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[ft-l] Dogs on th FT in Ocala National Forest

Dogs are allowed within the National Forests, a leash is not
even required (altho a good idea if your dog is not a
trained "trail dog" or 100% responsive to verbal commands).
The only exception is in the developed campgrounds.  There
dogs must be on leash and they are not allowed in the day
use/concession/swimming areas.  And you are not allowed to
leave a dog unattended in your campsite which means you will
have to take turns going to the restroom/showers/swimming,
etc.  That's why I usually didn't stay in the campgrounds
when I took my dog hiking with me.  You must also have
current proof of rabies vaccination (the vet or county tag
will do), altho I've never had anyone ask for it.

The only problems I ever encountered with my dog in the
Ocala were the sand spurs.  They can really do a number on a
dog's paws.  I got him a pair of booties that he carried in
his pack for those stretches.

Dogs can make wonderful trail companions, but remember that
you are responsible for your dog's health and behavior.
Like people they must be conditioned and trained in trail
etiquette.  Since you are taking it easy on your hike I
doubt that your dog will have a problem making it the few
miles you are planning.  But are YOU ready for the extra

Take twice as much water for the dog as you think you will
need for yourself.  Dogs can't sweat so if he gets
over-heated he will look for a shady spot and flop down.
Don't force him to go on, dogs can suffer from heat
exhaustion and heat stroke same as people.  Let him rest for
a while and give him water.  Some people carry a small towel
that they can wet down and apply to the dog's chest and
belly to help cool them off.

If he has never been in a tent before he may be afraid of
one or at least not understand that it is home for the
night.  He may bark at shadows flitting on the tent wall or
at noises outside the tent from things he can't see.  It
would be a good idea to set your tent up at home and let him
try it out.  Maybe your daughter can sleep in the tent with
him one night at home, even if it's just set up in the
living room.

Unless the dog is used to sleeping outside on the ground,
carry a small pad to insulate him from the ground.  If it's
cool a fleece blanket will keep him from trying to crawl
into the sleeping bag with you.

Pack some dog cookies and whenever you have a snack break
make sure he gets one, too.  For meals, give him the same
food that he eats at home.  Changing food can cause
intestinal problems.

Above all don't allow your dog to interfere with others'
enjoyment of the trail or campground.  Train him to be
accepting of other hikers rather than over-protective of his
"pack", to stay on the trail, to not chase or harass the
wildlife and to leave food alone.  For some reason hikers
have a tendency to leave their open packs lying around and
their food available.  In campgrounds people leave a lot of
food out on picnic tables and in open coolers and garbage
bags on the ground - a bad idea and very tempting to any
animal.  But they'll blame your dog if he gets into it.

So, if you and your daughter are ready for the
responsibility, your dog will probably really enjoy spending
the time with you.


> Hi All,
> My daughter and I are planning a short weekend backpacking
trip (3-5 miles
> out and the same back) on the FT in the Ocala Forest. She
asked if we could
> take the family dog with us. Are pets on a lease allowed
on the Florida
> Trail?
> We may stay one night at one of the campgrounds (Juniper
or Alexander
> Springs). Are pets allowed there also?
> How advisable is it to take the family pet?
> Thanks, in advance, for any replies.
> Ken
> kclamer@xtalwind.net