Are you ready to take a hike in the fresh air, sunny skies and beautiful outdoors with your dog! Author Doug Gelbert is an expert on exploring the great outdoors with four-legged friends. With Gelbert’s comprehensive guides to the best dog-friendly parks, you and your dog won’t miss out on the chance to experience America’s majesty and natural splendor.
Choosing a Trail Suitable for Two and Four Feet
“It may seem obvious,” Gilbert says, “but first off, make sure dogs are allowed.” His main criteria for a suitable hiking area is a place where his dog can swim, a place that has wide trails and is not too crowded. Avoiding overgrown trails decreases the chance that your dog will pick up a tick looking to hitch a ride.
The Right Kind of Hike for Your Dog
Know your dog’s capabilities and plan your day on the trail accordingly. Make sure you break your dog into a hiking regiment slowly so you can see what he can do. Gilbert says many people make the mistake of thinking, “Oh, he’s a dog, he’s a bundle of energy,” but just as you would not expect a couch potato to go out and run a marathon, a dog who is used to ten minute walks will need some time to adjust to two-hour hikes.
Gilbert reminds hikers that different breeds of dogs are bred to do different things, “Make sure your dog’s breed matches how you want to hike.” Gilbert’s dog is a Border-Collie Mix, which is bred to go all day. Since Gilbert prefers 8-10 mile hikes, the two are a perfect match. He says this may not be the case for someone who has a Border Collie, but prefers only one-mile hikes; when you are heading back to the car, he is just getting warmed up.
General Rules to Live by While on the Trail
Gilbert’s words of advice, “Remember that every time you take your dog on a trail, you are an ambassador for every other dog owner and not every trail user is going to be a dog lover.”
1. Even if you enjoy leash-free hikes, keep your leash handy to control your dog or move him aside when you encounter passersby.
2. Don’t allow your dog to chase wildlife, tear around, or run wildly off the trail.
3. Always pick up after your dog, leaving dog waste behind ruins the experience for everyone.
4. Don’t Forget Your Doggie First Aid Kit
“It need not be elaborate,” Gilbert explains. Pennsylvania is referred to by Appalachian Trail hikers as “The place where boots go to die.” Its infamous rocky trails, which could result in a cut paw pad. In case this sort of injury occurs, have some sort of bandage and cotton padding, so you can wrap the paw and your dog can walk.
A pair of tweezers may come in handy to pull off a tick or a bee stinger, as well as antihistamine to prevent an allergic reaction from a bee sting. Aspirin should also be on hand to prevent inflammation if your dog sprains a leg. Always have your vet’s number handy.
A native of Northern Delaware, Gilbert had been hiking with his dog in area parks for over twenty years before authoring his first book. A tip from a friend led him to explore a secluded wooded area that he had never known about, no more than ten minutes from his house. Behind the façade of strip malls and subdivisions he recalls, “Sure enough there was an isolated patch of woods in an undeveloped county park with seven miles of super trails.” While exploring, he realized that he was probably not the only one who didn’t know about this hiking gem, so he wrote a book about the Northern Delaware region followed by one about Philadelphia.
A Bark in the Park: The 55 Best Places to Hike with Your Dog in the Philadelphia Region showcases the area’s excellent hiking opportunities, from the premiere parks to the little known hiking paradises. A cultural and historical city, the places you learned about in school are open for you and your pup to roam and connect with history. From Gettysburg to Valley Forge, Gilbert’s book invites readers to discover all these wonderful places to hike with your dog. Best of all, the parks that are highlighted and can be reached within an hour’s drive of the Liberty Bell. Let leash-freedom ring!
The benefits of hiking are numerous. Besides the fact that hiking is fun, it is also great exercise. A study conducted by Texas A&M University found conclusive evidence to show that just being in the company of a dog reduces blood pressure, chance of heart failure, and, in elderly patients, the number of overall visits to the physician. As the saying goes, “If your dog is overweight, you don’t get enough exercise.” So get out there and let your dog lead the way.