How to tell if a hiking trail is dog-friendly
Trails are great places to exercise your dogs and enjoy the outdoors, but not all trails are dog-friendly. Even if your four-legged friends are allowed on the pathways, certain types of pavement and environmental features along the way can be dangerous and turn a fun outing into a visit to the vet.
Check to see if the trail you're visiting has water supplies, whether it's water fountains or special areas for dogs to hydrate. Don't rely on the trail to supply water for you, however, advises Dr. Louise Murray, vice president of the ASPCA's Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital. Make sure you carry enough water for both you and your pup to stay hydrated.
Some trails allow multiple types of animals, such as dogs and horses, and other types of activities including ATV riding. "If your dog is easily spooked, or reactive to unfamiliar things, it might not be the best trail to bring them along on," Murray says.
Type of trail
Watch the hot pavement in the summer, and check out the trail in advance. "It can't hurt to bring along some booties to protect your dog's paws if the trail gets rocky or rough," Murray advises.
The best way to be prepared is to know your dog, she says. "Some dogs will love jumping from boulder to boulder on a trail; some might be scared of water and not want to cross any creeks."
Scott Reid, open space and trails planner with the town of Breckenridge, Colorado, says looped trails are especially helpful for both dogs and hikers. "Covering new ground in a loop is preferable to going out and back," he says.
Access to dog facilities
While restrooms are often appreciated by people in parks, so are products that help keep dog waste contained. "Dog waste bags and a trash can go a long way to welcoming trail users and their dogs," Reid says.
Be mindful of wildlife when out on the trails, advises Kristen Collins, an animal behaviorist and director of ASPCA Anti-Cruelty Behavior Rehabilitation. Each region has different species to be cautious of, whether it's bears, snakes, spiders or scorpions. So, depending on where your favorite trail is, you'll want to watch out for these pesky — and sometimes deadly — creatures.
"Dogs chasing wildlife are at risk of injury to wildlife, themselves and a nice hefty fine for the harassment of wildlife," Collins says. "Check your state's laws and abide by them."
Heavily wooded areas are also notorious for harboring ticks, says Dr. Nina Mantione, staff veterinarian at Petplan, so dogs should be thoroughly looked over before you head home.
What advice do you have for dog owners for finding the right trails? Share your advice in the comments below.