The days are getting longer and we even have blue skies and slightly warmer temperatures. Many of us are starting to plan competition schedules, balancing agility trials with herding, tracking, obedience or field work. Maybe long hikes up into the Adirondacks, backpacking trips, camping, swimming and canoeing or kayaking. We need to work on our fitness but we also need to think about our dogs’ fitness if they will get to come with us.
One of the best exercises for both man and beast is walking. Plenty of brisk walking will help with overall fitness and puts less stress on joints than running. Swimming is also excellent but there aren’t too many places that are safe (or comfortable) for our dogs to swim yet!
If your dog has not been active at all over the winter, you need to start slowly. Take into consideration your dog’s size, age and overall health. Look objectively at his weight. You should consult your veterinarian if you have any questions about your dog’s ability to start exercising.
Then plan your walking schedule. Walking at least five days of the week is ideal. How far you walk will really vary. A small dog like a Chihuahua may be exhausted at first after just walking 1/10 of a mile. On the other hand, your Husky mix could probably easily do a mile his first time out unless he is elderly or very overweight.
Be sure to think about the terrain and the footing for your dog. If your walking site has hills, your dog will build up plenty of muscle in the rear but may get tire quickly. A flat site is nice but if it is paved, think about how hot pavement may get if we have any hot, sunny days. Then you will need to walk early in the morning or later in the evening. Right now, heat is less of a problem than salt and ice melters used on sidewalks. Be sure to wipe your dog’s feet off when you get home!
So where are some great local places to walk? The Rayhill Memorial Trail that goes from New York Mills out to the Clark Mills area is a wonderful trail. It is paved and they even provide trash receptacles and poop baggies. Please, please, please pick up after your dog! The trail people may it so easy and if we dog owners abuse the privilege of using this great trail by leaving poop everywhere we will be banned. That means even picking up the poop if it is off to the side of the path. For health reasons as well as esthetics this is important.
Both the Kirkland Town Park in Clinton and the New Hartford Town Park have nice trails through the woods as well as paved or graveled paths to hike. In Rome, you can pick up part of the Erie Canal Trail system. Many of the lock sites along the canal also have walking trails or small parks. We have walked along the lock site in Marcy which is quite nice.
While walking, periodically work on your dog’s attention and take advantage of other walkers to practice for your Canine Good Citizen tests!