NJ Hiking: Connect

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I love my dog Orion and I love hiking with him. I know, however, that he can have some bad manners with some other dogs, but not all. He is not dog aggressive, he just has a poor way of showing his enthusiasm to meet other dogs. It's not his fault. It's my fault. I should have spent more time socializing him with other dogs. But he plays nice at dog parks and such when he can meet other dogs face to face. He is so big (a German Shepherd weighing in at 100 lbs) that people can be a little intimidated by him.

On Sunday we went hiking in the Water Gap and had some dog encounters. Before you ask, I do hike him on lead when I know the trail will be crowded. The first encounter was with a smaller dog off lead because his owners lost the leash on their hike. This dog came tearing around a corner at Sunfish Pond when we stopped for lunch and went right up to Orion getting him all worked up. He was  not happy after that. But we did meet a pair of hikers with a pair dogs also off lead and he was perfectly fine meeting them. The last encounter was a couple walking their golden retrievers that we met on the trail right before returning to the parking lot. At that point the trail doesn't allow you much space and you have to walk very close. These folks saw Orion and stopped dead in their tracks. Orion started barking at them and the woman started to panic and scream bloody murder at him. I just tried to walk right past them as fast as possible but it was a bit of a wrestling match.

We also met some hikers without a dog(s) who avoided Orion with a look like I was walking a grizzly bear.

Given all of this, I try to hike during the week. I have a work schedule that gives me rotating weekdays and weekends off. My daughter likes to hike also and her schedule only affords her weekends to hike.

I know there are other dog hikers out there and I would love to hear your experiences and feed back. Orion loves to hike and I love hiking with him.


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I see nothing wrong with letting a dog off leash when that dog is solid on commands, stays on the trail, stays very close and does not chase wildlife - as long as no people or other dogs are around.  Orion has every right to be on the trails with you and it sounds like you are doing it properly.  You can't be responsible for the stupidity of others.  A couple of years ago a friend and I were going up a switchback on a dam in Vermont with our dogs when two dogs coming down the switchback would not let us pass and growled at us.  No owners in sight.  All we could do was stand there and wait until the two men the dogs belonged to eventually came into view and got control of their dogs.  We were horrified that somebody would be that irresponsible but it happens all the time and I am sure this is why a lot of people are put off by large dogs.  Nobody should ever let their dog run up to another dog.  Nobody should ever scream in the presence of a dog - that is one sure way to kick in prey drive.  Although my dog doesn't bother anyone, people don't know that so I always put her in a sit/stay next to me just off the trail and let others pass.  People seem to appreciate that and it makes them feel more comfortable around her (most want to pet her as they pass) so we do it.  I think Orion looks very sweet and not at all intimidating.

Thanks for the response Daniela. I was hoping you would read it because you appear to be a very experienced dog hiker. I enjoy hiking with Orion so much so that my family thinks I like hiking with him more than them. He's just got a flexible schedule like me :-) I do want to see how he would do camping. That will be our next great adventure this summer.

Thanks again! If we run into each other on the trail just remember Orion is a good boy he is just a little too  enthusiastic to meet other dogs sometimes. He means well. :-)


Joe - I agree with Daniela, it seems you are responsible and considerate, and I wouldn't worry too much about the handful of bad reactions. I'm a little perplexed that someone would scream at a dog though - especially when they are also dog owners. And I think Orion looks friendly and not scary.

But we know it's hard when that happens... we used to hike with my brother's dogs before they got too elderly, and both are rescue dogs that had a tough start in life, and had a few social issues because of it. We used to look for less crowded trails just to make it easier, but you run into people regardless.

Bela (a terrier mutt) was fine until she encountered a dog off leash and then she got defensive and freaked out. People would say "oh my dog is friendly, don't worry" etc - and not get control of their dog. So we had to get Bela past them with her being all stressed out. 

Their other dog is part pit bull, and people would be wary of him - you'd get that 'look' as you hike by. It worked out that Dozer actually doesn't care much for hiking (his fave sports are couch surfing and cuddling), so we mainly hiked with just Bela.

And from the other perspective, of hiking w/o dogs... we've had a handful of bad experiences over the years, but it's always been with clueless dogowners... a couple times we've been approached aggressively by dogs off leash and the owners were having trouble getting control.

While trail jogging alone, I heard something run up fast behind me and spun around to find a boxer. The owner finally came wandering down the trail, almost a minute later. While we love animals and adore dogs, some experiences have been not fun.

Once we even thought a dog was lost, as it was running through the brush unleashed and looked hot and thirsty and we hadn't seen anyone around in awhile. We spent some time trying to figure out what we could do for it - when the owners finally rambled down the trail!


I always hike with my dog.  When she meets another dog, she usually growls and snarls at first, which sometimes alarms the other dog owner.  Then after sniffing the other dog's butt, she will then ignore that dog.  However, people misinterpret her initial reaction like she is gonna shred their pooch with her teeth.  Whenever I see another dog approach, I put my dog back on her leash (which actually makes her more aggressive with other dogs) and let the other dog and hiker pass.

Thankfully, she loves all people, so I've never had a problem with her being aggressive towards humans.

She is very well-behaved on the trail unless she spots a deer, and then she is off through the woods like a shot, barking and yapping until she loses the deer and then returns to me, exhausted.

big time dog lover here! they are more then family in this house. when away from home they belong on a leash, sometimes for there own safety. del water gap is a leashed dog area, those are the rules. now dont get me wrong if your dog runs up to me when i am hiking, i will say hello, to the dog then you. im not the ranger so no worries.

however if i walked up the mountain at 4:30 in the am to my tree stand, covering my sent, and being as still and silent as i can for 2+hrs till sunrise. waiting for my selected game to show, and your unleashed dog runs threw my stand and chases my game, effectively ruining my hunt. i will be very upset. i will feel very disrespected, and may use words not fit for most human ears. sounds like the perverbial hiker / hunter conflict. and it could have been avoided if both parties followed the rules, very simple.

just follow the rules of any given area and there will be no worries. no one is above the law, no one is more special then another.

now i have to go pet my dog and give him a treat hes 16 and just lost his sister, he looks lost and he needs me.



we have a dog hiking group but we only hike in areas with NO HUNTING so we wouldnt bother anyones tree stand unless it was of course illegal :)

mostly we hike in harriman where hunting is never allowed and sometimes in north NJ but not in hunting season, and we hike on weekdays almost every day


We take my girlfriend's dog hiking and he can be a little antisocial at times. He's always on a leash when we are out and if I have the leash while we are hiking I just try to keep him distracted an moving when we pass other dogs. It seems to work out pretty well. I'm not really a dog expert but my girlfriend has a lot of experience. I get the impression that there is a lot to how dogs are presented to each other that will affect their interaction. My guess is that some people don't know how to present their dogs to other dogs that might have some quirks. I hope you keep posting some of your experiences as it may help me out as well.


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