Spring is here and so the opportunities to take beautiful hikes with your dog abound. If they did not get out for walks during the winter, then it is important to build their endurance gradually as is recommended for people when beginning a walking program. One can start with short distances at flat land parks and gradually increase the duration and distance of the walks. Later as the team progresses, the speed and hill difficulty can be increased as well. Spring is also a great time for your dog to receive a wellness check and be heart worm tested. Your veterinarian can clear your dog for exercise or make suggestions to restrictions and/or diet recommendations.
Assuming you and your dog are healthy to exercise some consideration should be given as to how to start and maintain a walking program:
1. What length of time and what time of day do you prefer to walk,
2. Proper foot attire and walking surface
3. Water for your dog and poop bags
4. Where to walk, and
5. Do you prefer to walk alone or with others.
The duration of the walk is going to be dependent upon your fitness level. To start with you could simply head out your front door with your dog and walk for ten or fifteen minutes and return home thus accomplishing a 20-30 minute walk. For more variety, you could travel to a park that offers a circular walking pattern and complete one or more laps dependent upon your and your dog’s endurance.
It’s important to wear proper walking or running shoes and consider the running surface not only for your self but also for your dog. If you’re just starting a walking program then a flat level path is an excellent choice. However, if you’re a runner, you might want to run on a softer path such as grass or a dirt trail to lessen your feet impact.
Proper hydration is also important for you and your dog. Thus, it’s important to carry along water and a collapsible bowl for your dog to drink from along with poop bags to pick up any dog waste during the trip.
To keep things interesting, it’s a good idea to vary the location of your walks. Some recommended dog friendly parks in south east Michigan include:
A. Nichols Arboretum – beautiful large park that offers challenging hills, flat pastures and river scenes. Great place to take photos of your dog.
B. Gallup Park – large walking path around the river plus nature areas to explore. A very beautiful park with lots of dog walkers. Watch out for the bikers that sneak up behind you.
A. Heritage Park – serene medium length walk around a beautiful pond frequent by waterfowl. It is especially beautiful at sunset.
B. Lower Rouge Recreational Area – beautiful stone path wooded trails, wear mosquito repellant during active mosquito season due to the trail being in the woods and winding next to a stream.
Garden City – Garden City Park, 1.2 path that circles the park containing lots of distractions (walkers, bikers, joggers, squirrels, child play area, baseball fields). If you have a reactive dog, be careful or skip the back portion of the walk behind the baseball fields as the walking path is adjacent (within a few feet) to residences that have barking dogs on the other side of the privacy fences.
Livonia – Rotary Park, lots of paved walking area in the front and back park of the park in addition to wooded trials. Dogs are suppose to be kept on a leash as in all parks but be careful on the wooded trials as many people allow their dog to roam off leash.
Novi – Maybury State Park, beautiful paved flat trials along with challenging hilly wooded trials.
Plymouth – Downtown district / Kellogg Park, beautiful urban park to walk your dog and hang out in the park with your dog. Suggestion, have someone order take out at Panera bread (next to the park) or bring a snack and have a picnic in the grass near the fountain.
Kenningston Metro Park, beautiful paved 8 mile trail around the lake. There are also additional wooded nature trails but dogs are not allowed on the nature trails.
Proud Lake Recreational Area, the most beautiful wooded park in south eastern Michigan that will remind you of being up north. The wooded trials will take you throw wetlands (wooded plank walkways), around a lake, past a small dam and into beautiful evergreen groves. This is a must see.
A final decision is to decide if you prefer to walk alone with your dog or with others. It can be more fun and helpful to stick to a walking program when you walk with others. If this interests you, the Michigan Dog Trainer has a walking meet up group called Awesome Adventures. It meets approximately twice per month at the above local parks.
Planning how to start and maintain a walking program with your dog can lead to your success but the most important thing is just to get out and do it. Start small and build as your endurance and interest grows. Have fun walking! And, if you need help to train your dog to walk nicely on a leash contact the Michigan Dog Trainer for professional dog training.