Trail Walking with Your Four-Legged Friend

Rail-trails are not just for people. Often located in tranquil, nature-filled settings, rail-trails can be a nice escape for your pet from the typical walk around the neighborhood, local park, or backyard. Break out of your everyday routine, take your dog on an adventure and immerse yourself in a new setting that both of you will enjoy exploring. Here are some tips to help you and your dog get the most out of your trail experience.


1

Plan ahead


While rail-trails are welcoming to dogs, consider whether your dog is right for a rail-trail. Is Fido comfortable around cyclists, runners, walkers, and other dogs? Trails can be busy places, so carefully consider which trail to visit and when to go, but also how your pet will react in this environment. If this is a new experience, it’s best to try it out at a time when you are likely to encounter fewer people. If your local trail is especially busy, use the opportunity for an excursion and explore a more remote trail.


Gary L. Haller Trail, KS | Try out the trail for the first time when its less busy. | Photo by: Melissa Campbell


2

Bring everything you need


Be sure to pack water, snacks, bags for cleaning up after your dog, and of course a leash. Trailheads may have water fountains, but unless you are familiar with the route, do not assume you will be able to get water whenever needed.


Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park, DC & MD | Your dog will thank you for bringing all the essentials! | Photo by: bison78


3

Be mindful of limitations


When planning an outing, keep in mind your limitations as well as that of your dog. If your pet is not used to long walks, don’t use this opportunity to introduce one. Make the first outing a short jaunt and build up over time, keeping in mind the age, health, and fitness level of your dog.


Cumberland River Bicentennial Trail, TN | Make your first outing a short one. | Photo by: watizit


4

Practice trail etiquette


There are a few aspects of trail etiquette that it’s important to keep in mind while walking with a dog. Even on quiet trails it’s possible to find bicyclists and runners come upon you faster than you realize. Stay to the right on the trail, be sure your dog is on a leash, and be mindful that your dog does not stray into the path of other trail users. As much as you love your pet, others may not feel the same. Not everyone is a dog person and, especially around children, even your adorable little cocker spaniel might be frightening to others. Respect other people’s space and make sure Fido stays near you throughout the walk. While this is always a good practice, don’t forget to ensure that your dog’s collar is intact and that dog tags are up-to-date and securely fastened.


Virginia Creeper National Recreation Trail, VA | Be mindful of others and keep your dogs close. | Photo by: Richard Smith

With a little research beforehand, you can surely find a rail-trail that will work for you and your pet. Get out and explore and more than likely you will find many other like-minded dog owners taking advantage of rail-trails for their own walks.

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