Alaska Dog Works Leave No Trace Loving your dog in the outdoors

Leave No Trace: Loving the Outdoors with your Dog

Alaska Dog Works Leave No Trace

Loving the Outdoors with Your Dog

If you are a fan Alaska Dog Works you know that we talk a lot about our Adventure Dog Club that we developed. It is sort of like boy or girl scouts for you and your dog. It is a way to get out and enjoy the great outdoors and do fun things with your dog and even earn some very cool patches along the way. This all allows you to continue loving the outdoors with your dog!

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If you are an outdoor enthusiast, you probably know and abide by the seven Leave No Trace Principles but did you know that there is a whole other set of guidelines for heading into the great outdoors with your furry friend? That is what we are talking about today on the podcast. If you haven’t already, head over to our website and search for adventure dog in the search bar. I bet it is something that you will find super cool!

My husband and business partner, Robert are avid outdoor enthusiasts. Not only do we live in Alaska and we are dog mushers, but Robert has his master’s degree in outdoor leadership and sports management. We literally spend our days enjoying the great outdoors with dogs. Did you know that many people—hundreds in some cases–use the same trails and parks every day. Here in Alaska one of the most popular hiking trails is Flattop. Its proximity of downtown means that on a weekend day you may see a hundred or more people heading up and down and many with their dogs. Before we jump into all of this, I ask you to stick around until the end of the show and we will give you some Hiking with Dogs Etiquette Tips.

All of this has quite the impact on the environment. In 1990, the United States Forest Service in conjunction with the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), developed a set of outdoor ethics promoting conservation in the outdoors with the aim of keeping wild areas as natural as they were found and preserving natural recreation areas for generation to come.

Most outdoor enthusiasts have heard of the Leave No Trace principles and are pretty good at following the principles themselves. However, many people that hike with dogs don’t often think about the impact their furry hiking companions can have on the environment.

A dog can have just as much, or more, of an impact on vegetation, wildlife and nature as humans can. Some people see their dog as “just another wild animal” out in the woods but the number of domesticated dogs using on trails in a lot of areas is much greater than the number of wildlife in any given area. That means there are more feet to trample vegetation and poop is produced in a higher rate and amount than the environment can naturally handle. Reduced vegetation leads to erosion and pet waste can wash into lakes and streams, polluting it with bacteria and potentially making people and wildlife who drink it sick.

Bonus: Perfect leash for hiking with your dog

There doesn’t have to be any more of an impact when a dog hikes the trail than when an environmentally responsible person does though.

Leave No Trace Principles for Dog Owners

1. Plan ahead and prepare

Research any new trails or parks you are planning to visit and know the regulations regarding dogs. Some areas, like most National Parks, don’t let dogs on trails. Some other areas, like wildlife preserves, might not let dogs inside their boundaries at all. Also know the leash requirements. A lot of places require dogs be on a leash that is no longer than 6 feet, some allow you to use “voice control” and hike with your dog off leash, and a few don’t have any restrictions at all. These rules are meant to protect wildlife and vegetation so know what they are and follow them.

2. Dispose of pet waste properly

Pet waste can make wildlife and people sick. In Glacier National Park, Montana, parvovirus was spread from dogs to wolf-pup populations leading to death amongst the wolves. The default practice is to pick up your dog’s waste and pack it out. It’s true that carrying poop bags in your backpack can get smelly but it doesn’t have to be that way. Placing the poop bag inside of a smell proof Ziplock bag, like a Smelly Proof Storage Bag, will take care of that. If you are hiking for multiple days and can’t pack the waste out, bury it in a small hole dug 6 to 8 inches deep, at least 200 feet from water, camp and trails. Be sure to cover and disguise the hole when finished.

3. Travel and camp on durable surfaces

Just as people, dogs should always stay on the trail. If they are allowed to wander off, they will trample the vegetation, or do worse like dig holes that uproot plants and disturb wildlife habitat. You also can’t keep track of where you pet is “leaving their deposits” and be mindful of scooping the poop. At camp, place a dog bed where you want them to lay when they are not inside of the tent. Also, it’s best to keep your dog from bathing and playing in lakes and streams. Their activity stirs up mud and dirt that can destroy the living and mating habitat of fish and other aquatic creatures.

[bctt tweet=”A dog can have just as much, or more, of an impact on vegetation, wildlife and nature as humans can.” username=”alaskadogworks”]

4. Leave what you find

Don’t let your dog pick up sticks or rocks and carry them with them. You never know if that boring stick or grey rock is part of a cultural site or a rooftop to a critter’s home.

5. Minimize campfire impacts

Your dog won’t be building a fire, of course, but you might be building one to keep them warm. You can eliminate the need for a fire all together by bringing a warm jacket for fido. If you do have to build one, only collect downed wood for fuel and make sure it is 100% out before you leave camp.

6. Respect wildlife

As tempting as it may be for your dog, and as “cute” as it may seem to watch, don’t let your dog chase or harass wildlife. According to the National Park Service, wildlife will become used to a human or horse being present in its’ territory, but not a dog. Your dog might disrupt them during a crucial time like mating season, when they are with their young, or while they are gathering food for the winter. Protecting wildlife also means properly storing your pet’s food so they don’t get habituated to eating “junk food”. Be sure to securely store your pet’s food with yours and don’t leave food out in their dish overnight.

7. Be considerate of other visitors

Believe it or not, not all people like or are comfortable around dogs. A person might be allergic or might have had a bad experience with a dog in the past. Even people who like dogs usually don’t appreciate another strange dog bounding up to them on the trail. The idea here is to enjoy a day on the trail with your dog without impacting other’s enjoyment of the outdoors.

As promised, here are a few quick hiking with dogs etiquette tips. Who knows, we might just do a whole episode on this in the future.

Hiking Tips with Dogs

  • Make sure dogs are allowed on the trail.
  •  Scoop the poop!
  • Yield to other trail users.
  • Don’t let your dog run up and sniff people or other dogs
  • Don’t let your dog be a food bandit

We hoped you enjoyed the show today. Let us know your stories about spending time with your dog in the outdoors. You can follow us on our social channels, just search dog works radio and as always, head over to for more tips and tricks and our Adventure Dog Club.