Without Trails

Walking the Dog

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On a late-summer excursion along the meandering woodland trails of Lewis G. Larus Park off Huguenot Road, a group of Richmonders hiking with their dogs discovers the bliss that naturalist John Muir describes: “Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees.”

They’re in a meetup group where humans and their pups explore the area’s forested parks. Led by Hannah Fuqua, head trainer at Canine Adventure, the group’s mission is to give everyone a chance to enjoy the great outdoors with their dogs. “One of the best things about dogs is how they keep us active and connect us to the natural world around us,” Fuqua says.

Among the regulars in the group is LaVon Fugett Mauck and her sheltie, Winter. “This experience enables the dogs to be a part of a ‘pack’ of friends and shared companionship with their person,” Mauck says. “What better way to release all that energy that the herding group dogs have? It improves the dog’s disposition and helps me to feel like I am giving her the best life.”

Great exercise for both people and their pets, the hikes also offer sensory experiences for dogs. “Smell is a dog’s primary sense and provides the most information about their world,” Fuqua says. “A ‘sniff-ari’ provides the best form of novelty, enrichment and exercise for our dogs.”

Trail hikes with canine companions are also a great choice for an outdoor activity during the pandemic. “It’s hard to find a safe and fun way to exercise and have fun,” Mauck says. “The hikes motivate us to live healthy and appreciate new places while socializing.” 


Happy Trails

Want to take your dog along for a hike? Here are some tips from Fuqua.

Start out short and sweet and work your way up to longer distances. Check with your pet’s veterinarian if your dog is overweight or has other health issues. 

Keep your dog leashed. Shorten the leash when you see others approaching, and keep your pet on the opposite side of the trail, even if you think your dog is friendly.

Bring water. Dogs have fur coats and higher heart rates, and they’re usually much more active than we are on hikes.

Learn about local flora and fauna. There are snakes, insects, plants and other organisms that could present risks for yourself and your dog. Pack a first-aid kit that includes items for humans and canines. 

Bag your dog’s waste as a courtesy to other hikers — and to protect the local watershed.

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