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Does Your Dog Prefer Dog Parks or Hiking Trails?

My dog likes trails over parks, but that could be because she is small. What does your dog prefer?

 |  Jun 13th 2013  |   26 Contributions


At a minimum, we take our Toy Schnauzer, Dusty, to a local park for a daily walk. Well, it’s more like she randomly sprints from place to place at the park. Being 11 months old, Dusty’s philosophy is one of “Why walk when you can run?”

Of course, yours truly has to attempt to keep up with her, creaky knees and all. She’ll run until the retractable leash is at its maximum stretching point and then stop for an intense sniff of everything around her. This allows me enough time to catch up with her, pass her sniffing spot, and stretch the leash in the opposite direction. This is her clue to come running as fast as possible, pass me, and begin the process all over again.

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Walking the trails with Dusty.

We are very fortunate to have numerous parks in the county where we live. It’s one of the best uses of tax dollars that a county can provide. All of the parks have paved walking paths, open fields, playgrounds, hiking trails, and dog parks. It has a little of everything for our furry and not-so-furry friends.

Dusty usually likes to walk the sidewalks and paved paths first before going to other areas of the park. She’ll check out the children’s playground area to see if there’s anyone who wants to play and pet her. She’s quite the social butterfly and everybody seems to love our little Dusty girl. They always comment on her beautiful cotton-candy-like white fur and her beautiful Schnauzer cut, complete with a long skirt. Of course, they seem to overlook her lightly red-clay-tinged paws that always seem to be present after a park visit. Then there are the particles of grass seed and twig remnants that love to attach to her fur and mustache.

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Dusty is always on leash, but I worry about bigger dogs who aren't.

After the playground, she heads to the dog park to see who’s playing in what she considers to be her park. Yes, she thinks she totally rules every park we visit. However, she’s never really that interested in playing in the sections of the park designated specifically for dogs. She’ll usually enter the area, sniff around a bit, then want to move on to the next area. We’ve tried to get her interested in playing with the other dogs at the dog park, but she shows very little interest. Instead, she likes to focus on playing and socializing outside of the dog park areas.

Maybe it has something to do with the constant and high activity of the other dogs at the dog park. Maybe it’s the fact that she’s very petite, and most dogs overshadow her in size and weight. Maybe it’s the uncontrolled environment when dogs are not on leash. Whatever the case is, she simply doesn’t care for the dog park areas.

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Dusty and I love the great outdoors.

One thing that always surprises me when we visit the dog park is the lack of interaction the human companions have with their dogs. They tend to close the gates, let their dogs off leash, and find the closest bench to rest and chat with other people. It reminds me a lot like taking children to a playground. The children do their thing and the adults do theirs. Occasionally, the dogs’ human companions will glance up to make sure their dogs are staying out of trouble, not playing too rough, or eating something they shouldn’t. This is also what I see with people and their children.

It’s a slightly different story when someone has the dog park to himself. Since he's the only one there, he'll choose to spend quality time with his dog, play some fetch, run around a little, and maybe work on some training techniques.

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Is it park time yet?

After leaving the dog park area, Dusty will head straight to the walking trails. This is the area that she truly loves. She’ll walk the trails as well as any big dog I’ve ever seen. She enjoys the feel of the dirt and pine needles under her little pads and the smells of all the trees, flowers, and wild grasses. If she encounters a big tree branch that’s fallen on the path, she’ll try to pick it up in her mouth and drag it with her during her walk. If it’s too big, she simply jumps over it or climbs on top to jump to the other side.

In addition to the feeling of the trails under her feet and the smells, she enjoys all the wildlife. Usually, we encounter small birds that fly down from the trees or a squirrel running around the base of the trees. Whichever small critter she encounters, she’ll charge after it, bark and chase it back up the tree. It’s as if Dusty is saying, "You critters stay off my walking trail."

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Walking the open fields is fine, too.

Since she is so small in stature, we always keep her on leash. We do our best to stay right beside her and make sure no larger critters enter our path. We also make the trail walks shorter, as not to tire and tax her little body too much.

Of course, I believe dogs will feed off of the thoughts and energy of their human companions. I much prefer being part of nature on the walking trails, compared to the crazy energy at the dog park.

Do you or your dog like dog parks? Would you rather take your dog on a walking trail? Tell us about your preferences in the comments!

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