Tails on Trails: Five tips for hiking with your dog

Piper and Charlotte hiking the Cypress Dome Trails complete with a pack for carrying their hiking supplies.

We love seeing tails wagging out on our trails. The wide paths of the CREW Marsh Trails and Cypress Dome Trails are perfect for exploring with your pooch.

Before you head out for a hike, check out a few of our recommendations to help make your hike a success for you and an enjoyable experience for your pet.

Safety First

For your dog’s safety, he/she must be leashed. We also recommend making sure they walk in the center of the trail. Why?

Fire Ants.

No one wants to accidentally step into a fire ant mound, and the since the ants nest in disturbed areas with a lot of sunshine, the edges of the trail are their preferred nesting spots. Once one ant bites, it releases a pheromone that tells all of the other ants to swarm. It’s difficult enough to brush the furious ants from your own boots/socks/pants so just imagine the impossible task of quickly removing them from your pet’s fur.

Staying in the middle of the trail also helps minimize the chances that your curious pup will encounter any reptilian friends that are sunning on the sides of the trail. And a leashed pet also lets other trail users know that you, the owner, are respectful of everyone out there, including the wildlife.

If you are concerned about mosquitos, please do not use mosquito spray designed for humans. DEET is toxic for dogs and can make them very sick. Instead, opt for a mosquito spray designed for dogs or an at-home mix of essential oils.

We also recommend packing a pet first aid kit in your backpack before heading out for a hike. It should include things like a cold pack, gauze, bandages, tweezers, antiseptic and insect sting relief pads. If you do have a medical emergency on the trails, call 911.

And, after your hike, do a post-hike pet check at the car. We recommend checking your dog’s paws for any debris or wiping their paws with a wet cloth.

Hydration

You aren’t the only one who will get thirsty hiking the trails. Just imagine hiking a mile in a fur coat – that is how hot your pooch is going to get in our glorious sunshine and high humidity and he/she cannot sweat to cool themselves off. Pack water for both yourself AND your pooch and bring along a collapsible water bowl to make drinking easy for your pet.

Worried about carrying everything? Consider purchasing a pack for your dog. There are a lot of options on the market and a good-fitting pack can help your dog share in carrying your supplies.

Also, if you are packing a snack to keep your energy up, pack a snack for your pup as well. Hiking is hard work and everyone, including your dog, needs a break in a shady spot with a tasty snack.

Misty enjoys a rest break in the shade at the Cypress Dome Trails.

Pack out what you bring in – even poop

Ahhhhh, the pet waste debate. Ask any frequent hiker at our trails and they’ll tell you all to often the scat they are identifying so eagerly isn’t from bobcats or panthers – it’s from dogs.

Leaving your pet waste behind isn’t just a nuisance for other hikers who may step in it – it’s also dangerous for wildlife. Dog waste can contain harmful bacteria which can affect wildlife or end up in our water. And, if your dog happens to ingest feces that was left by other dogs on the trail, they can get sick with diseases such as Parvo or parasites including tapeworms.

Take dog waste bags with you and pick up after your pet. You’ll also need to transport that waste to a garbage can, so plan accordingly. Because the CREW trail systems are primitive, they do not have trash cans and all guests are expected to follow the Leave No Trace principles.

Good behavior goes a long way

There are multiple user groups at each trail system, including horses and bikers at the Cypress Dome Trails and birders and photographers at all trails.

If your dog needs to work on their manners, meaning, if they bark a lot and may distrub birders, you may want to head to the trails during off-peak times. Birders and wildlife photographers usually hit the trails very early in the morning so, if you want to avoid any angry glares or shushing noises, head out later in the morning. If your pet doesn’t like crowds, check to see when programs are being offered at the trails and avoid hiking during programming times. And, if you are unsure if hiking is right for your pet, try short walks around the neighborhood and note how they react to other dogs and people. They’ll likely react to people, wildlife and other dogs on the trails the same way so, if they need more time to work with you on manners, take that time before heading out to hike.

And owners, good behavior on your part is key. When you see other hikers, step to the side and guide your dog so they do not venture close to other hikers, who may be leary of dogs or uncomfortable around them. When we all get along on the trails, everyone benefits.

Harriet shows off her excellent hiking skills and good behavior while staying safely in the middle of the trails at the Cypress Dome Trails. Good girl, Harriet, those are some gold-star hiking skills.

Know before you go

Before heading out to the trails, check out the trail maps and descriptions, user groups and trail conditions on our website. Once you arrive at the trails, note your GPS location in case of emergency and take note of any wildlife warning signs.

We suggest taking photos of the snakes that you may encounter on the trails, which are on a poster at the kiosks. We have several venomous snakes that your curious pup may encounter along the sides of the trails or off the trails (but we certainly hope they do not venture off the trail).

It’s also important to note the route you plan to take on a map and make sure that the distance you plan to cover fits the fitness level of yourself and your dog. Short hikes are a great way to start enjoying the trails and slowly build up both your endurance and your dog’s.

Special thanks to Harriet, Misty, Charlotte and Piper for bringing their humans out for a hike! Harriet’s owner, Cheryl, won a private Tails on Trails hike at our 2019 CREW Concert & Silent Eco-Auction.

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