Well-behaved human and dogs on Turtleback Mountain

We’re all creatures of habit, and some of us are in the habit of taking our canine friends with us when we walk in nature preserves. We welcome well-behaved dogs in our preserves that are open to the public—but only when their owners are also well-behaved enough to keep them on leashes.

Our preserves are posted with signs that say this, often quite discreetly with icons like the one on the right. These icons are on posts, typically alongside other discreet icons with additional rules, such as “No littering,” “No fires,” and “No camping.” Nearly all visitors to our preserves follow each and every rule.

Except for the one about dogs. Many dog owners seem to regard this as the one rule that’s made to be broken. We could post big “Leash your dog” signs every 20 feet along every trail, and still there would be violators.

So we decided to try something different. We decided to break all the rules of sign-making and make one with lots of text on it that explains why we ask dog owners to leash and clean up after their pets in our preserves. Instead of issuing a command, these signs make a polite request, with some information to back it up.

Here is the sign. We’ve put a few up (and will be installing more over the summer). It’s too soon to say if they’re working any better than the more discreet, minimalist icons. Anecdotally, we heard about one person who spotted one of the new signs, walked over to it, and stared at it long enough to read the whole thing.

We can only assume that she would have obediently leashed her dog. If she had one.