Leash Your Dog in the Woods

We all have pet peeves, no pun intended.

Confessions, one of my biggest pet peeves about the outdoors…people who do NOT leash their dog. I’ve heard all the reasons and arguments as to why they don’t, but it still will not sway my thinking.

Shenandoah National Park was our weekend destination for Easter this year. On Sunday morning as we hiked along the Appalachian Trail we were “thanked” more than once for having Gus on a lead. One hiker told us a short story of how she watched someones dog off lead chasing dear across Big Meadow. Of course I wasn’t there to see the event occur but I found myself feeling annoyed and bothered it happened. The deer were most likely minding their own business. In the meantime, someone decided to let their dog off leash roaming and running free as if the National Park were their house. I’d like to think in the back of my mind those deer, after running away, thought to themselves, “dam dog and it’s owner think this place is their house.”

Ok, so before I go off on a rant too much, let me stink to the point.

Reasons for leashing your dog.

It’s the law – National and State Parks require by law for pet owners to leash their dog/s. (it’s that simple)

7PrinciplesLeave No Trace – By allowing your dog to roam free it disrupts the natural order of land and it’s conservation. National and State Parks throughout the year have portions and sections roped off for land management and it’s illegal for anyone to walk in those areas or risk a fine. This same rule applies to your dog. And YES, for all my Pennsylvania dog lovers, this same rule applies to PA State Game Lands. Please practice Leave No Trace.

Pennsylvania State Park pet rules


Dogs can potentially carry diseases that could affect the park’s wildlife. Unvaccinated dogs could spread diseases to park wildlife. Unfortunately, not all pet owners are responsible about keeping their dog’s vaccinations up to date.

Dogs can unknowingly threaten wildlife, scaring birds and other animals away from nesting, feeding, and resting sites. The scent left by a dog can signal the presence of a predator, disrupting or altering the behavior of park wildlife. Small animals may hide in their burrow the entire day after smelling a dog and may not venture out to feed.

Unfamiliar sights, sounds, and smells can disturb even the calmest, friendliest, and best-trained dogs, causing them to behave unpredictably or bark excessively. Domesticated dogs are descended from wolves, and their instincts can take over in a situation where they feel threatened or frightened.

Pets may become prey for larger predators such as coyotes, mountain lions, and bears in some of the larger wilderness parks.Additionally, if a dog disturbs and enrages a bear, it may lead the angry bear directly to the owner. Dogs can also encounter insects that bite and transmit disease, and plants that are poisonous or full of thorns and burrs.

Historic structures, archaeological sites, and sacred grounds are no places for dogs.Fido could unknowingly damage historic buildings or artifacts, disturb important archaeological sites, and walk over or relieve themselves in places that are sacred to Native Americans and other groups.

* Not everyone is a “dog person.” In fact, some people are afraid of dogs, and 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. (National Park Traveler)

I know these reasons seem simple, that’s because it simply takes common sense. When out in public or on a hike in the woods, leash your dog.


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