There are many benefits to bringing a dog with you on the Trail, not the least being that they’ll probably enjoy the change of scenery as much as you do. Before you hit the Trail with fido at your side, bear these things in mind:
1. Think of their needs first
A dog’s physical limitations depend in part on its size, breed and age. Before you head out onto the Trail consider how far you plan to go, as well as the terrain and temperature. Doing so will help ensure the outing you have in mind won’t be too demanding for your pet. For example, portions of the Trail that follow the shores of Georgian Bay and the banks of the Wye River near Midland, Ontario offer spots where pets can wade into shallow water to cool off during the sweltering summer months, says resident Joe Gluck. During wintertime, however, he notes that chilly temperatures and deep snow might be okay for a larger breed with a thick coat, but a smaller dog would likely find the conditions difficult.
Vancouver-based blogger Joe Goodwill – the creative force behind Average Joe Cyclist –describes the Traboulay PoCo Trail in Port Coquitlam, British Columbia, as “dog-friendly and beautiful.” He also notes, however, that his short-legged canine friends Ripley and Billy can only keep up with his bicycle for so long. The solution: once they’ve had enough the dogs ride in pet baskets, safely tethered in with a harness and a safety leash.
2. Prepare ahead – for your sake and theirs
Halifax Dogventures blogger Andrea Isabelle – who highlights dog-friendly excursions in her area – encourages trekkers to take lots of water, a collapsible water dish, a leash, poop bags and dog-safe bug spray whenever they venture onto nearby segments of the Trail.
Meanwhile, her friend, portrait photographer Tori Sweeting, also packs items such as a camera, noting that her dog, Buck, often does something cute worth capturing on camera.
Among their favourite segments of the Trail, Isabelle and Sweeting say Glen Major Forest in Ontario’s Durham Region is perfect for anyone desiring a serene nature walk.
3. Be free yet courteous
Whenever he and his pets are in a designated off-leash part of the Trail, Joe Goodwill seizes the opportunity to let his dogs run free. “They love it!” he says. “It’s the way dogs were meant to be.”
Keeping in mind that others on the Trail might not feel comfortable with a loose canine, Joe always commands his dogs to heel or sit when approaching other Trail users. If your pet can’t be relied upon to obey then they should be leashed until others can pass by without interference.
4. Savour moments together
A fan of walking her black lab on Nova Scotia’s Salt Marsh Trail in Cole Harbour, Andrea Isabelle and her doggie revel in the Atlantic Ocean scenes of sea birds soaring overhead and gentle swirling waves. She believes her dog and others “appreciate a nice, comfortable silence. They motivate you to be present, without thinking too far ahead or behind,” she says. “And they remind you that a hike in the great outdoors is pretty darn exciting.”