Sunday, July 9, 2017

Your Dog And The Adirondack Forest Preserve

dog on leash

Dog owners should act responsibly and always ensure that their dogs are under the control; for the safety of the dog and wildlife, and to allow an enjoyable outdoor experience for other recreational users.

Wildlife approached by dogs may feel threatened and defend themselves, causing injury to the dog. Porcupines, racoons, coyotes, bears, moose and deer can all cause injury to dogs when cornered. Also there is a danger of rabies, distemper or other wildlife diseases being transmitted to the dog.

Dogs harassing wildlife can be seriously detrimental, especially in winter. Animals may be injured or killed if caught. This is more likely to happen to young animals, which may also be separated from their parent losing protection and nourishment. Also, animals may be injured while fleeing a pursuit, too.

Expending large amounts of energies can weaken animals, particularly deer, and may prevent them from having enough reserves to survive the long, harsh Adirondack winters. Dog owners should be aware that state law allows every environmental conservation officer, forest ranger and member of the state police to kill any dog pursuing or killing deer within the boundaries of the Adirondack Park.

Also be aware that not all people you may meet like dogs. Some, often due to negative experiences in the past, are intimidated or frightened by dogs, even friendly ones. Although many people like dogs, most do not appreciate a dog jumping up on them, especially one with muddy or wet feet.

State regulations require that, in the Eastern High Peaks, dogs be maintained on a leash on trails, at primitive tent sites, at lean-to sites, at elevations above 4,000 feet, or at other areas where the public congregates.

Dog owners that utilize state lands managed by DEC should be aware that many people participate in hunting and trapping on these lands. Hunters do not appreciate dogs chasing or frightening game they may be pursuing. New York State law prohibits purposely interfering with hunting.

Trapping regulations prohibit the setting of traps within 100 feet of a trail, except in Wildlife Management Areas. Regulations also restrict the size of body gripping traps set on land and require that these type traps be set in a way that prevents the capture of dogs and other non-target animals. However, dogs that wander more than 100 feet from a trail, run the risk of being caught in a leg hold trap. This won’t cause serious injury to the dog, however, it will restrain them at a location and make it difficult for owners to find them.

Although trapping regulation requires that traps be checked every 24 hours throughout most of state, in most of the Adirondacks trappers are only required to check traps every 48 hours. The trapping season for most species opens in late October and closes in early December or early April depending on the species – not a good time to be caught outside for an extended period of time.

Except for hunting dogs, owners should never let their dog out of sight and should always be capable of controlling them through voice command or physical restraint such as a leash.

Enjoy your time in the outdoors with your dog, but be sure to protect your dog, protect wildlife and respect other outdoor recreationist.

Photo courtesy Greg Dower.

A version of this guest essay was contributed to the Adirondack Almanack in 2011 by the Adirondack Forest Preserve Education Partnership, a coalition of Adirondack organizations building on the Leave No Trace philosophy. Their goal is to provide public education about the Forest Preserve and Conservation Easements with an emphasis on how to safely enjoy, share, and protect these unique lands.


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The Adirondack Almanack publishes occasional guest essays from Adirondack residents, visitors, and those with an interest in the Adirondack Park. Submissions should be directed to Almanack editor Melissa Hart at

48 Responses

  1. Joe Hansen says:

    As a dog owner I completely agree! Dogs should be under voice control or on a leash. I don’t take mine to the eastern High Peaks because they are never on a leash. On the flip side I am not going to diminish my animals enjoyment of the woods because of some people’s irrational fears. Like my wife says: “Yes you were bitten by a German Shepard when you were young but it was not this one or this one!”

    • Boreas says:

      As long as the dog is on a leash, I have no irrational fears. However I have been bitten on two instances by two friendly German Shepards, once by a friendly English Spaniel, and most recently by 2 friendly Rottweilers at a public motel. All but one were unsupervised dogs on public property. So when I see an unleashed dog approaching and barking with no visible owner, I do not consider my fears irrational. I have been known to carry pepper spray at times when biking, and keep in mind, people are starting to wield handguns when hiking these days. If you want your dog to continue enjoying the outdoors UNLEASHED, consider doing it on your own property. A dog that bites, for whatever reason, often has to be put down regardless of how friendly they are. Unfortunately, I found out later, 2 of the above Shepards were.

      • Paul says:

        A dog that bites is dangerous and needs to be put down. Your fears are totally rational.

        • Paul says:

          Or it cane be crated for the rest of its life. No fun.

        • Dave says:

          This is an absurd statement of simple thinking based on exactly zero facts that no animal behavior professional would agree with (and thankfully, no laws agree with either).

          • Paul says:

            Wrong. Here are the facts. I had a dog that had a biting problem. I was told by the top behavior person at the vet school at Cornell that a dog that bites needs to be crated if it is to be kept around any children. You can not for certain train that out of a dog. Unfortunately I had to have her put down since that wasn’t a life that she would have enjoyed. The vet was Kathryn Houpt – she is retired now and is considered a top notch companion animal behavior vet, maybe the best in the country:


            Tell your home owners insurance company that you have a biting dog – see how quickly they cancel your policy if you don’t get rid of it.

          • Boreas says:


            I don’t know where you live, but many municipalities have biting laws that require euthanasia – even if it occurs on your own property. After a biting/mauling incident is reported to the police, animal control officers usually impound it as it is considered a menace. The laws aren’t so much to protect adults but rather kids. I’m not saying it is fair, but that the laws exist.

            • Paul says:

              Some insurance companies won’t even cover you if you have certain breeds of dogs – even if they have never bitten anyone.

              The bottom line for me is that some people don’t like dogs, some people are afraid of dogs. It’s a free country. Why should I be allowed to scare somebody or have my dog approach someone who doesn’t want the dog approaching them.

              Personally I think that the HPW is no place for dogs even on a lead. I leave mine at home when I go there and I take them into the woods where there are not people to bother. There are lots of those places in the Adirondacks.

  2. Don Kent says:

    I enjoy seeing dogs on my hikes and would rather see them off lease and under control then on lease and out of control. I keep mine off lease and recall him whenever I see other hikers or know that I’m about to see other hikers (summits, lean-tos, waterfalls etc.). Regarding wildlife encounters I am assuming the risks and take that risk because I’ve trained my dog well (and pay attention to his body language while on trail) The worst experience I had with a dog while hiking was on the summit of Algonquin where the owner of the dog was sitting down taking in the view while his dog had extended its flexylead out behind its irresponsible owner and was rolling in the fragile alpine vegetation. It should be pretty obvious that if humans are to avoid trampling on alpine vegetation so should our dogs. Well behaved dogs shouldn’t be penalized because of a few dim witted dog owners. It is a beautiful thing to see dogs frolicking off lease in the wild and mine will continue to do so whenever appropriate. Jack London must be rolling in his grave.

    • Boreas says:

      I once saw a man dragging his terrified dog up the cable slope on the back side of Gothics as I was descending. His tail was tucked and was trailing piss up most of the slope.The poor dog was not having a good day. I wish Pete Fish would have seen that.

      • Don Kent says:

        Classic example of putting oneself before your canine companion. I just cancelled a hike up Colden because my 12 yr seemed too tired after the previous days climb. I erred on the side of taking him climbing another day instead of taking on too much all at once. He seemed tired in the morning so we went swimming instead. Of course he didn’t lack any energy once he hit the water. ; -)

  3. Paul says:

    “at other areas where the public congregates” that’s all of the HPW. Some people are afraid of dogs even “friendly” ones – especially “friendly” ones. I have two. I keep them at home and take them in the woods to hunt when and where they will not bother anyone. Leave your dog at home if you can’t keep it on a lead.

  4. Don Kent says:

    Like I said, I recall my dog whenever I see or anticipate seeing other hikers. At that point he is leased until the encounter passes.

  5. Justin Farrell says:

    Never trust a human who dosen’t like dogs, and always trust a dog that dosen’t like a human.

    • Paul says:

      Especially one that bites them? That is a poorly trained dog. Not a trustworthy dog.

      • Boreas says:

        Again, the problem isn’t the dog, it is an owner that doesn’t control it. I grew up around both hunting and house dogs. I don’t dislike dogs. I don’t own one, but I don’t dislike them. In the HPW and other places where I hiked a lot, most of the dogs I encountered over the years were not leashed. Typically the dog was running out ahead of its owner, who was not in sight. That’s what dogs do – I don’t blame them for that. I was never bitten by a dog on the trail, but was growled at a couple times. Again that’s what dogs do, they protect their owners – whether the owner is in sight or not. Most dogs would run right up and start sniffing and possibly start jumping up just being a happy dog. Then the owners eventually come by and ‘apologize’, but still don’t leash the dog.

        When an unleashed dog is out in front of its owner, it behaves like a dog and has the opportunity to chase and/or worry wildlife. A forest animal doesn’t know this 4 legged creature is tame. It views and smells it as a predator. If the dog stays on the trail, probably not a real big deal, but most dogs will chase anything that moves, even if for a short distance. They also investigate smells originating from critters. Hunting hounds have to be rigorously trained to track the desired animal only, but pets will be interested in most animal smells.

        Virtually all dogs are good dogs, but we don’t let them run loose in populated areas because they are unpredictable around strangers. Why should popular hiking trails and parks be any different? Perhaps if you are with your dog in an area you wouldn’t expect to see another person on the trail, an unleashed dog wouldn’t be as bad, but in the HPW or other well-used area, it is just a bad idea.

        • Paul says:

          It isn’t always the owner. Sometimes dogs just have problems that nobody can fix. Just like people.

          • Boreas says:

            Agreed. My thoughts were that the owner should be aware of this problem and keep the dog controlled. What many owners don’t seem to be aware of is that the same dog can act differently in different situations. When they are leashed or at the owner’s side, they act one way. When they are out of sight they often act differently. The owner tends to be a calming factor and the dog may not be as afraid of an approaching human as opposed to a dog or dogs away from their owners being approached by one or more strange humans on a narrow trail. Their instincts tend to come to the surface rather unpredictably.

            • Paul says:

              Agreed. Also some dogs don’t get along well with other dogs. Can’t prevent issues there if they are running around all over the place.

  6. If the dog owner is a responsible person, who has done basic obedience training with their dog, I think they would take actions to safeguard their dog in the woods– which means keeping them under control. For the good of the dog, not necessarily for other people in the woods.

    i am in the woods several times a week with my dogs. Seldom are they on a physical leash. Always, they are under voice or whistle control. One wears a GPS collar, as she has bolted on me. Once. Five years ago. The key is to stay alert and observe what might happen before it does.

    If we encounter another person in the woods, or on a trail, my dogs sit until they have passed, or come to heel if we are doing the passing. Yes you can pet my dogs, but you should ask first. One is a therapy dog; another will lick you to death is you let her. The third, well, he is well-behaved unless you are a duck.

    I believe it is not safe for you or your dog to climb down a mountain, with the dog on a leash. it is actually dangerous for both of you. For this reason, I avoid the Eastern High Peaks, Even though I am a 46er, and have hiked with my dogs for decades.

  7. One important issue/problem not mentioned in any of the above is that of dog poop. Just as we are supposed to dig a “cat” hole and bury our poop well away from streams, responsible dog owners should take the same precautions.

    A second city-style option is to bag the poop and carry it out to dispose of it sanitarily.
    The unacceptable version of this is to bag it, carry it out, and leave it at the trailhead. At Poke-O-Moonshine, we occasionally encounter this latter semi-thoughtless behavior.

    • Don Kent says:

      Good luck trying to get my dog to poop in a “cat hole” ; -)

      • David Thomas-Train says:

        Of course that’s impossible, but a responsible dog-owning hiker should make the best attempt to bury Fido’s poop or carry it out.

        • Don Kent says:

          I was making a joke but will add that I have never seen dog poop to be an issue in the ADKs. People poop yes but not dog poop. Regarding bagged poop, the one place that I have seen too much of that is at some of the more popular hikes outside of Boulder, CO.

  8. frank w says:

    The world has gone to the dogs for sure. I don’t know why most people get a dog The dog stays locked up in the backyard walked occasionally around the neighborhood, then taken out into the woods once or twice a year and expected to keep it together. Yet they are out of their element and overwhelmed.

    I’ve had a few dogs. The terror I have right now is three and has a mind of his own. He has no regard for rules and listening. He’s never been on a leash, whats the point. He is skittish around people he doesn’t know, but once he figures you out he might let you pet him. He loves to ski, hike, run, and do short bike rides. Half boarder collie half blue healer. Made for speed.

    He’s obsessed with the fox that lives in the backyard. Moose are his least favorite because he can never get them to do what he wants them to do. Usually it’s just stand next to them and bark while they ignore him. My old dog with have face offs over territory with coyotes.

    While hiking he disappears for a good chunks of time blazing his own trail, only to show back up a when it suits him. Dogs are great but they need to be worked and treated like animals not people. Once that is figured out the dog will strive to be the best they can be.

  9. Bruce says:

    The National Forest where I live has one rule which applies in all cases…all dogs must be leashed, except I believe in your campsite, a fact that was made clear to my wife and I when we had our two dogs out in the NF for an afternoon. One was a German Shepherd and the other a Rottweiler.

    The Shepherd wouldn’t leave our side, but the Rottweiler was a gregarious soul who liked everyone. We were walking down the road when we were approached by someone coming the opposite direction. The Rottweiler galloped down to greet them.

    Nothing untoward happened, but the fact that many folks are armed in the NF because it is becoming a place where unsavory characters hang out, he could have been shot. How many folks want to see a strange Rottweiler barreling down on them.

    After that, both dogs were leashed when not on our property.

  10. Charlie S says:

    “Dog owners should be aware that state law allows every environmental conservation officer, forest ranger and member of the state police to kill any dog pursuing or killing deer within the boundaries of the Adirondack Park.”

    That’ll learn em! Problem is the animal’s lives are cut short due to the irresponsibility of its owner. Surely it is a rare case where the above takes place.

    • merry says:

      Sometimes in rural and semi-rural areas dogs seen running deer are shot, not necessarily by the DEC, and it’s often someone’s lost pet. That can be Brandy, or Fluffy, or Spike. We’ve seen them all. Many dogs are instinctive chasers and hunters. It is a bad end for the family only because they could not believe their sweet suburban pooch, solo or in a gang, liked to run deer.

    • Paul says:

      I see dogs running deer almost every winter in the Adirondacks. If you live on a lake chances are you have probably seen a deer run onto the ice by dogs. You very often have to break a dog of this. They can’t help it that is what they were designed for – chasing and trying to kill prey.

      • Paul says:

        When I say break I mean for hunting dogs that you are using for other animals (bird dogs, rabbit dogs etc.)

    • Boreas says:

      When I was growing up in PA, I believe it was legal for even a HUNTER to shoot dogs chasing deer. I doubt that is still the case.

      The last dogs I saw chasing a deer chased the poor animal into the path of a tractor trailer. Afterward, the dogs sniffed at the exploded carcass and ran away. They were just 3 mutts – not even very large.

  11. Frederick Lieber says:

    I carry a large hunting knife on the trail for self defense.
    Keep your dog leashed and under control.
    I will not be threatened/charged again by an unleashed dog without protecting myself .

    • Bruce says:


      I’m curious. Do you have the training and cool personality to use that knife in an actual attack from any direction?

      A spray bottle with Ammonia or bear spray would be more effective because either can be used further away than your knife can reach.

  12. Kathy says:

    Unleashed dogs are hopefully not out of sight of their person. A dog running out of sight ahead on a trail no matter how friendly can startle other peoples’ dogs and small children . If you can’t see your dog at all times they can and do poop on trails. Other people on the trails should enjoy freedom from stepping into dog mess and wondering whether your dogs are the friendly or protective type and if the owner is not in sight …… As far as the comment of “irrational fears ” from childhood,not all people are bitten as children and how would you react to a strange dog running at your kids even if the owner was in sight.
    Sorry but dogs’ freedoms to enjoy trails does not supercede anyone else’s freedom to do the same.

  13. Don Kent says:

    I would like to see some statistics on actual negative dog/human interactions in the ADKs. I’ve hiked these trails for years and have not once met a threatening dog, have not seen any signs of a dog poop problem (something I can’t say about human poop) or seen dogs that are off lease and out of control. My 40 plus years of experience hiking with dogs in he ADKs is that most people are very happy to sees dogs on the trails. In fact I rescued my now 12 yr old dog when he was an unsocialized 10 yr and credit all the positive attention he has gotten during our hikes in the High Peaks for his new found love of strangers. I suspect that all of the negative things I’m reading here are very rare occurrences that, while very real for the individuals involved, don’t warrant this level of debate. We should focus our efforts on issues that threaten the Park we all love so much.

    • Paul says:

      One time I saw a dog climb Ampersand 5 or six times while their owners climbed it once! The dog was back and forth and smashing alpine vegetation the whole time. It was one of those Australian cattle dogs. Vert energetic.

      I would like to see the stats also. I have seen many out of control gods in the HPW over the years. I don’t think it is rare at all. I would say that I have had dogs run at me and some jump on me at least several dozen times over the years. I guess they just like me! Go to the beach on Middle Saranac today if you want to see dogs running around on Forest Preserve land out of control of the owner. I think I see at least one there every time I go. Their half-drunk owners usually think it is cute.

      • Don Kent says:

        It makes sense to excercise common courtesy and lease your dog at all times while at public beaches, parks etc. It doesn’t make sense to require dogs to be leased at all times while in “Wilderness” area. In fact, the one and only time I got annoyed at a dog owner was while on the summit of Algonquin. I was up there with my under control and off lease dog while another hiker was up there eating his lunch while his dog had extended it flexi-lease out behind it’s owner and was rolling around on the fragile alpine vegetation.

    • Boreas says:

      “I suspect that all of the negative things I’m reading here are very rare occurrences that, while very real for the individuals involved, don’t warrant this level of debate.”


      I don’t think there is any real ‘debate’ going on here. The law has been in place for years and is just that – the law. The only reason there is much discussion at all is that there simply aren’t enough Rangers patrolling the HPW anymore. When/if a person is caught with an unleashed dog, there won’t be much debate – just like any other backcountry infraction.

  14. LEW says:

    Simple. Be respectful and leash your dogs in the HP’s. Not up for debate. I saw 3 dogs running wild on Algonquin last week trampling Alpine plants. I was thanked twice for leashing my dog. You ever see a dog with a face full of Procupine quills? Not pretty.The rules are there to protect the forest preserve and the animals. The people who argue this are the same folks crapping everywhere, I’m sure. Entitlement.

  15. Mark Gibson says:

    Regions with mountain hiking trails where leashing the dog is not required, that I have been:

    Wasatch (Utah)
    Uintas (Utah)
    Sawtooth (Idaho)
    Sangre di Christo (New Mexico)
    Sierra Nevada (Tahoe region)
    Glacier National Park (Canadian portion)
    Crazies (Montana)
    Gravellies (Montana)
    Wind River (Wyoming)

    Never saw or heard of any problems. Nobody seemed uptight about dogs. People enjoying themselves, dogs enjoying themselves.

    What the heck is it with the easterners? Too used to city life – or what?

    • Boreas says:

      Weak argument. NYS also has hundreds of miles of trails where dogs DON’T need to be leashed (but they do need to be under voice control). Conversely, several states noted above DO have leash laws in many of their parks and national parks within those states. I have hiked in many of the areas you mention and of them have the concentration of hikers the Eastern HPW has. Regardless, I don’t think I would let my dog run loose in grizzly country.

  16. Robert DiMarco says:

    Again human enjoyment must be paramount, how sad. I feel so very sorry for Mother Earth

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