BY JANET McAFEE
All dog owners know how much their canine pals love being included in their activities, and exploring nature hikes with “Benji” makes the experience more enjoyable for the humans. Spring will be here soon, and the time is right to head out to Coachella Valley hiking trails with your “best buddy” tagging along. This is a great way for both of you to get exercise and spend some quality time together. The experience will relieve your dog’s boredom, and may even eliminate negative behaviors.
Assess your dog’s readiness for hiking – Before heading out, evaluate your dog’s level of fitness. If he is elderly or overweight, it’s best to stick with walks around your neighborhood and avoid overheating. Remember that dogs are “people pleasers” and will push beyond their level of endurance to please you and keep up. It may seem too obvious to state, but ensure that your pet is friendly to people and other canines before heading out to public trails. Make sure your dog knows the most important command of all, “Benji (his name), Come!” in case he gets loose.
Plan Ahead – Purchase needed supplies and make sure your destination permits dogs on trails. Most United States national parks do not allow dogs on trails. The book “140 Great Hikes in and near Palm Springs” provides a list of local trails that permit dogs to accompany hikers.
Supplies – Your dog can help carry some of the needed supplies in his own special backpack. A healthy dog can carry up to 25% of his own weight, however some breeds with long backs such as daschunds may not be able to carry much at all. You need to bring along enough water for both of you, with a collapsible bowl to serve it to your pup. Water in streams and lakes may contain parasites and viruses. Bring high quality treats to keep up Benji’s energy level. Make sure your dog is always tagged with your phone number. Putting a colorful bandana around his neck will protect yin case you run into hunters who could mistake him for a game animal. Other items to include are a map, compass, cell phone, first aid kit, sunscreen, and snacks for yourself. If you’re walking on a rocky terrain, doggie boots offer good protection.
Safety – Check your dog’s paws for any signs of blistering or rawness. Remember that walking on hot concrete can be painful for our four legged friends. It’s recommended you keep your dog on a leash for safety and to keep control of him in case you run into unfriendly animals such as snakes. Most public dog trails require dogs be leashed.
Trail Etiquette – When you meet other hikers, the dog and owner must yield the right of way to allow other trail users to pass. Likewise when you meet a horse, the hiker with a dog must yield. Step clear of the trail, and ensure your dog refrains from barking and moving toward the horse. And of course, use those poop bags!
Where to go – The Homme/Ralph Adams Park, located off Highway 74 at 72-500 Thrush Avenue in Palm Desert, has dog friendly hiking trails. The Cove Oasis Trailhead in La Quinta, located just outside the National Monument, permits leashed dogs only between Calle Tecate and the flood control levee. Most California state parks limit dogs to campground and picnic areas, but some parks have trail areas where leashed dogs can join you for a hike. The Joshua Tree National Park allows pets, but they must stay within 100 feet from a road, and are not permitted on trails.
Dog Beaches – Here’s another great idea for a healthy excursion with your dog. You can both escape the upcoming hot summer for a day at one of the San Diego county dog beaches. Most popular is the dog beach in Ocean Beach, located at the foot of Voltaire Street. Tucked away near the Del Mar racetrack is Solana Beach, a lovely spot that allows dogs from September 15 through June 15. It’s almost surreal to see all the dogs happily frolicking in the ocean while the people sit on the sand watching them.
What if you are “dogless in the desert”? Head over to the Coachella Valley Animal Campus shelter and meet hundreds of special rescue dogs. This county shelter is located at 72-050 Pet Land Place, Thousand Palms, 760-343-3644. View their adorable adoptables at www.rcdas.org. You can also contact Loving All Animals at www.lovingallanimals.org or 760-834-7000