TRAIL ETIQUETTE - Learn Responsibility!

As professional dog walkers we have had years of experience with all kinds of breeds and temperaments, and would like to be able to pass some of this on to you.  A few of our recommendations are below:

1.  Always, always, carry treats with you.  Show your dog the treats at the beginning of the walk. Ask him/her to do something like "Come", then reward him/her right away.  Do this a couple of times as you begin your hike.  You will be amazed at the response.  Some of us also use a clicker (obtainable from the Marin Humane Society).  The dogs quickly learn that the sound of the clicker means a treat and will come to you right away.  This is very useful when encountering other people or dogs on your hike - you can quickly get your dog to come to you.

2.  We are working on providing "Mutt-Mitts" and garbage cans at trailheads for dog excrement clean-up.  Meanwhile, always carry plastic bags for cleaning up after your dog (the long bags that newspapers come in, or supermarket produce bags, work just fine).  You can leave the used bag (knotted) at the side of the trail for pick up and disposal on your way back.  

3.  Do you always call your dog to you and stand to one side when you see another hiker coming your way?  You should.  There is no way of knowing how the other person perceives you and your dog(s).  It's safer to assume that they aren't happy to see you, especially if they also have a dog.  You don't want your dog running up to people, jumping and barking.  Turn around with your dog and start walking back the way you came (just for a moment).  Your dog will think you are going back and follow you, enabling you to pull off to the side and give him/her a treat.  At this time you can get your dog to sit, attach a leash and wait till the other person passes by.  This is an example of responsible hiking and others usually really appreciate it.  Practice this over and over, then your dog will learn too.  This routine also works well when encountering equestrians and bikers.

4.  Be conscious of wildlife.  Wildlife are most active in the early mornings and evenings and if at all possible avoid walking during these times.  This is difficult for many, due to work schedules, but if you must walk during wildlife sensitive times LISTEN, LOOK AHEAD AND AROUND YOU.  You can often see wildlife before your dog does.  Watch your dog closely or keep him/her leashed.  NEVER let your dog chase or harm wildlife.  Deer can usually outrun a dog but fawns can get caught during a chase.  NEVER encourage a chase!!  This can mean a huge fine and give cause for tighter leash laws!

5.  If, despite all your efforts, your dog does happen to run off after wildlife, stay at the spot where your dog last saw you.  Call your dog with a loud, confident, but calm voice (not angry).  Usually the dog is nearby and will return to you within a few minutes, once he/she has given up the chase.  Sometimes a dog has been gone for as long as 20 minutes but eventually returns - don't be tempted to go and find him/her but stay put and be patient.
The purpose of this page is to educate you
so that your Open Space experience
is a HAPPY one, for  you and your dog!

Open Space property extends from Novato to Sausalito.  The signs at the beginning of these fire roads and trails usually say "Open Space" and are colored blue and green.  Usually the signs have symbols, i.e. a man walking a dog on a leash.  Although this would appear to indicate that dogs must be on leash, this is not so on fire protection roads.  Dogs are allowed to be off-leash and under voice control in non-sensitive wildlife areas, i.e. fire protection roads, but must always be on-leash on trails, i.e. deer trails and single track trails.  There are several exceptions to this general rule:  The Ring Mountain, Cascade Canyon, Rush Creek and Deer Island preserves are on-leash at all times, which includes fire roads.  It is a requirement that you carry a 6 ft. leash for each dog with you.  The leash-law on trails is being strictly enforced and citations will be issued ... no exceptions!!  So, we don't suggest taking any chances with this.

Some of the fire protection roads are only accessible from certain access points via trails.  This is something we would like to see changed.  If a short stretch of trail leads to a fire protection road nearby it would be nice if that were designated a leash-free area. 
MMWD (Marin Municipal Water District) lands have separate rules and regulations.  MMWD property surrounds the watershed, i.e. all the reservoirs, like Like Lagunitas, Phoenix Lake, etc. MMWD has a long-standing leash law for all its watershed lands and strictly enforces it.  Also MMWD does not allow dogs or other domestic animals to enter lakes or streams.  MMWD areas usually have brown and white signs at the trail-heads.  

By the way there are two different kinds of rangers - Open Space Rangers and Water District Rangers.

Ticks are common in Marin and are most prolific during the rainy season from November through May.  Recent studies have shown that only 1-2% of the western black-legged ticks in Marin County carry Lyme disease.  We strongly recommend that your dog be on a tick prevention program such as Frontline, or a Preventic collar from your vet.  Always check your dog (and yourself) for ticks after a hike.  Ticks like being warm and protected, so pay special attention to areas under your dog's legs, in and around the ears, and eyes.  For information on a non-toxic homeopathic flea/tick collar click here:  


Unlike burrs, which stop at the hair, foxtails can puncture skin in a matter of hours.  In some cases they travel all the way through a dog's body, tearing tissue as they go.  More commonly they stick between the toes or lodge in the ears or nose.  Check your dog thoroughly after a hike in foxtail season, and keep his coat short.  Carefully inspect between toes and around body openings.  If you find even the smallest sliver, be sure to get it out or it may migrate inward.  If your dog begins violent sneezing, pawing at eyes, or shaking or tilting his head, he could have a foxtail embedded in a dangerous place.  Get him to a vet right away.


The death cap mushroom, Amanita Phalloides, comes out in full force once the winter rains start, and is deadly!  Winter 2009 the PETS Emergency Clinic in Berkeley had 3 deaths in 6 days due to mushroom poisoning - all from the Oakland area.  

The mushrooms have a sweet odor (like honey) and are attractive to some dogs (whose owners report they actually seek them out to eat them).  They are really non-descript little white mushrooms.  Here is a link with some pictures, so you know what to look for:

The toxic effects appear about 6-36 hours after the mushrooms are eaten, and once signs are seen the toxicity is poorly responsive to treatment (a lot of things can be tried to support the animal, but if enough mushrooms were eaten it will be fatal despite the treatment).  

If someone suspects their dog may have eaten a mushroom, the best treatment is to take the dog immediately to a vet or emergency clinic and have them induce vomiting and give activated charcoal.  The mushroom toxin is absorbed fairly rapidly, but the damage to the liver can take hours before it is clinically apparent.  Don't waste time trying to figure out if the mushroom is toxic as speed in removing the mushroom from the digestive system is the most important thing.

Always carry a supply of cool fresh water for your dog.

Avoid strenuous exercise for your dog on hot days.  

Do NOT walk your dog on extremely hot days!

NEVER leave your dog in a vehicle on a hot day!  Even with windows open, the temperature in a parked vehicle can reach more than 100 deg.F in a matter of minutes.

Walk your dog in grass or keep pavement walks BRIEF.  Sensitive paws can quickly burn on  hot asphalt!

No doggy days at the beach!  During extremely hot temperatures, your dog would prefer shade to sunshine.

Wait 30-60 minutes after meals before taking your dog for its run.

Add a few ice cubes to a dish of water for a cool, refeshing treat.

Excessive panting, raspy breath and discolored gums are signs of heatstroke.  To treat, get dog to a shady place, cool it with wet towels and call a veterinarian.
"No man can be condemned for owning a dog.  As long as he has a dog, he has a friend; and the poorer he gets, the better friend he has."
--- Will Rogers
"No matter how little money and how few possessions you own, having a dog makes you rich."
--- Louis Sabin

Coolant/antifreeze leaks are sweet tasting and attractive to pets.  But drinking coolant can be fatal.  Use animal-friendly propylene glycol coolant rather than ethylene glycol in your vehicles.  NEVER let your pet drink out of strange puddles!
Visit your veterinarian in the spring, before the onslaught of summer bugs.

Implement an effective flea and tick control program.  This is a must!

An early heartworm detection test and preventative medication will help you avoid "heartache" down the road.
(Formerly Dog Walkers of Marin)
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