Tom and I have now worked at six different national parks. There are some similarities at all of them and some things that are different. One of the unique things here at San Juan Island National Historical Park is the Bark Rangers. I love swearing in Junior Rangers and giving out Bark Rangers is almost as good.
I’m not sure where the Bark Rangers program started but it is very popular at the national parks in Washington. Olympic, Fort Vancouver, Cascades, and San Juan Island all have a program. We do it here at San Juan Island because we have lots of local people who walk their dog off leash.
Instead of yelling at them or making them feel bad, we do positive reinforcement. When we see a dog on a leash and the owner picking up after them, we give them a Bark Rangers card and an id tag. I like handing them out because I get to pet the dogs and tell the owners what a great job they are doing. I congratulate them on teaching their dogs to be “good citizens of the national parks.”
Owners love getting the card and id tag. They show it to the dog and say “Look what you got! You are a Bark Ranger!” The dogs usually sniff the card and wag their tails. The owners often ask me to take a picture of them.
There are four important Bark Rangers Rules. 1. Bag your poop. Always have your humans collect and dispose of your waste properly. 2. Always wear a leash. When in the park, always wear a leash and don’t let your human leave you unattended. 3. Respect wildlife. Don’t harass or harm wildlife by making noise or chasing them. 4. Know where you can go. Leashed Bark Rangers are permitted in parking lots, picnic areas, roads, and trails.
I like petting the dogs and reinforcing positive behavior in the owners. The National Parks welcome well behaved dogs and their owners. The Bark Rangers program is a way to get the owners trained and let them know what we expect.