For excellent company on The Great Trail, look no further than humankind’s best friend. There are many benefits to bringing a dog along, not the least being that they’ll probably enjoy the change of scenery as much as you do. “Compared to the sidewalk, it’s a more fun way to give them the exercise they need,” says Chelsea Demings, a Halifax resident who recommends the parts of the Trail that wind through her city, showcasing its harbour and lakes. Here are some tips for planning an outing near you.
Chelsea Demings Photography
1. Be realistic
Make sure that the hike isn’t too demanding for your pet in terms of length, terrain, and temperature. A dog’s limits will depend in part on its age, breed and size. Joy Gluck likes to walk on the Trail portion that follows the shores of Georgian Bay and the banks of the Wye River near Midland, Ontario. It offers spots where her husky-cross can wade into shallow water to cool off during the sweltering summer months. Come wintertime, he has no trouble with low temperatures or deep snow on the unshovelled path. “However, smaller dogs probably wouldn’t do as well,” Gluck says.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Joy Gluck
Joe Goodwill, who runs the Vancouver-based blog Average Joe Cyclist, finds the Traboulay PoCo Trail in Port Coquitlam, British Columbia, to be dog-friendly, not to mention beautiful. However, his two pooches, Ripley and Billy, both have short legs and can only keep up with his bicycle for so long. Once they tire, they ride in pet baskets and watch the countryside go by. Goodwill stresses the importance of making sure your dog is firmly tethered into the basket with a harness and a safety leash.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Average Joe Cyclist
2. Come prepared
Consider what to bring to meet your companion’s needs and your own. Andrea Isabelle, creator of the blog Halifax Dogventures, which highlights dog-friendly excursions in her area, doesn’t head out without lots of water, a collapsible water dish, a leash, poop bags and dog-safe bug spray.
Photo Credit: Halifax Dogventures
Portrait photographer Tori Sweeting packs a similar collection of items plus a camera, because her dog, Buck, is often doing something cute. The pair frequent Glen Major Forest in Ontario’s Durham Region, which she would highly recommend to anyone looking for a serene nature walk.
Photo Credit: Tori Sweeting Photography
3. Be courteous
Joe Goodwill appreciates that his pets sometimes get to run free on the Trail. “It’s something that never happens in the city,” he says. “They love it! It’s the way dogs were meant to be.” That said, be sensible about deciding if and when to go off-leash. If a trail segment has a leash rule, respect it.
Otherwise, make sure it isn’t too crowded, keeping in mind that not everybody feels comfortable with a canine on the loose. When you encounter other trail users, command your dog to heel or sit, or—if it can’t be relied upon to obey—put it back on the leash, so that they can pass without worrying about being sniffed, bitten or jumped.
Photo Credit: Colleen Dickson
4. Savour the companionship
Andrea Isabelle loves walking on the Salt Marsh Trail in Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia. It traverses a causeway, and “you’ll find yourself literally surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, with sea birds soaring overhead and gentle waves swirling on either side,” she says. The great thing about visiting it with her black Lab is that dogs “appreciate a nice, comfortable silence. They motivate you to be present, without thinking too far ahead or behind,” she says. “And they remind you that a hike in the great outdoors is pretty darn exciting.”