Dog Duties: Reminders on Responsible Dog Trail Etiquette

You’re using every last second getting out on the trails this fall and we’re glad to see it! However, we’ve been hearing more and more from landowners who have allowed for trail access or are adjacent to trails that bad dog owner behavior is an increasing issue. While trails are public and to be enjoyed by all, it is important to remember that the trail easement itself is typically narrow and often the land adjacent to the trail is privately owned. As trail users we have a responsibility to be good neighbors. Consider it the Golden Rule of using trails, treat others the way you’d like to be treated. Imagine that you lived along a trail, what behavior would you want? We know your dog is perfect, so are ours (wink), but we all need a helpful reminder now and again about responsible and respectful pet ownership on trails. Remember, respectful dog owners on the trails make it exceptionally easier for GVLT to talk to landowners about new trails in their area.  More and more bad behavior means our conversations about getting new access are more challenging. Please don’t be one of the few people who damage the reputation of the whole group. We’re in this together and the future of our trails depends on everyone doing the right thing (even if it means putting your pup on a leash now and again).

  • Keep your dogs on the trail: We are fortunate to have many off-leash parks and trails in our community. But when your dog is off-leash, they still need to stay close by, on the trail, and under voice control (which means they’ll come to you immediately when you call). We’ve been hearing about dogs running off the trail and into peoples’ yards. This is never OK, not even once. It is easy to think that once or twice won’t matter but if every dog does it once or twice, you can imagine how these neighbors come to be very frustrated. City of Bozeman requires dogs on leash at all times except in designated off-leash areas (check the trail map or trail signage for questions). The County allows for dogs off-leash but they must be under voice control and in sight at all times unless otherwise stated.


  • Keep your dogs away from sensitive habitat or wildlife: Some of the best and most beautiful trails travel near or through places where birds and wildlife like to hunker down. Please keep your dogs from chasing the wildlife.  Being a respectful dog owner might mean putting your dog on leash when you heading into a wooded area or near water. Even the best behaved dogs get distracted by critters now and again so prevent it from happening by leashing.


  • Keep your dogs from chasing cattle: We have trails that go through land that is used for grazing.  These private landowners have provided access and we need to respect the other uses of the land. If your dog can’t handle the cattle, simply find another trail to use or leash them. We have so many other options here!


  • Pick up your dog waste: Bozeman, come on. Why do we need to keep bringing this up?
    • Bring two bags-You never know when you might need a second
    • Pay special attention to your dog at the beginning of your walk or hike- Dogs typically do their business in the first quarter mile. Don’t miss it.
    • If they’re off leash, you’re on duty- Having a dog off leash doesn’t mean you can walk and talk carefree. Your dog must always be in sight and you should be paying attention during your conversation to make sure you don’t miss the ‘deed’. And this goes for bikers and runners too. If your dog is off leash, they should be in sight, not behind you.
    • Scoop two- You’re a hero if you can grab another dog’s poo at the same time. We all miss one here and there and you can pay it forward and be part of the solution.

Questions? Send us an email,