“If your dog cannot be commanded with ‘come’ and ‘stay’ 100 percent of the time, you should probably not have your dog on a trail,” says Allen Riedel, author and hiking enthusiast. “Most places in San Diego, you have to have your dog on a leash.”
On Wednesday, June 25, Riedel will be at Adventure 16 to discuss his book, Best Hikes with Dogs: Southern California. Riedel has one medium-sized dog — a schnauzer mutt — and one small dog, a Jack Russell/Chihuahua mix.
“When I had them in their best shape I would take them out five days a week on a trail behind my house [in Riverside] for 3 miles and 1000 feet of elevation gain,” Riedel says. “[Then] we could go on a 35-mile hike, and they would be running circles around me at the end of the day. Of course, as soon as we’d get in the car, they would lay down and crash.”
Riedel prefers to take his dogs hiking in places that don’t require leashes, but he says such locations “are getting fewer and fewer.” He thinks lack of etiquette on the part of dog walkers might be contributing to the increasing number of “No Dogs Allowed” signs he encounters. For example, not enough hikers take responsibility for their dogs’ messes. “People really need to dig a cat hole, or they need to bring along bags to clean up after their pets.”
Riedel stresses that owners must always have a leash on hand, even when hiking trails that do not require dogs to be on a leash. “Some people are terrified of dogs — even the thought of a dog coming up to them and sniffing them is horrifying,” he says. “I’ve seen people with their dogs off the leash, and the dog will jump on someone, and even when that person is deathly afraid of dogs, the owner’s, like, ‘Oh, well, that’s just my puppy.’”
Riedel encourages trekkers with canines to go out of their way to assure dog-free hikers that the dog poses no threat. “When people show up on the trail, I leash [my dogs] immediately,” says Riedel. “Then I say, ‘I’m sorry, don’t worry, they’re totally harmless.’ We have to be ambassadors if we have our pets out there.”
Riedel allows his dogs to drink from nearly any water source, which is a hot-button issue among some dog owners. “Some people are horrified when I say that,” says Riedel. “Dogs can get giardia, an intestinal parasite that causes not-very-pleasant stuff to come out both ends. They get it from stagnant water with cattle feces. Giardia is the reason why [authorities] tell humans not to drink water from wherever. Some pet owners are pretty extreme, bringing bottled water for their dogs. When I go hiking, I drink water out of the tap, and that’s what my dogs get too. If they find a stream, it’s fair game. People are, like, ‘Oh my God! What if it gets giardia?’ I say, ‘Well, then I’ll take it to the vet.’ I love my dogs, but I’m not a pet extremist. Things can happen.”
Riedel advises owners to properly condition their dog before taking on a big hike. Dogs should walk on pavement for at least 30 minutes a day, five to seven days a week, before embarking on any trail that is “over three miles in length and with any rockiness in the trail description.” Iron Mountain in Poway, for example — at 5.75 miles with “some rocks” — would not be a good choice for a novice hound.
“If you have your dogs laying around on carpet all day long, when they get out on hard dirt, rocks, and gravel, they are going to cut themselves up. They’ll get cracked or bleeding pads,” explains Riedel. Some pet stores sell booties (which, Riedel explains, are “made from some new nylon, plastic-y, NASA material”) for dogs to wear. “If your dog gets cracked or bleeding pads, you’re going to be carrying your dog out.”
Riedel recommends the Sunset Trail in the Laguna Mountain Recreation Area (between Cuyamaca State Park and Anza-Borrego Desert) for well-trained, beginner-level dogs. This trail is one of the few for which leashes are not required, and, as Riedel writes in his book, “This is a beginning hike that almost any dog should be able to accomplish, even if they are used to laying on the sofa all day long.”
According to Riedel, national and state parks are notoriously unwelcoming of dogs. The Cabrillo National Monument has one small area, the Cabrillo Tide Pools, in which dogs are allowed on leash. In his book, Riedel offers a useful tip for dog owners bringing their pups to Cabrillo: “You may get strange looks and even verbal jostles from some people along the way because you clearly pass a sign when you enter the monument that says, ‘All pets must remain in vehicles.’ Just kindly point them to the visitor brochure that shows where dogs are allowed.”
Best Hikes with Dogs: Southern California (with author Allen Riedel)
Wednesday, June 25
4620 Alvarado Canyon Road
Info: 619-283-2374 or www.adventure16.com