Letterboxing Code of Conduct
Letterboxing With Pets
Letterboxing with pets—dogs in particular (and in this document I'll focus specifically on dogs)—has many benefits such as protection against bad people that otherwise might do you harm or just for companionship when nobody else is available to letterbox with you.
If you hike with your dog, follow these guidelines to help ensure a happy letterboxing experience:
- Leave No Trace principles apply to pets like they do with people. Your dog should not be allowed to chase wildlife, dig holes, or leave any other evidence that they were ever there after you leave.
- Pick up after your dog. Just as human waste must be properly disposed of to protect against the spread of disease and general yuckiness of stepping on hot, steaming goop, so should dog waste. Picking it up with a plastic bag and packing it out is the easiest and quickest solution, though other options such as burying it (at least six inches deep and well away from water sources) do exist.
- If an area does not allow pets, leave your pet at home!
- Unless an area is provided specifically for dogs to run off-leash, keep your dog on a leash. Most people are okay with extremely well-behaved dogs being off the leash. However, most off-leash dogs are not extremely well-behaved. Your dog is well-behaved if all of the following are applicable:
- Does not jump up on people
- Does not chase birds and other wildlife
- Will not chase or attack other dogs
- Will obey your commands to sit, stay, and so on without you running after it screaming its name
- Stays close to you at all times
- Move to the side of the trail to let others pass. Keeping your dog in a sitting position (if you can!) allows others to pass undisturbed and shows off how well behaved your dog is.
- People hike to enjoy nature, not to listen to your dog bark. Consider leaving your dog behind if your dog is a serial barker.
Approximately 5 million Americans (or 2% of the population) are bitten by dogs each year. Simply telling someone that your dog is friendly is not enough—dogs must be under your control at all times. Do not became that person on the 5 o'clock news that says, "Fido has never done anything like this before!" Of course not, there's always a first time!
Additionally, even a small, friendly dog that likes to jump up on people can knock someone over causing injuries and hardships. And you, as the pet owner, are 100% responsible.
It cannot be stressed enough—unless you have an extremely well-behaved dog, keep it on a leash at all times. It only takes one accident to regret letting Fido run loose.
What to do if you see a dog on the trail
Dogs can be unpredictable and, at times, dangerous. Follow these tips to help ensure you are not the next victim of a dog—especially if it appears one might be on the verge of attacking you:
- Keep a safe distance between you and a dog being walked on a leash
- Ask the owner's permission before approaching a dog
- Do not approach a dog that is barking, snarling, eating, or caring for puppies
- Do not stare a dog in the eyes
- Do not run away from a dog—with four legs, a dog will have no problem outrunning you anyhow. Turn sideways and withdraw slowly
- Put an object such as a tree, bush, or a bench between you and the dog
- Speak softly and gently to the dog
- Stand still or move slowly out of the dog's territory
While bears, snakes, and other woodland creatures get all the fame, it's dogs that are most likely to cause you problems—regardless of whether you own the dog or you happen to see someone else's dog along the trail. Between responsible dog ownership and responsible actions around dogs you come across, every one of these problems is preventable.
And they can even provide security and companionship for those hiking alone—or an opportunity to introduce yourself to that cute guy or girl who has the pet. ;o)
- Code of Conduct Introduction
- Leave No Trace
- Safety: Part I
- Safety: Part II