There is a reason why many national parks are not enamoured by man’s best friend. Despite their docile nature now that they have been domesticated over thousands of years, dogs are still, at heart, predators; intruders into the haven of flora and fauna. Nevertheless, the past decade has seen some changes, with many parks opening up to dogs, provided that they obey some basic rules to preserve the peace in such sanctuaries.

Wear a Collar and be on a Leash

Although this may sound self-explanatory to most, having your dog under control and not senselessly wandering in a new environment, exploring curiously, is not necessarily a restriction of freedom. Most national parks occupy vast areas of land, and there is very little possibility for your dog to be found if he or she does, unfortunately, get lost. Don’t let it happen. As your pet’s benefactor, you must check that your dog is both comfortable and safe; of course, safety exceeds the comfort aspect. A leash is a most practical and almost effortless way to ensure that your dog is with you, attended at all times. Some hiking trails in national parks nowadays, allow for dogs to roam free, and if you do choose for such allowances in providing more exploration and space for your dog, an extending leash or indeed, a GPS tracker can be placed upon your dog on its collar. Although this may mean that while your dog plays, you can too, a leash works just fine as well.

The Other Basics of Safety

While managers of national parks are worried about the safety of the exotic, native wildlife which dwells there, undisturbed, they also expect visitors to feel welcome and remain safe at all times. And that includes your dog. There are still the basic expectations for your dog to be unharmed, including not being locked within a parked car. This cannot be stressed enough. The lack of air circulation within the vehicle, even in winter when the cars are air-conditioned, can mean that dogs can die of suffocation and heat exhaustion within six minutes. Owners are also still expected to pick up the faeces of their dogs; not only are they blight to the park in terms of their odor and ruining of the landscape, but they also can spread disease, in that they are the ideal nesting spots for bacteria and attract unwanted insects such as flies.

As for respecting the other human visitors within the park, again, leashes are emphasised, so that a tranquil environment can be maintained without any threats or confrontations between dogs. Excessive, ongoing barking is also discouraged. Not only does it disrupt the quieter animals living there, and makes the atmosphere stressful (that in turn, may lead to a population decline due to restricted reproduction cycles because of this stress), but it is also unpleasant for those who just wish for a serene hike in nature. They enjoy the aesthetic appeal of the extensive tracks and the warm feeling of solidarity.

As dog owners, we are often prejudiced by our dogs’ quirkiness and undying love they direct upon us. However, we must still continue to exercise our capacity of rationality and self-awareness, to ensure that members of the public, both humans and other animals alike, are not disrupted in their daily lives, because of the joyful, reckless frolicking of our pets.