You’re probably sick and tired of that well-worn path around the neighborhood that constitutes your daily walk. Guess what. Your dog is, too. It’s called the beaten path for a reason, folks. The same old sights, the same old smells. Sure, it’s nice to patrol the ‘hood, and to see if old lady Jenkins’ newspapers are piling up and all that, but spring is nearly here! It’s time to mix it up a bit!
If you’re walking or running the very same stretch of sidewalk each and every time, you and your dog will grow tired of the effort. So enough with the pavement pounding already. Rejuvenate your running – and old Rusty’s enthusiasm – by hitting the trails! And while most of us may not be able to open our doors to some magnificent trailhead, chances are you’re near a greenway to tail system that’ll make your feel a world away even if you’re just a couple of minutes from home.
Resources: Gotta start somewhere.
Your city or count parks and recreation department is a slam-dunk first place to start your quest. Many have trail networks listed with distances, elevation change, hours of operation and the like. Some even have downloadable PDF maps you can pop into your smartphone or print. Sweet! We also like websites like trails.com and goruntrails.com, or check your local outdoor outfitter, or your state’s Department of Interior or Department of Natural Resources.
Be prepared: Make like a Boy Scout
Just because you’re not heading into the backwoods for a month doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take your foray into the woods seriously. Safety first, people. Let someone know where you’re going and when you’ll be back. Take your phone and the trail system map. If you can, bring a friend and their dog, too. The more the merrier, safety in numbers and all that jazz.
Know your limits.
If you and Rex are regular runners, that’s great! But trail running can be more taxing than your regular road route, particularly on more aggressive trails that may require much more lateral movement than you’re used to. And even the most well-groomed trails will have rocks and roots you won’t find on the roads. Your 30-minute 3-miler can easily eat up more time when tackled on the trails, so plan accordingly.
And your dog’s.
While Daisy might be the most well-mannered pup on the block, leash manners may get a little slack once they hit the trails for the first time. With so many new smells, they may have trouble staying on task initially. Be patient! Younger dogs may have the stamina to go all day, but may-be not the smarts to know how far is too far. Older or more timid dogs may need some coaxing and a little extra time to cover the distance. Again, patience, Grasshopper. Perhaps you should take a cue from Astro. If he’s taking time to smell the roses, among other things, maybe you should, too.
Mind your manners
You likely won’t find Emily Post waxing on this, but there are some written – and unwritten rules about how to handle yourself and your dog on the dirt. Obey all posted leash laws. Keep your space between other trail users, especially horses and mountain bikers. Stay on the trail. Yield the trail to those heading uphill. Greet other trail users. Pack it in, pack it out. That means if you brought it to the trail, take it out with you! And yeah, bears DO go poop in the woods. Your dog probably will, too. But don’t let King leave a land mine there in the middle of the trail.
Hopefully you’ve looked at the map and know your route, the facilities along the way, or the lack thereof. Bring enough water for both you and your dog. A collapsible bowl will help make sure your dog gets plenty and you can carry less. A comfortable lead and collar are must-haves, too. And if you’ve had to drive to the trailhead, don’t forget a towel and maybe a little post-run treat for you both!
With just a little bit of planning, you can expand your horizons – and your dog’s, reinvigorate your running program, and bond in an all-new way with your dog and the great outdoors. Get after it!