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A dog  attacked our dog, Tessa, on our daily hike this morning. I had put Tessa on leash as the hikers approached. But their dog was not on a leash. In fact, the owners did not even have a leash with them.
While the attack dog was obviously well loved, it was clearly out of control.
Tessa and I meet lots of other hikers with dogs on our hikes. And we rarely encounter this sort of incident. Yesterday for instance, we encountered hikers with nine other dogs on this same trail. All of the dogs were well-behaved.
The last time we had an unpleasant incident was two years ago on the Italiano Trail up the Ski Valley Road.
I suspect the owners of todays out-of-control dog were city people. They were unfamiliar to me. And were dressed more for city streets than for the trail.
It’s my experience that locals hike with dogs that have good trail behavior. And that is not an easy accomplishment. Well-trained at home, does not automatically transmute into a well-trained trail dog.
We began training Tessa for good trail behavior when she was six months old. We trained her especially on the Williams Lake Trail because it is so heavily used, often by families with dogs or small children.
We wanted Tessa to learn how to behave around every type of trail situation, especially when seeing other people and dogs.
The most critical part of our training was to allow Tessa to run unleashed when we were alone on a trail and to come immediately when we called her.  We wanted her to come at once, under all situations, and particularly when her attention is caught by something unusual – another dog, an animal, whatever.
We of course, always carry a leash handy to leash her when we encounter other people with small children or dogs.
Three things Tessa must always do on the trail – for the comfort of other dogs, and especially small children.
  1. She must come when she is called. Instantly.
  2. She must not jump up on anyone who she meets. Never! Not even those who would like her to show that sort of enthusiasm.
  3. She must only greet other dogs with our permission. And on leash. We don’t want to hear other people say, “Our dog is friendly. It’s OK.” We want our dog under our control.  And we expect others to have theirs under their control as well. I must say, locals almost always have their dogs trail trained in this way.
We are very fortunate to have an excellent dog trainer here in Taos who is especially expert in traning dogs for the trail. We re-enforced Tessa’s trail training at community classes with Delinda Vannebrightyn.
Her community classes are inexpensive, perfect for teaching owner and dog trail etiquette. And they are very enjoyable for both dog and owner. Delinda is a great problem solver as well.
Take a look at her site.
By the way, my book Backpacker & Hikers' Handbook has a great chapter on hiking with dogs.

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