Our four legged friends are among our favorite people at the American Chestnut Land Trust! There are few things that make us happier than seeing the dogs of our visitors and volunteers joyfully bounding along the trails. Hiking with dogs offers many benefits that range from giving you motivation to get out for some fresh air and exercise to carrying a light pack of supplies. We truly encourage you to enjoy the trails with your dogs – and be sure to bring them by the office so we can say hello!
Because we love them so much we want to make sure they stay safe and don’t run into trouble out on the property. Here’s a list of a few rules and suggestions – and why they are important!
1. Sorry – but yes, they need to be on a leash!
I know this is the hardest rule for some of our members and guests. We have so many well behaved dogs, but here’s why…
- Beaver Fever – Funny name, but it’s actually an illness that can seriously endanger your pups life! A nickname for the parasite “giardia“, Beaver Fever is an illness dogs (and humans!) can catch by swimming in waters where beavers are busy. Symptoms include severe diarrhea with blood, vomiting, lethargy and severe weight loss. It can even cause death in puppies and older dogs with weaker immune systems. ACLT has several resident beavers and at least one case of Beaver Fever in a dog was reported this winter. Keeping your dog on a leash keeps them out of the water and keeps them safe!
- Ground nesting birds – Providing a safe haven for wildlife is an important part of the work here at ACLT. Through no fault of their own, dogs’ instincts are strong and its very difficult for most to resist the urge to sniff out or chase the deer, squirrels, fox, turkeys and SO many other animals that call the Parkers Creek Preserve home. But a big concern for us is our ground nesting birds that seasonally find refuge in our large stretches of taller grasses. Many of these birds, like the Bobwhite Quail, are losing thousands of acres of suitable nesting areas each year and their numbers are seriously declining. ACLT provides a much needed refuge. Even if the dog doesn’t kill a bird, they could inadvertently damage the nests which impacts the young.
- Our ACLT Friends and Members who are NOT dog people – While we know that for dog owners it’s hard to imagine that someone isn’t a dog person, there are many who are nervous near even the nicest, most well behaved dogs! ACLT is a place for everyone. Please help us make all of our guests, members and friends feel welcome by respecting their needs.
2. Be ready with supplies on the coming warm days:
- While we may assume 2 – 4 miles may be easier for our pets than for us, the changing weather can be tough on them. Even though its cool now, in the coming weeks the temperatures will start to rise. Please be sure to bring supplies that will allow your dog to have fresh water during your hike. Don’t assume that they will be able to drink from any water source that may be near the trails. See Beaver Fever above!
- For our most ambitious Dog/Owner teams, the longest hike at ACLT may be very tempting! The round trip for our PF2BAY trail is 12.2 miles. This is a challenging hike for you AND your dog. For these long hikes, please consider a pack of supplies just for your pup including snacks and water. Check out this great article about things you might want to consider having while taking long hikes with your 4 footed buddy!
- Bring a “Tick Comb” with you. Having this handy little comb with you and combing your dogs immediately after your hike will help protect them and you from Lyme disease which is remarkably prevalent in Southern Maryland.
3. Clean up after them
- We love our trails and work hard to care for them. Please be prepared to clean up your pups “business” when they’re enjoying the trails! We ask that our guests not to walk off the trails – for your safety and the safety of the plants and wildlife – and we are confident that most of our friends respect that. (Did you know that we have many endangered types of plants that thrive here at ACLT?) This means your dogs only option for relief is on the paths. Please help us keep the trails nice for everyone!
We hope you get out and enjoy the trails now that the weather is getting warmer. We’re looking forward to seeing many smiling faces – and wagging tails!
Photo courtesy of Trish Snyder via Creative Commons license – Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0)