Guide to Outdoor Etiquette

Disclaimer: the views and opinions expressed by our etiquette expert do not reflect the views of S+B staff. In fact, in most cases, we probably would advise doing the opposite of what is recommended here.

Can you please address the issue of unleashed dogs on the trail?

    — Anonymous

Ooooh brother, definitely a delicate topic here. I will tread lightly, but unleashed dogs are not something I’m a big fan of. I like dogs, but (much like children) I don’t really care about anyone else’s.

    I recently got into it with a woman after her dog came charging at me at top speed, barking like mad. The dog was at least 50 yards away from the owner, and she was clearly NOT in control of it. I picked up a rock and assumed a defensive ninja stance in front of my child. She yelled at me not to hurt her dog. What about my kid (who, incidentally, doesn’t bite)?! It was a bit scary.

    Yes, most dogs are friendly and excited to be out running around. Dogs free on the trail embody the feeling of unbridled joy. However, who knows what causes a dog to panic and snap, or to bite someone? The real issue boils down to what I shall refer to as the killer-next-door syndrome. You never hear the neighbor say “I always suspected something from that whack job!” It is always “He was the nicest man...”

    That comparison is a little extreme, but dog owners must remember that for some people, even the most gentle dog in the world is scary. I get nervous around dogs, especially ones that run up to me. I watched my son cower at a large, friendly dog this weekend. As I told him it was a “nice doggy,” I realized a dog is basically the equivalent of a horse trying to lick him, which would be quite intimidating.

    On a different note, it isn’t always about the dog biting. 

An overfriendly dog on the trail can knock down kiddos and cause accidents to runners and bikers alike.

    In the end, I do think it is important for owners to keep their dogs under control when off the leash. Remember, some people are just uncomfortable around dogs, no matter how nice they are.

What are your thoughts about giving unsolicited pointers?

Scott, Grand Junction

Unsolicited advice on the trail should be given the same way as spouses give advice to each other. Delicately. Is my wife always right? Yup. That is why I don’t have any use for encyclopedias or Google. Do I need her to tell me “You should have shut the water off and called a plumber” when water is shooting across my bathroom like the fountains at the Bellagio? Nope.

    Not long ago, I saw a mountain biker with no helmet smack his head and cut it up pretty good on an overhanging rock. Obviously, he should have been advised of a helmet. But as he sat there bleeding in a haze, I just let it go. Good advice is more welcome if presented in the right way, at the right time, and best of all, only when it’s asked for.



What do you think about using one earbud for music on the trail?

A good start, unless your name is van Gogh. In that case it would still be surround sound and, thus, not a great idea.


Beer or water after a great trail ride?

Surprisingly, a police car is not the same as an Uber. (Also, unlike an Uber driver, definitely do NOT try to tip a cop). Moderation is always best.


Best advice for taking a good selfie on the trail?

Don’t. You’re not that attractive or interesting.