Last fall, Alan and I embarked upon our first ever 6-week equitrekking trip. It was an experience, in many ways. We visited 8 places and ultimately landed at a small horse camp in Arizona. We stayed at that camp for 3 1/2 months before we bought our own piece of the Arizona desert. Several factors lead to us deciding to buy property. Desert real estate was cheap! We acquired 5 acres and the horses and dogs had lots of room to roam. AND… We didn’t have to deal with anyone else living 15 feet away from us, or their dogs…
Alan and I are very social. We like people. However, we also like our space. In addition, we like to be around people who are considerate of other people. Last week, I wrote Rules ON the Road (Part One). This three-part series was born out of our experiences last fall and over the winter. While we met some truly awesome folks on the road, we met some not-so-awesome folks as well.
I posted on two large Facebook groups, inquiring what irritated both guests and hosts at horse camping facilities. This blog addresses one of the most common complaints.
Dogs, dogs, and more dogs
We love dogs. We have four of them. Nevertheless, it is my belief that if folks wanted a large black German Shepherd, they’d go find one. They don’t want my large black German Shepherd at their campsite. Moreover, they most certainly don’t want my big black goofball directing his high prey drive at their little Muffy…
The number one complaint was loose dogs in camp. Folks complained about guest and host dogs that created issues. After we had purchased our own place, but before we left the horse camp this winter, we had a very ugly encounter with another guest and his dog. This Aussie had dive-bombed our dogs, my husband, and other guests for days. The dog would roar onto our campsite, chasing our little Border collie. The owners would be sitting outside their trailer but yet, they did nothing about it. When they were gone riding, the Aussie and a Doodle were crated outside their trailer for hours at a time. They had no shelter, no water, and no bedding… and it was January. Granted, it was Arizona, but the mornings were cold. The dogs barked off and on all day.
Things came to a head after the Aussie chased our BC under our trailer yet again. The owners were 20 feet away and did nothing. I accosted their dog to keep her off my dog. The Aussie owner got extremely ugly and actually threatened to kill me if I ever “touched his dog again.” A day or two later, he tried to make amends with my husband. I guess, to some extent, he “saw the light” but it was way too little too late.
Our Shepherd has proven himself a liability around little dogs. Consequently, we are extremely conscientious about making sure he is a good citizen. He wears a muzzle when not in the trailer. He’s a super sweetheart with people, but not other dogs. He’s leashed and diligently watched when there is any possibility of interactions with other dogs.
Riding with dogs?
In addition to loose dogs in camp, another common complaint was dogs on the trail.
We do sometimes ride with the three Border collie types… but not the Shepherd. Mostly, we ride alone, just the dogs and us. IF we ride with others, we make sure the other riders are agreeable to having the dogs along. If my husband and I ride in front, the dogs stay in front of us. It is problematic if we are in the middle of the pack. Therefore, other riders need to be 1) okay with the dogs along and 2) okay that we are in front the entire ride. But again, my husband and I choose to ride alone most of the time. Our Arabs are slower than many gaited horses and faster than most stock horses.
If the trails are very active, and we are likely to encounter many riders, we don’t take the dogs. However, if we do encounter other riders, we pull off the trail. Our dogs readily come when called, and they lie down, well off the trail. They don’t move when other riders go by. In fact, they alert us when they see oncoming traffic. They return to us before they are called and they know exactly what they are supposed to do. This same “rule” applies when I am hiking with them.
One of the comments made several times in the Facebook groups was that folks think their dogs are well-behaved, but they are not. Consequently, I am sure when I tell people, “My dogs are well-behaved”, many don’t believe me. This photo was taken in downtown Estes Park 18 months ago. For those of you familiar with Estes, we are sitting between two of our favorite restaurants, Mama Rosa’s and Poppy’s. People are all over the place, but my dogs are not. (We had five at the time, but are down to four!)
Other dog complaints mentioned in both groups included loose dogs peeing on hay, or pooping at other guests’ campsites or in public areas. Respondents were very frustrated with dog owners who did not clean up after their dogs (OR their horses!)
I really didn’t expect this subject to take three posts to cover it (maybe more?) but I received many great responses. The DOG issue was the most often mentioned. Many of us who have horses have dogs. Therefore, it isn’t a stretch to say that many or most of us like or love dogs. Many or most of us like or love kids, too, but that doesn’t mean we want to have negative interactions with your dogs OR your kids!
Be considerate when sharing space with people. Keep your dogs on your own campsite. Prevent them from barking when you are away… there are bark collars that address that. We carry ours with us and don’t hesitate to use them. Clean up after your canine companions. Make sure that the fact that you are camping with one or more dogs doesn’t negatively impact those camping with you. Don’t make your dog’s bad behavior someone else’s problem.