I've been doing a lot (A LOT) of thinking about responsible hiking off lead with your dog.
As laws get tighter and tighter, and people still do not hike responsibly, we will continue to face the consequences.
I'm making a little guideline list of things I think are important while hiking off lead with your dog (even though now in Connecticut, it isn't legal. But with my well trained dog, my habits of not letting my hiking experience disturb anyone else's hike, and cleaning up after my dog and myself, I've not run into an issue yet. (And there were some scary times when approached by rangers that I swore I was going to walk away with a hefty fine.)
Here we go.
1) ALWAYS BRING A BAG for your dog and clean up afterwards. The little leash clip on bag holders ( Cheap poop bag holders ) REALLY help to not forget to bring one. If for some reason you forget a bag and your dog craps on the trail, get a stick (It's the woods, one should be able to find one) and push it off the trail. Yucky, yea, but just because you want to hike with your dog is no reason anyone should have to step in it.
2)BRING A LEASH for your dog. I know it may seem silly but I've encountered so many hikers who don't have one, and their dogs are wandering in front of them, and don't necessarily come back when called when they see something interesting on the trail.
3) LEASH YOUR DOG when you encounter another group of hikers (I strongly suggest putting them in a "sit/stay" as the others walk by), unless their dogs are off lead too and you get consent they're friendly. It's too big of a risk to not leash your dog when it's necessary, and your dog may pay the price if it is attacked. To top it off, you may not get any compensation because your dog was off lead.
4) MAKE SURE YOUR DOG HAS A RELIABLE RECALL while hiking. It's normal to have to teach your dogs during hiking while they are unreliable, but it should be just that- training them to become reliable. If you do not bother to train your dog while you are hiking, you are being irresponsible.
5) DO NOT LET YOUR DOG JUMP on other hikers.. Ever. Period. If your dog slips up, correct them immediately. It's very rude, others are there to enjoy their time, not bat your dog off.
I'm sure I can think of more later but if anyone has any to add.... I've got some good ideas as to what to do with my guidelines (helping teach people to hike responsibly.) And I do ALL of the things I just listed when I hike. It may seem daunting at first but after it becomes habit, you can be a responsible off lead hiker :D Hurray!