The Best Places to Hike With Your Dog

Few places are more appealing to Samantha, a Labrador Retriever, than Kehoe Beach at the Point Reyes National Seashore in Marin County, Calif. “Sam loves to explore the wildflowers and hike the trail with me,” says owner Betty Sullivan. “The trail offers spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean. These days, the summer fog blows in like natural air-conditioning, so it’s a perfect place to cool off, unwind and re-energize.”

Kehoe Beach is among hundreds of sites across the United States where you can hike with your dog. (In this case, on-leash only, and not on the beach south of the trail, which is off-limits to canines.) Be sure to do your homework to figure out where exactly you and your pet will be welcome, and how to best handle the hike.

Hiking With Your Dog: Some Things to Consider

  • Your dog’s breed: Obviously, a little Chihuahua couldn’t handle the same terrain that a larger, more muscular dog could. Brett Rolin of Banfield Pet Hospital says the following breeds are built for hiking: Beagles, German Shepherds, Irish Setters, Golden/Labrador Retrievers, Boxers, Huskies, Malamutes, Border Collies and Australian Shepherds. “In general,” says Rolin, “sporting, herding or working dogs are a fine choice.”
  • Your dog’s health: Doug Gelbert, a dog hiking expert who runs hikewithyourdog.com and has authored numerous books, reminds that dogs should be in good physical condition and acclimated to the task at hand before hikes. Pre-training is advised if your dog requires conditioning.
  • Weather: “Heat and sun do dogs no favors,” says Gelbert. Conversely, short-coat breeds might suffer in the cold. Choose a day that will lead to a comfortable hike for both you and your pet.
  • Altitude: Again, acclimation to the elevation is key to an enjoyable outing for both of you.
  • Trail Hazards: Research hazards you and your pal might encounter along the way. Poisonous snakes might lurk on some trails, while others could be littered with broken glass or lined with poison ivy. Nature can be paradise, but it pays to plan ahead for such problems.

What to Bring
Rolin shares a Banfield fact sheet that recommends owners take the following on a hike with your dog:

  • Fresh water and a collapsible bowl
  • Food and treats
  • Current ID tags and a well-fitting collar
  • A sturdy leash for walking or securing your pet to a specific area
  • A proper car restraint, like a kennel or seatbelt
  • A bed or blanket to lie on
  • Doggie bags for waste
  • Pad-protective booties for rocky/rough terrain, snow, ice, cacti or nettles
  • First aid kit
  • Towel to clean your dog
  • Snake bite kit (if appropriate for your area)
  • Dog sunscreen/hat
  • Doggie backpack for sharing the load (use only if your dog is used to doing this)

Where to Go
Websites, books, apps and other sources can help to advise you where you can hike with your dog. Sullivan likes to peruse the National Park Service website. “If you do searches like ‘dogs allowed’ or ‘dog hike,’ you’ll find more specific information on where dogs can and cannot go,” adds Sullivan.

Gelbert often conducts fun surveys, where dog owners share their favorite places to hike. Here are just a few examples:

  • Best Baltimore Hike to a Waterfall: Falling Brook, Rocks State Park
  • Best Pittsburgh Hike Through Meadows: Friendship Hill National Historic Site
  • Best Cleveland Place to Hike All Day With Your Dog: Hinckley Reservation
  • Best Washington, D.C. Historic Hike for Your Dog: Battlefields of Manassas

Be sure to call the site or investigate online beforehand, however, to learn specifics about possible restrictions or changes. Few things are more depressing than packing up, heading on the trail, only to find a “Dogs Not Permitted” sign along the way.

“Now is the time to hike with your dog,” advises Sullivan, who is already planning her next trip with Sam. “These waning days of summer frequently offer more sunshine, which means more time to enjoy a fun day trip.”

Photo: Corbis Images

Dog Day-trips: A Better Way to Pass the Day

Casey, a Standard Poodle, was sitting at home during the day, growing bored and restless. After a while, he started to act out. His owner, Kimberley Montgomery, works full-time, so she contacted a dog day-trip company called Paws 2 Go. Now, says Montgomery, “Casey goes on a walk every weekday with the wonderful girls of Paws 2 Go and he adores them all! He is always eager to go see his furry friends and his human ones too.” At the end of the day, Montgomery often finds him “stretched out on the foyer floor,” happily resting after his busy day.

Montgomery and many other pet owners are discovering the benefits of companies that offer dog day-trips. Sometimes the excursions are simple park visits, while other trips may take your dog on beach getaways, island jaunts and more. The common factor is that dogs go out supervised and safe, with the basic goals being activity, social stimulation and fun for your four-legged pal.

Day Trips All Year Long
Depending on the season, Casey’s fun-filled day trips can vary. “In the winter, the dogs hike through the woods, run, jump, and roll in the snow, while in the summer, they hike through the creeks, swim, chase sticks and have a great time with the other dogs,” says Maria Kechichian of the Toronto-based Paws 2 Go.

At Club Happy Dog in Pacific Palisades, Calif., “pooches are picked up from home to enjoy jaunts to local mountain trails, lakes for duck chases and swims, parks for romps and runs, or beaches for splashing in the tides and digging to China,” says owner Donni Adams. “Compared to a cruise around the block with a dog walker, each outing includes exciting destinations over a longer timespan plus safe play with regular canine friends.”

Dog day-trip services are located all over the globe now, so your location can help to determine the types of trips. For example, the canine clients of Houndog: Daycare and Daytrips -- based in Brisbane, Australia -- might go to islands, wetlands, nature reserves and even on bush walks, according to owners Angela and Leah O’Meara. Their dogs go “to some of the most exciting, scenic, dog-friendly spots around.”

How the Services Work
Although each business operates differently, many offer door-to-door service. At Club Happy Dog, the team operates a fleet of canine-ready vans and SUVs. “Clients are encouraged to help with the first pickup to reassure their dog,” says Adams. “After that, it’s wise to stay out of their path because the dogs can’t barrel in fast enough to get wherever they’re going that day!”

In most cases, you don’t accompany your dog. At Paws 2 Go, a free consultation for you and your dog is offered before you sign up. “We require a collar, leash (non-retractable) and, most of the time, a house key if the owner will not be home for the pickup and drop-offs,” says Kechichian. “We provide water on the outings so that the dogs remain hydrated throughout the day.”

At Club Happy Dog, canines must be at least 4 1/2 months old, fixed if over 6 months old, healthy, current on vaccines, on a flea/tick prevention program, and “friendly with other dogs and people.” The O’Mearas echo that last point, since their Houndog canine clients must be friendly and social.

Expect to pay between $35 and $60 per dog for a day trip. Some places offer discounts if the owner has more than one dog participating.

Benefits of Dog Day-trips
In addition to improving social skills, your dog will likely gain the following by going on day trips:

  • Exercise Our “No. 1 priority is to exercise the dogs,” say the O’Mearas. Adds Kechichian: “We specialize in providing your dog with an exercise routine that is uniquely structured to create balance and harmony in your dog and, consequently, within your household.”
  • Behavioral Training Adams points out that shy dogs can “gain the confidence and assurance for learning to play with others.” Kechichian believes that the dogs she works with receive training to “behave respectfully with other dogs, big and small, thereby eliminating any future behavioral issues.”
  • Education Since each and every experience is unique, dogs are exposed to new companions, places, sights and smells with every trip.

Most important, your dog will probably have the time of his or her life. For example, Marla Ceresne Black, a Paws 2 Go customer, says her dog “Sami waits by the window every Tuesday and Thursday, waiting to be picked up, and can’t wait to get out the door!” The outings have, she says, “enhanced my dog’s happiness.”

Dog Blogging 101: Make Your Pet a Social Media Star

Many dog owners share the ins and outs of their pets’ tail-wagging tales in blogs and tweets, as well as on websites and YouTube. Sometimes we see their world through the eyes of pet parents, but other times we can observe life from a dog’s-eye view.

We connected with a few dog parents who use social media for, about and by their dogs. They told us why they created a presence for their four-legged pals -- and how you can start dog blogging too.

Precious
The comment, “That dog ought to write a book,” gave Cheryl Lawson the idea to use social media for communicating the adventures of Precious, her Jack Russell Terrier. The blog has become a social media sensation, attracting corporate sponsors and loyal readers from around the globe. Precious also has a Twitter account (@Imajackrussell).

“My dog has 3,500 Twitter followers; that’s more followers than I have!” says Lawson. Her social media experience has been rewarding in more ways than one. “It helps me create a unique platform for my children’s book series, The Adventures of Precious the Dog. It allows me to speak at social media conferences, helping other pet owners and pet-related businesses understand how to use social media. And it allows me to promote animal welfare causes.”

Bruno
The “Bruno the Brussels” Facebook page and YouTube videos are whimsical anecdotes about a Brussels Griffon. Bruno’s reaction to a giant squirrel statue in Manhattan is one of the funnier featurettes. But Bruno’s owners, Jeff Simmons and Alfonso Quiroz, used their social media presence as a valuable tool when Bruno ran away from a dog walker. “We were frantic in our search and employed every avenue we could to pursue his recovery, including recruiting help through Bruno’s Facebook and Twitter accounts,” says Simmons. “It was amazing how quickly this spread the news and how many new fans this recruited. After Bruno was found, The New York Times and The New Yorker wrote about his adventure, and he developed even more fans.”

Dexter and Peppermint
Puppy love prompted Alana Bjorn to make short videos of Dexter and Peppermint, her two Yorkshire Terriers. Then Bjorn asked herself, “Who wouldn’t love seeing cute puppies on the Internet?” Dexter and Peppermint were soon on YouTube and had their own blog, plus Facebook and Twitter accounts. “People relate to their individual personalities. Dexter is cute and loyal, but also has a very mischievous side,” says Bjorn. The YouTube videos have received more than a million and a half views and are gaining popularity every day. “My main goal is to make people happy,” says Bjorn. “I get emails every day from people thanking me for making them smile, or from someone who recently lost a dog, and my social media sites make them feel a little better.”

Social Media Startup Tips
You can create a social media presence for your dog too. Here are some basic guidelines on dog blogging from our dog blog experts:

  • Ask a friend who is experienced in social media to help you get started, or Google instructions online.

  • Build followers by connecting with all the pet-lovers you know: friends, family, workmates, dog training clubs and breeders.

  • Engage with creative words, pictures and videos. Dogs doing something silly or looking expressive are people-pleasers!

  • Post humorous and entertaining anecdotes. People love to laugh.

  • Focus on what you love about your dog.

  • Update when you have something interesting, unique, helpful or fun to share.

  • Don’t over-blog, flood your Facebook page or tweet nonevents every hour. One or two good updates per day are ideal.

  • “Like” and “follow” other dogs. They’ll probably return the favor.
  • Use the medium correctly: Post short tweets, action-packed videos, adorable pictures and newsworthy blogs.
  • Consider purchasing advertising or accepting sponsorship to grow your readership.

You can also learn a lot about dog blogging by attending social media conferences and joining pet-related social media communities. You’ll know you’re doing it right when you start building followers. Keep in mind that those fans are fellow dog lovers, so consider them friends and not just numbers.

Send Your Kid to Dog Training Camp

Have you considered sending your child or other young relative to a dog training summer camp? If not, camp attendee Justin might sway your decision. He attended Camp ARF in California last year and had a blast playing with, training and otherwise helping his assigned dog, a homeless stray named Bali that was up for adoption. Justin had the time of his life, and a week after camp ended, Bali -- a little one-eyed Chihuahua that no one previously wanted to adopt -- found his forever home.

“Shortly after the program ended, Justin came back to visit us and announced that he wanted to learn more about training dogs,” says Bobbe Bartlett, development director at Tony La Russa’s Animal Rescue Foundation, which runs Camp ARF. “The camp helps so many.”

Kid-friendly dog training camps and classes are popping up all over the country, so Justin’s positive review is one of thousands. Here’s what you can expect from such camps.

Dog Training Camps -- by Day and Night
Depending on the camp, either day sessions or overnight stays are offered. At Camp ARF, attendees spend the day at the camp in Walnut Creek, Calif., and then go home every evening. At some other camps, such as Summer Camp for Kids and Dogs at Shadow Hill Farm and Kennel in Jackson Springs, N.C., kids participate in three-day overnight visits, which can be extended. The cost at either type of camp is comparable to other summer programs for kids.

“Some kids stay for one or more weeks,” says Jane Hammett Bright, owner and operator of Shadow Hill. “I offer a reduced rate if they want to stay for extra weeks. Some kids do dog shows on the weekends and come back or stay over.”

From Doggy Dancing to Veterinary Training
Activities widely vary at dog training camps, again depending on the particular camp and the target age level. Camp ARF currently offers summer camps for multiple age groups, says Bartlett. For example, a special Vet Camp gives fourth- and fifth-graders a thorough look at what it takes to be a veterinarian. “Students observe a live spay/neuter surgery in ARF’s clinic, work in teams on real-life animal case studies, analyze X-rays, examine slides under the microscope, practice suture and injection techniques, and perform basic pet first aid,” says Bartlett.

Justin went through Camp ARF’s Junior Dog Trainer program for young teens. “Each camper was assigned their own ARF dog for the week and learned about reward-based dog training, why it is so important for pet dogs and how to get the best results,” says Bartlett. “At the end of the week, campers showed off their hard work at our graduation talent show. Most importantly, the participants gave these dogs a paw up on finding their forever home!”

Dog Training Camp: A Week Your Child Will Never Forget
At Shadow Hill, participants wake up at 6 a.m. to a delicious breakfast. “Our meals are incredible, with fresh-off-the-farm ingredients and no processed foods,” says Hammett Bright. “A lot of kids come home and their parents are shocked at how fit, toned and healthy their children look. Staying busy, getting enough rest and eating right is the reason.”

Shadow Hill campers can bring their own dogs, which they take to agility training at 6:30 a.m. From then on, a typical day might include tracking or herding training, a refreshing swim to give the dogs and kids a break, and nighttime games designed to promote further learning and good social interaction. A few tips:

  • Dog training camps for kids are very popular, so be sure to make arrangements well in advance.
  • Take time to thoroughly read each camp’s website or written materials to understand the rules and regulations.
  • If your child can bring the family dog, its temperament “is the most important factor,” according to Hammett Bright. “Your dog has to be friendly. He or she can be shy, but not aggressive toward strangers.” In fact, shy dogs tend to leave the camp “much happier and confident,” she says.
Dog training camps can provide a good time for all, but they might also set your child off on a lifelong rewarding career or hobby. A future veterinarian could emerge from Camp ARF, and several dog training champions have emerged from Shadow Hill. “We had a kid from Singapore who stayed for two weeks,” says Hammett Bright. “We’ve now learned that he has a champion dog for his age group in Singapore, so we are very proud about how our camp can make a positive difference in the lives of both kids and dogs.”

It’s Party Time! Check out These Dog Festivals

How does your social calendar look these days? If you and your dog have some free time in the months to come, you can fill it up very quickly. That’s because dog festivals are growing in popularity, with events scheduled all over the continent. Here are a few favorites you can check out with your furry pal:

Woofstock

Toronto, Canada

June 9-10

Woofstock.ca

When Woofstock launched in 2003, the Toronto Star called it “the summer of canine love.” Held in the St. Lawrence Market Neighborhood of Toronto, the festival draws some 300,000 dog lovers and their four-legged friends each year for the ultra-popular doggie love-in.

“Founder Marlene Cook was inspired by her late dog, Barkley, to start the festival,” says Liz Jukovsky, a Woofstock spokeswoman. “She now runs the festival in his memory and takes joy in bringing her two Wheaten Terriers, Addison and Sydney, to the festival each year.”

The Celebrity Doggelganger High Tea event was a huge hit last year, with dog celebrity impersonators doing their best Elvis, Natalie Portman in Black Swan, Lady Gaga and more. Other events include the Mr. & Ms. Canine Canada Pageant, the Woofstock Fashion Show, and the Stupid Dog Trick Contest. “Poo Parks” and water stations take care of canine needs. Guests can stay at the dog-friendly Le Meridien King Edward hotel at special rates.

And be on the lookout for Woofstock in your area too. Jukovsky says the buzz is it could expand to the U.S. in a few years.

Doggie Street Festivals

June 10, San Diego

June 24, Los Angeles

DoggieStreetFestival.org

These street fests are California’s largest pet adoption–focused festivals. Even if you have your dog in tow, you can support homeless pets and have fun for a great cause.

“Last year, 130 dogs found new homes (at just one of the events),” founder and says organizer Jude Artenstein. “This is the go-to dog celebration you just can’t miss!”

Spring Dog Festival

Santa Cruz County, Calif.

June 24

CoastalDogs.com

The proceeds from this fun-raising event for dogs and their people go to the preservation and creation of off-leash doggie exercise options, education about responsible dog ownership, and dog-related charities.

“We have something for everyone -- a doggy costume parade, weenie bobbing contest, doxie races, and various dog sports demonstrations to wow the crowds,” says Suse Kelley of Spring Dog Festival. She adds that lure coursing is always ultra-popular. “Seeing the dogs stand in line for their turn reminds me of kids waiting in line for rides at Disneyland!”

Boxerstock

Atlanta

Fall

Boxerstock.org

Boxerstock is a family- and dog-friendly event created by Atlanta Boxer Rescue Inc. People and their pets enjoy concerts featuring rock, folk and blues musicians. Other planned events include children’s activities, a silent auction, a dog costume contest and canine demos.

“Atlanta Boxer Rescue provides adoption services, fostering and education to aid boxers,” shares Lisa Demma, president of the group. “The funds we raise at Boxerstock, our largest annual fundraiser, will allow us to continue our boxer rescue efforts.”

Howl-O-Weenie

Atlanta

Fall

DreamRescue.org/HowlOWeenie

Yet another great Atlanta dog festival, this event celebrates Dachshunds. In past years, the hot dog–shaped canines have come dressed as the Doxie-Lama, a herd of Doxens, a Flamenco Dachshund Dancer and more. You haven’t lived until you’ve also seen the Dachshund Dash Race, watching their little legs really go.

“Howl-O-Weenie attracts not only Dachshund owners, but dog lovers of all kinds who enjoy the sight of Dachshunds in creative and elaborate costumes,” says Ivy Carruth of DREAM (Dachshund Rescue, Education, Awareness and Mentoring). “While we focus on having fun at the event, our primary goal is to promote awareness of the needs of abandoned Dachshunds and raise money to help those in shelters through no fault of their own.”

Barkfest

Rehoboth Beach, Del.

February

VisitSouthernDelaware.com

Picturesque Lewes Harbor plays host to romantic couples and their dogs right before Valentine’s Day each year. The event started as a way to showcase the area during offseason, since tourists usually visit during warmer months. But Barkfest has turned out to be a hit in its own right. It includes “Delaware’s biggest beach party of the winter” and fun canine events like a “yappy hour” and pet pageants.

We’ve only scratched the surface of dog festivals you can attend together. So if you can’t make any of the above, check local magazines for events held in your area. Please note: Information on organization websites is often updated closer to the event dates.