Have you noticed all the traffic out there lately?
Your dog probably has.
One of the few bright spots to come out of the pandemic has been the increased attention heaped upon our pets, many of whom have gained more of their most cherished resource in life—their owners’ time.
As a result, many have noticed a marked uptick in of the few activities we’ve all been able freely engage in—dog walking.
“It seems now more than ever that folks are out walking their dogs,” said Brittney Ham, communication specialist for Danville Parks & Recreation. “Especially during the last year, the use of the trails has really skyrocketed. People are getting out after being cooped up all year.”
Ham said that some areas of the local trails usually have more traffic than others, although some are growing in popularity, including Angler’s Park in Danville.
“(It’s) the perfect long stretch” for people to walk their dogs, Ham said.
Ballou Park also offers a secluded space for owners to keep their leashed friends moving.
“It’s a really nice place to go if you want to walk your dog where there are few distractions,” she added.
Though many parks and trails are growing in use, Ham said the most popular walking destination remains the Danville Riverwalk Trail. Its 11-plus-mile course offers both a place to entertain—and train—your dog.
While training your dog to properly walk on a leash may not seem important to some who just want to get out and exercise their pooch, Ham stressed the importance of it to keep your pet safe.
“It’s so important to keep your dog leashed” everywhere but a dog park, such as Coates Bark Park in Danville, where dogs can roam freely.
“When your pet is on a leash,” Ham said, “keep it tight. The use of long, retractable leashes is popular, but even those should be kept short when walking in public to protect dogs and other pedestrians.”
Ham stressed that it’s important to teach your dog manners and proper behavior around other dogs and humans, and that dogs should be trained not to simply go up to everyone they see.
“Not everyone is a dog person” like most dog walkers, she said.
Now that summer is here, it’s also important to be mindful of when is the best time to take your pet out for a walk.
Paulette Dean, executive director of the Danville Area Humane Society, said that even when it may not seem too hot to go for a walk, the temperature of the pavement must be considered.
“In the summer in the heat, it’s always best to go early morning or early evening. That’s because the sidewalks are so much hotter,” she said. Even after the hottest times of the day, a dog’s paw pads can get burned and the owner may not realize it.
“And while it may normally seem like a good idea to get your pet as much exercise as possible in one sitting, summer may not be the time to do that,” Dean said.
“In the hot, humid summers of the south, people should consider going on shorter walks,” she added.
It’s generally considered best to walk your dog in the morning and during the evening, when the sun is not at its hottest. But also consider that those times are among the busiest.
Ham said the most high-traffic time for walkers around Danville tends to fall between 4 and 7 p.m., so that might not be the best time to walk an inexperienced dog.
During normal business hours when traffic is down, “those are really quiet times that are good for training,” she added.
Also, keep in mind that visibility can be a factor. Dean suggested not only dressing yourself in something that helps you stay visible, but your pet, as well.
“If you do go out in early morning or evening, I would have some sort of reflective collar on so that you can be more easily seen,” she said.
Keep a small bottle of water on you when you venture out, just in case. “You never know when you could be delayed, and your dog can absolutely become overheated,” Dean said.
“If you’re going out to take advantage of the many parks and trails, don’t try to multi-task,” Dean added.
“If you have to drive them to an area for walking, never run errands where you have to leave your dog in the car,” she said. Even left in the shade and with the windows down, a hot car is not safe for a dog.
“It’s also important to note that different dog breeds have different capabilities, and it’s good to know what your dog is physically capable of,” Dean added. Consult your vet before taking your specific breed out on any challenging walks.
“We usually tell (owners) to form a very good relationship with their veterinarian,” she said.
And if your dog needs a chance to run freely without being leashed, Ham suggested making use of the Coates Bark Park, near the Community Market.
“It’s a really great place to let your dog off leash safely—we’d love to see it used even more,” she said.
Ham said that now, as more people become vaccinated and restrictions are lifted, Parks & Rec hopes to have more pet-friendly activities around Danville.
“We’re always looking to do dog activities, but now it’s a matter of… figuring out a way to do it,” she said. “We do have dog-centric programs for dog owners to congregate and use certain areas at certain times.”
“And as always, regardless of where you go or what you and your pet do, please clean up after them,” Ham said, “By making use of the dog waste disposal stations located around the trails.”
“Our resources are there,” she said. “It not only keeps our spaces clean, but it’s all-around good practice.”
If you’d like more information on the local trails, parks and other pet-friendly programs, call Danville Parks & Rec at (434) 799-5200.
And if you don’t have a four-legged walking partner, call The Danville Area Humane Society at (434) 799-0843 to schedule a visit.