There are 58 national parks in the United States, and each one has its own awe-inspiring beauty and wildlife to enjoy. Last year, almost 70 million people visited a national park. If you are planning a trip that includes your dog and would like to take in the views of our national parks, some do allow limited access for canines, and five are considered to be “dog friendly.”
Pet access varies from park to park. Park superintendents have the authority to adjust pet policies at their specific park to ensure that the land, wildlife and the pets are protected. It’s important to plan ahead before heading out to a national park, historic site or seashore, and do research to make sure pets are welcome. Many national parks only allow dogs in designated areas like roads and developed areas. Most trails or wilderness areas are off limits to canines. Finding lodging for you and your pet can also be a challenge, but some parks do have kennels for pets. The only exception are service dogs who are allowed to go everywhere with their owner.
You can find current information about pet policies, entry fees, park hours and scheduled events at national parks on the National Park Service website. For pet policies, go to the search bar in the upper right hand corner where it says “find a park.” Click on a state and scroll down to find the national park you’re interested in. On the left side, click on plan your visit, click basic information, scroll down and click pets. You will also notice a red box for park alerts such as weather updates and construction projects.
When heading out for an afternoon of hiking or a camping trip that includes your dog, some planning is needed to make sure the outing is safe and fun for everyone. Being prepared for the unexpected by packing important items, and remembering some simple safety tips can help create a worry-free adventure for you and your dog.
Fleas, ticks and mosquitoes are sure to be lurking in the grass or around water. Make sure your dog has been treated with flea, tick and heartworm protection, and that his vaccinations are current. Ticks climb to the top of tall grass and weeds to wait for a warm body passing by so they can attach themselves to it. When hiking or camping in areas where ticks are common, bring a tick removing gadget so you can safely remove them if you find them on you or your dog.
On camping trips, it’s a good idea to add a temporary ID tag to your dog’s normal tags on his collar. On the tag, write the name of the park you’re visiting as well as the number of your assigned campsite. If you aren’t camping in a park or there are no assigned campsites, write the phone number of the nearest ranger station. If there isn’t a ranger station nearby, write the phone number of a family member or friend who knows how to contact you. You should also have a standard ID tag on your dog’s collar that includes the dog’s name, your name and phone number. Even if your pet has a microchip, an ID tag can be read without a scanner.
To me, spring and fall are the best times of the year to go hiking with your dog. Spring breathes new, fresh life into trees and wildlife. The land is once again colored with green grasses and spring flowers. Autumn gives us beautiful colors in different shades of orange, golden yellows and reds that enhance a hike through the woods or along trails. A change is in the air. Gone are the sticky, hot temperatures of summer! Fall is a great time to head out to your favorite trail and enjoy the benefits of hiking with your dog.
Even the most hardened four legged couch potato loves to get outside for much needed exercise. The problem with taking your dog on the same walk around the same neighborhood is that it’s the same old routine morning, noon and night. Your dog needs some variety – new scents to smell and investigate; hills and valleys to race up and down; and grass, dirt or mulch to walk on instead of cement. Just like us, dogs need stimulation and a little excitement now and then. Hiking with your dog gives him a mini vacation from his daily routine.
Hiking is a great way to get rid of boredom. This is one reason why dogs dig in the yard and chew on furniture or rugs. If your dog is sleeping all day, a hike is just the activity he needs to perk him up and run off pent up energy. You can see a spark light up in his eyes when he sees your backpack, hiking boots, water bottles and his leash because he knows he gets to go with you to a place with lots of interesting sights, smells and things to do.
One of my favorite places to hike is a trail that winds up and down gentle hills and goes through a small grove of trees, a clover filled meadow and ends at a small, fast moving brook. Not a long trail, but long enough to give my boots a good workout as well as my dogs. Along the trail, we see mainly rabbits shooting out from their hiding places, birds, lots of butterflies and a hawk every now and then floating in the sky above. Occasionally, we’ll run across other hikers and their dogs. Hiking with your dog gives you an opportunity to meet other people, and your dog gets a chance to meet other dogs. Plus it’s one of the best ways to bond with your pet.
Hiking also provides you with benefits. It’s a great way to reduce stress, get rid of your own boredom and get away from the noise of the world. A solitary trail with trees dressed in their best fall coats of color and fresh air all around make it hard to carry the day’s burdens in your backpack. Hiking with your dog is just a fun thing to do anytime of the year. It’s healthy and adds stimulation to your dog’s life as well as your own with a good work out that doesn’t feel like exercise. It also helps you and your dog maintain a healthy weight and keeps muscles toned and strong.
There are a few things to remember, however. Know your trail and the animals or snakes you may encounter while hiking. It’s also important to know your dog. How well does he respond to you when you call his name if he’s excited? If he takes off into the wild spaces and you have to run him down or you spend hours frantically listening for his bark, don’t take him off leash. He can still benefit from a hike at your side safely on his leash. Don’t forget water for both you and your dog, and it’s good to carry a small first aid kit in your pack. Other useful items include a wind up flashlight (no batteries needed), emergency blanket, ace bandage, wooden matches, hunting knife, a compass, a good length of rope, sweatshirt or jacket, a pair of jeans or sweat pants, hat, some food and extra water. I seldom have to use any of the items I carry in my pack when I’m hiking, but it’s always best to be prepared and not need them, than wish you had taken the time to plan in advance.
Don’t forget your camera for capturing those unique moments you can only find on a beautiful day along a trail. Fall colors will soon begin replacing the greens of summer with signs of the coming winter approaching just around the corner. Go for a hike! It’s fun, exhilarating, healthy and time well spent that will benefit you and your dog in more ways than one.
The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.
The personal opinions and/or use of trade, firm, corporation or brand names, in this blog is for the information and convenience of the reader. Such use does not constitute an official endorsement or approval by CANIDAE® Natural Pet Food Company of any product or service to the exclusion of others that may be suitable. All opinions in this blog are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® Natural Pet Food Company.