Must I Leash my Dog when Trail Running/Hiking?


This picture is of Hans & Hazel, brother and sister labrador retrievers.  Let me start this post by saying that this picture shows my goal each day…to have them absolutely exhausted when it is bedtime!  Anyone that has parented labs under 4 years old knows they need lots of exercise AND they need to run because walking for them is really not enough.

I am a runner and as I have gotten older with joint overuse I limit myself to trail running because pounding pavement no longer works for me.  If I could still run on a sidewalk/street with one dog I could probably run with them on a leash.  My issue is that I have two which together add up to 130 lbs of sheer force if they see something they want to go after.  Yes, I could exercise them one at a time, but who has time for that?  Definitely not me!

So yes, I run trails with them off-leash.  Now, before you get angry please know that I try to do this as respectfully as I can.  I run on weekdays or very early on weekends.  Normally the only people I see on the trails are other runners with dogs off leash. We kill two birds with one stone – exercise our dogs and get our running “high.” In addition, as a female, I know that I should NEVER run alone even here in the mountains.  It is not safe and my watchdog, Hans, is a necessity.  I do know some women who do, but that is another blog for another time.

If I decide to go on a popular hike on a fall weekend at 11:00 AM then of course I leash them.  And typically even when running at non-populated times, I will carry a leash just in case I see someone or to rein them in once they fatigue.  BTW, my run is like their walk which is another reason they need to be off-leash when exercising.

There are places surrounding Asheville…Bent Creek Forest, Game lands where leashes aren’t required.  But all of the National Parks and Blue Ridge Parkway lands require leashes.  However, many people break these rules.  Some respectfully and some not so much.  I have found that by far the majority of dogs with runners are wagging their tails and are very friendly.



A few of my individual experiences of mine include:

  • My dog finding a man hiding in a duct and warning me.
  • Hans growling for the first time ever at a man he felt was a threat – carrying a paper bag, smoking, clearly not exercising on the trail.
  • My former lab, Cocoa chased off a pack of 4 wild coyotes.
  • Bears just run away when they see my dogs

Some food for thought on restraining dogs vs socializing them…

“Leash aggression is an extremely common behavior issue faced by many dog-loving owners.”

Leash Aggression

Here’s my take on Invisible fences:

“A 10 week old terrier mix puppy that refuses to go outside. A year old hound that bites three visitors on their faces within a two-week period. A 10-year-old, happy-go-lucky Golden Retriever who mauls the mailperson. What do all of these dogs have in common? They were all contained within electric fencing systems”

Electric Fencing

“The Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association reported that 17% of dogs involved in fatal attacks on humans between 1979 and 1998 were restrained on their owners’ property at the time of the attack, and the book Fatal Dog Attacks states that 25% of fatal attacks were inflicted by chained dogs of many different breeds.”

Chaining Dogs




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