Skills & Techniques

How to Be a Responsible Pet Owner

Guest - May 22, 2020

Pets can offer a multitude of physical and emotional health benefits. There is nothing like the unconditional love you receive from your dog after a hard day, and studies have shown that pets can decrease blood pressure, lower cholesterol levels and reduce stress. Having a pet is a ton of fun, but it’s also a lot of responsibility. 

Pets and owners alike enjoy going on walks, runs, and recreating outside. During these uncertain times, it can be confusing what the proper etiquette is while recreating, especially with our furry friends. Here are 3 ways you and your pet can minimize your impacts on the natural world, while also being considerate of others.

Know Before You GoIf you are going to a trail or park, find out what time of day (or week) it is the least crowded. Avoiding popular times can lessen impacts on trails, picnic areas and parking lots, by spreading out visitation over time.

Make sure pets are allowed in the area you are recreating. Rules or laws that don’t allow dogs in certain areas are in place for a reason. It could be to protect a delicate ecosystem, or to give wildlife a little extra room in their habitat. Either way, knowing before you go can make a big difference on you and your pet’s experience.

Pick up Your Pet’s Waste, and Pack it OutIf it was just a handful of pets pooping in our parks and trails it might not be a big deal, but over 63 million households in the US have dogs which means millions of dogs are visiting, and pooping in, our shared spaces each year. That is why we encourage you to pack out your pet’s waste.

Pet waste holds a variety of parasites, bacteria, and other diseases, and is considered an environmental pollutant and health hazard. Unlike the waste of wild animals where you are recreating, pet waste will most likely consist of things that are not a natural part of the ecosystem, since the most common ingredients found in dog food will not be naturally occurring in the environment around you. Even if your pet is eating an all natural diet of native flora and fauna, feces can be a primary method of disease transmission, and can get into our waterways during rain events.

Don’t want to carry the bag? Make your dog do it! Check out this video on clever ways to have your dog pack out its waste, so that you never forget it again!

Keep Your Dog on a Leash

Running down a trail with an off leash dog can be a magical experience, unless it’s not your dog, then it can be very scary. We know our pets, but others don’t and won’t be sure how your dog may interact with them or their pet. Research has shown that off-leash pets in public outdoor spaces can be a recreational impediment for many outdoor enthusiasts. Stick to rules and regulations in your area, and keep your dog on a leash wherever it is required. 

While we are doing everything we can to prevent the spread of COVID-19, it is more important now than ever to keep your dog on a leash. Petting, snuggling or being licked by a dog you see on your walk at the park is no different than shaking their owner’s hand. And research has found that dog owners who keep their dog on a leash are more likely to pick up their poop! Even in areas where dogs are allowed off leash, if it is an especially crowded public area consider keeping your pet on a leash until you find a less crowded space- which comes back to knowing before you go! This will help you and your pet practice safe physical distancing. Our pets are our best friends, and the best way to be considerate of others and keep our pets safe is to keep them on a leash whenever necessary.

Enjoy Your World and Leave No Trace!


By the Subaru/Leave No Trace Teams. For over 20 years these teams have provided tangible solutions to serious issues facing our outside space and reach over 15 million people every year. Learn more about this important Leave No Trace work here.




Let’s protect and enjoy our natural world together

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