Fri, Dec 15, 2017
We have been asked all kinds of questions during the time we have had Hike-NH on the web. If you can't find it elsewhere in this FAQ, it should be here.
Are dogs allowed on Mt. Osceola's hiking trails?
First, let me say I absolutely commend you for asking the question. This shows that you are a responsible pet owner, and we'd probably welcome you and your dog along on one of our trips.
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Hiking the Happy Trials with My Dog
I am the fortunate owner of a Cairn Terrier who has the stature of a cat but the spirit of a Labrador Retriever. I have enjoyed several years of safe and fun hiking with her, I suppose primarily because I have taken the time to consider what her needs are on a hiking trip in addition to my own.
I want to preface this story with the admission that a 20-lb dog is obviously not entirely comparable to a 120-lb one, but there are many considerations both sizes of dogs have in common. As your pet's guardian, you are ultimately in the best position to know what equipment works best for you and your pet. What's important is that you take the time to think through what could be helpful to take along on a hike to ensure the comfort and safety of your pet and of those around you.
One of my favorite pieces of equipment is a simple chest harness. My dog's is padded in the front and doubles as a car restraint when we are travelling. I make sure the harness is on tight enough so that it can't easily come off but not constricting (after all, she breathes a little heavier during a hike just like I do!). I attach a Flexi-lead to the harness when walking with her so that the lead always remains taught. I like this system best because in the unlikely event she should lose her footing on a steep trail and fall, I can easily grab her by the chest – NOT the neck which could choke or unduly panic her in an already tense situation. The flexible lead is also helpful here: in the event a fall required her to need a little more line, in most cases I can easily give it to her.
Even though my dog is small, I always keep her on lead when I am walking with her. My experience has been that no matter how well trained the dog, if something interesting enough comes along (like, another dog or a chipmunk), it's liable to momentarily forget all that obedience stuff and succumb to wanderlust. I was once on a trail with my dog when a very large Rotweiller came in the other direction – with owner a few feet behind but sans leash – and I had to very quickly scramble to pick my dog up to prevent any unnecessary vocal posturing or scuffle. That's not to say that the Rotweiller wasn''t a perfectly nice dog in a more domesticated setting, but I should not have had to take steps to protect my dog and avoid a possibly nasty situation. Nobody should. The message to take home: when you are walking with your dog in a public area, have it on lead at all times. If the lead you have isn''t convenient, buy one that is better suited to your needs before you go on your next hike. It will be well worth the price, both in terms of dollars and peace of mind.
A few somewhat unusual pieces of equipment I take with me for use with my dog are a pet pouch, a pet backpack, and something I made myself that doesn''t even have a name but is basically a ring of rope. The pet pouch is an invaluable asset for anyone with a dog 20 lbs and under. It is basically a pouch that straps around your back, over your shoulders and around your waist and is designed to hold the animal against the front of your chest facing away from you (it has openings for the feet and a little slit for the all-important tail). I have used the pouch on a couple of occasions when we found ourselves in a pinch. Once was climbing Mt. Chocorua: as we approached the top, we found ourselves walking up a steep slope of rock – not something her little paws were especially adept at clinging to. Rather than riskhaving her slide down the side of the mountain, I whipped out my pet pouch and stuck her in it. It kept her safe against me while I had the use of both hands to grip the rock and focus on my footing. The other instance was hiking up to Lonesome Lake. Near the top it began to pour, and the moist ground quickly became two-inch mud. That wasn''t too bad for me to handle, but four-inch long legs can only handle so much. Once again, out came the pouch, and the travelling got a lot smoother from there for both of us. The pet pouch is virtually weightless and rolls up, so it's never a bother to have along. It is important with this device that you make sure it's adjusted to fit snugly around the dog BEFORE you have to use it – you don''t want the dog to accidentally slip out of it when you''re on a steep slope because it was too loose!
The pet backpack is a much more serious piece of equipment, but can be worth its weight in gold on long trips. While the pet pouch is great for tight situations in the short term, it is not always so great for extended use. I find that having 20 lbs extra hanging from the front of my chest becomes a strain on my back muscles after a half hour or so. In these situations, a backpack allows for much better posture and can be used for longer periods of time. It's sort of a cocoon made into a pack: the animal slips into the cocoon, and is able to sit in it, while a built-in neck collar keeps the animal gently secured in place. The pet backpack weighs about 10 lbs so it's not exactly as light as a feather, but on a long trip, I wouldn''t be without it.
The last piece of equipment is something I designed myself out of sheer necessity. My dog doesn''t particularly like water, and sometimes trying to cross even a small stream with her during a hike can be a daunting task. I wanted something really quick and easy that I could use to lift her up and over the water. After much thought and many trials (for which my dog was the unwilling guinea pig), I ended up coming up with a simple cotton rope cut to an appropriate length and with both ends sewn together to form a loop (function does define form after all). The loop is slipped under her belly such that one strand of it is positioned under her front legs, and the other strand is positioned under her back legs. The rest of the rope on both sides of her body is brought together over the center of her back to form a sort of handle. I then pick her up with one hand, making a “doggie briefcase” of sorts, and quickly transport her over the water. The nice thing about this system is that it leaves her fairly immobilized so she can''t squirm and take me off balance. While the idea of this rope may seem strange, I''ve actually found it extremely convenient on a couple of occasions. The nice thing is that it can be made at home for any size dog (for instance, a large dog that lands in freezing water and becomes shocked can have this loop rope put underneath him and transported much more easily by one or two people than trying to awkwardly pick him up and perhaps have the rescuer lose his balance in the process).
Then last but not least are the other necessities to bring with you – some healthy snacks for your dog to munch on, plenty of fresh water, a plastic baggie to scoop up doodies (all of which can be transported in a pack your dog can carry himself if you are so inclined), and a first-aid kit with bandage, gauze, etc. should your pet injure himself during the hike.
The last couple of conveniences I take along are a hand towel (to wipe up muddy or wet paws before they get all over me or my car's upholstery), and a big towel and doggie bed which I leave in the car. Usually after a long hike my dog's pretty zonked, so I let her lay on her doggie bed during the ride home, and dream of hiking the happy trails.
Here's wishing all of you safe and enjoyable hiking with your pets!
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