, but their dogs, too.

I wonder how bear spray would work on a dog?

For a perspective from another country, look at how New Zealand's National Parks treat dogs in national parks:

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