This is a guest blog by Ashlyn Oswalt. Ashlyn is an American expat who’s been living in New Zealand for a year. She’s a keen tramper and enjoys taking her pup Trapper on walks with her. She’s shared her top tips for people who are thinking of taking their doggos on a tramp.
Lace up your tramping boots and grab the dog lead, because we’re exploring how to safely take your pup on public conservation land! Dogs are becoming a popular tramping companion, so we need to practice responsible dog ownership on the track to help protect the unique landscape and biodiversity of New Zealand, all while enjoying a tramp with man’s (and woman’s!) best friend.
Follow these five simple tips for a great start:
Always check DOC’s status on dogs before embarking on a track.
Some tracks are dog friendly on leash, some are dog friendly with a DOC permit, and some are simply not suitable for dogs. Respect these rules as they are often in place to protect native birds in the area, fragile terrain, or other important reasons that need be observed. Use the DOC website to filter dog friendly walks and talk to your local Visitor Centre about suitable tracks.
Bring a lead.
The most effective way to control your dog 100% of the time on a track is to keep your dog on a lead. If your dog is running ahead of you and out of sight, it can be impossible to tell if they’ve picked up a scent of a native bird, are digging into a nest, have gone number two, or are harassing others on the track. Conserving nature is a number one priority, but it’s also important to consider the enjoyment of others on the track. Some dogs are great off lead, some dogs are not. Some dogs are reactive to other dogs approaching them, and some humans don’t love being approached by dogs. A great way to keep everyone safe and out of harm’s way is by keeping your dog on a lead for the duration of the hike. If you’re adamant that your dog can be controlled off leash and the track allows it, pack a lead in case you need to regain control of your dog quickly and effectively.
Pack it up, pack it out.
It’s inevitable that dogs will need to go number two while on the track, and equally inevitable that you should pick it up. It can be incredibly disheartening to see dog feces on a track for sanitary reasons, but this introduction of a non-native species in a fragile ecosystem can also have negative effects on native wildlife. Pack biodegradable bags and pick up after your pooch.
Plan and prepare.
Be sure to pack enough water for your dog and a collapsible bowl to drink out of, as relying on freshwater streams can be dangerous, especially in the hotter, drier months. If your dog is prone to overheating or the weather is particularly hot, pack a bandana that can be dipped in cool water and run through fur when the panting escalates. For longer walks, bring some treats as energy boosters as well.
Pick tracks for your dog’s ability.
It can be easy to forget that your dog’s level of fitness may not be as great as you’d like it to be. If your pooch is more accustomed to sitting on the couch than running 5km, start off with a low kilometre walk with little incline. Take frequent breaks and work up to the more challenging and strenuous tramps. Soon, you and your pooch will be track experts in no time!
By following these simple steps, you and your dog can enjoy a great time in the outdoors, all while respecting DOC’s hard work and conserving New Zealand’s beauty for more to enjoy.