One of the best parts of living and working in Cuyahoga Falls is that the Cuyahoga Valley National Park is just a stone’s throw away. The easy access to the beautiful areas of the park allow for great exercise for me, my family, and my dogs. Gretel, my Boxer, has energy to burn and the trails of Kendall Cross Country, the Ira Trailhead and the Ledges provide her with just the right distance and up-and-down hiking to wear her out and take her home tired and happy.
With the winter of ’10-’11, it was tough for us to get out on the trail as much as we would have liked, though she and I did make a trip out to Little Meadow on a morning when it snowed over a foot in the morning hours. While it wasn’t the first thing she wanted to do that day, she did enjoy running in the paths I’d make in the snow.
But as we anticipate the warmer seasons ahead, it’s important that when we’re out exercising our dogs that we follow the proper etiquette. First of all, make sure to clean up after your dog. Not only is dog stool just gross to step in on the trail, but intestinal parasites are passed from dog to dog fecal-orally. We can cut down on exposure of these these parasites to our dogs if we pick up the messes.
Secondly, make sure your dog is properly restrained when others are around. Personally, I enjoy hitting the trails first thing in the morning, especially on my weekday off. My kids are up anyway, and the trails are pretty empty. Gretel loves to play the Sit-Stay-Okay game: I tell her to sit, then I tell her to stay, then I walk 50 to 150 feet down the trail leaving her to sit in place, and yell, “Okay!” and she barrels down the trail to me. It’s great exercise and great for reinforcing obedience.
But we can’t play this game when the trails are crowded, or even when I have reason to expect hikers up around the bend. During those times, she’s attached to me by a short leash. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that retractable leashes are acceptable restraint during busy times on the trail. And don’t be “that guy” at the park who ruins the day by letting his dog run roughshod over other dogs and people.
Thirdly, don’t forget to bring water for your dog and a dish that will making drinking easy for him/her. Even on the cloudy days, dogs can become overheated sooner than we think. The flat-faced dogs are more prone to overheating than others, but all dogs deserve and need to have a good drink on a walk.
Fourthly, if you’re going on any of the bigger climbs either in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park or other National or State Parks around the country, make a plan in your mind for if/when an emergency might occur. Bee stings, cuts, sprains and strains are not unusual when we’re out on a big hike. Why would it be any different for our dogs? A great way to prepare yourself is to take a First Aid course for pets.
Getting out on the trails is good for all of us. It’s great exercise for us and for our dogs, and it helps to develop an appreciation for nature and the world around us. We’ve got a gem of a Park right here in our own back yard. Don’t let the seasons pass without taking advantage of what the Cuyahoga Valley National Park has to offer you and your dogs!