Scootering, biking or carting on bicycle trails and other multi use trails requires that good K9 etiquette be practiced. Keeping together as a group is one of the first rules to follow. Consider yourself as part of a larger team and keep an eye on each other. There are plenty of opportunities to run as fast as possible, whether you are on your own or with another person. Enjoy the camaraderie of the group run. This encourages the dogs to be social yet disciplined when on the trail. It also allows for interaction, i.e. learning, to take place between the novices and the more practiced. It can aid in an emergency.
The back of the pack driver knows that someone is up there in front aware of his or her position. All kinds of things can and do go wrong when out running dogs. Scootering or micro mushing is often done in an urban or public environment and requires attentiveness to the surroundings, including all other people in the vicinity. With several people, their dogs, and their vehicles, major obstacles can be created along the trail. We are ambassadors of our sport and it behooves us to pay attention to others on the trails.
Cyclists do not want to have to stop for a dog in the trail, and they are also concerned that the dog might dart out in front of their bicycle. Stop, pull over, and maintain control of your dog. This is reassuring to the cyclist, and creates good energy down the road between these two groups.
Good trail etiquette dictates that all members of the group stay to the same side of the trail, and, when stopped, pull their vehicles off on to the shoulder, along with the dogs, maintaining group cohesiveness. This not only looks good, but also creates the opportunity for talking with people, and demonstrates courtesy and good control of the dogs. Several stops along the way may be necessary to keep the group together. As many of us often run our dogs by ourselves, we are not accustomed to waiting for others, but take this opportunity to run as a team. Keep a good distance between the next musher and be respectful of space. Tandem running works better on a crowded bike trail but side by side running is fun and works fine in a more open environment.
Pet dogs are another obstacle that the micro musher often encounters along the trail. Again, be proactive and take the initiative to stop and get your dog under control. At least our dogs look good, if that pet dog comes over and starts a ruckus. One can always ask the pedestrian to please leash their dog or to keep their dog back as your dog is working. Expect conflict and be prepared for it.
If you choose to have your dogs be social and do the sniffing around thing, at least keep good control so there are no tangles with the scooter. Allow yourself plenty of room when parked so that your dogs are not drifting around interacting with another driver’s belongings. Scooter dogs know that treats come out of the pack and will be looking at other dog’s resources. Be aware of eye contact between dogs. This is often the beginning of aggressive behavior.
Sharing the trail with horses is common, at least here in WA. Again, pull your dogs off on the shoulder, and keep a firm grip until the horse has passed. Let the rider know that you will let them pass, or, if you need to pass the horse and rider, call out ahead and walk, not ride, as you on by the animal.
Meeting up with others and running dogs together can be great fun, but does require some forethought and vigilance along the trail.
(As seen in LineOut Issue 07 2008)