Even if your pup enjoys perching on freshly laundered bedding, wears a bow while scorning the less privileged, or prances on the city sidewalks like an urban aristocrat I have news for you: your darling doggie is still a doggie, and like their human family members, dogs crave summer escapes to the country.
Don’t get me wrong – I appreciate bows and bedding, even the occasional designer dog treat shaped like a cupcake. Emma, my lady basset hound, actually seems to be fond of city life. She is happy to lounge around, take walks in the park, and hunt for scraps of pizza and fried chicken on the streets. But she, like most dogs, is happier when provided with regular doses of time in the wilderness. As for Oliver, my dachshund, the city cramps his style, and he would give it all up in an instant for a full-time rural life. Regardless of their varying degrees of tolerance for the city, both of my dogs are transformed the moment they get out of the car in the countryside. First, they spend about twenty minutes running in huge circles – Emma the Basset Blob becomes Emma the Basset Missile, chasing after Oliver. Then they find whatever river, pond, or lake is nearby. Emma wades just up to her chest because she’s no Michael Phelps, and laps up the cool mountain water, ears floating on the surface. After a few minutes her nose kicks into gear, she puts it to the ground and starts tracking little animals while Oliver, my amphibious super-dachshund, swims after dragonflies. He could do that all day, but instead we head to the trails and spend the afternoon hiking, and everybody is smiling.No matter the breed, dogs are always happier when they get to be dogs – and that means exploring the great outdoors. Even if your doggie is not good off-leash, a trail in the mountains on-leash is still more fun than a dog run in the city. Sadly, New York can be a difficult city to escape from, especially with dogs in tow. Large dogs can’t travel via public transport, and even if you are a city-dweller with a car, you probably don’t have the luxury of avoiding rush-hour and holiday traffic when planning a country excursion.
As a city-dweller with a car and an extremely flexible schedule, I have the luxury of taking my dogs and their NYC Doggie friends to the countryside on weekdays when the roads are clear and the parks are empty. One of my favorite dog-friendly excursions is Gedney Park, in Millwood, NY. Wooded trails, a lake, and open spaces to run in make this a perfect place for those who are not keen on breaking leash rules. Here, dogs are permitted to run and swim freely. There are two downsides to this park: first, it is fairly small, so it can be crowded, especially when school gets out; second, it is not a place for rigorous hiking – there is one hill that might make you break a sweat, but only for a few minutes.
For more space, I usually stick to large county parks where I can let the dogs run off-leash without much risk of running into other hikers or park rangers. Two of my favorite places are Ward Pound Ridge Reserve and Blue Mountain Reservation. Blue Mountain Reservation, near Peekskill, NY, has a couple of nice lakes, and great trails for mountain biking if your pup can keep up. Ward Pound Ridge is big enough to get lost in, with some wonderful spots for picnicking and grilling by the river.
Important things to remember when taking your dog for a hike:
- bring water for your dog (and yourself), or if clean water is available on the trail, bring a dish or cup for your pup to drink from.
– protect yourself and your dog from ticks. Make sure you have used a reliable tick repellent before taking your dog hiking. See here for more detailed information on ticks.
– make sure your dogs have taken their heartworm medication. Heartworm is carried by mosquitoes, and mosquitoes will find you on the trails.
– bring bug spray, and spray yourself and your clothing. Do NOT spray your dog or children with bug spray that contains deet.
– leash rules are there for some good reasons, and this article is NOT intended to encourage breaking those rules. However, if you choose to do so, try not to contribute to problems that the rules are designed to avoid.Regardless of whether or not off-leash hiking is permitted, never let your dog off-leash if he or she wanders and does not respond well to “come”. We don’t want dogs running deer, getting lost or disturbing protected wildlife. If your dog is aggressive always keep him or her leashed.
– bring poop bags. Even though you are in nature, nobody wants to step in poo.
– take your garbage out of the park with you.
We are always happy to offer suggestions for parks that are well-suited to your pup’s personality and activity level, so please let us know if you are planning a country excursion. Or, if you’d like to send your darling for a midweek day of fun in the mountains, consider joining our dog hiking club. One day a week we will pick your beloved up in the morning and return him or her to you in the afternoon, a worn out, happy, doggie. That is the good life for a city dog!
To see more photos of our dogs hiking, visit our photo galleries.