Blue Hen Falls

#7 Blue Hen Falls
Cuyahoga Valley National Park
Mar 10: 20 minutes, 0.2 miles, out and back

Difficulty: 1 2 3 4 5
Interest: 1 2 3 4 5
Surface: Dirt

Cross that off the bucket list, I finally made it to a National Park! It was just a baby did-it-to-say-it’s-done hike on my way to return boarding dog Mikasa to her owner, but it still counts. There are lots more trails in the area, of course, including ones that are really great bike trails. But the forest is really pretty and it leads to a little waterfall.


Olentangy Trail

#6 Olentangy Trail
Columbus, Ohio
Feb 28: 30 minutes, 3 miles (bike), out and back
Mar 12: 40 minutes, 4 miles (bike), out and back

Difficulty: 1 2 3 4 5
Interest: 1 2 3 4 5
Surface: Paved

Olentangy Trail is a multiuse trail that runs along the Olentangy River. There’s a tree line, but you never forget you’re in the city. Often the trail runs right up against the back of an apartment building. It’s a nice trail, but it’s too busy for my taste. Even in bad weather, there are lots of cyclists and runners. In good weather, there’s cyclists and runners plus lots of families with small kids. Just after Como Park in Clintonville there is an open field that often has off leash dogs and several times they’ve chased me and my dogs while we bike.

Mar 12: There are a couple places where the trail splits off for a mini loop and those are interesting. Just north of Dodridge St there’s a loop that goes through some wetland preserves and just south of the same there’s a loop that goes through some denser forest. Both are very short though, just about two minutes on bike.

Rocky Fork Off Leash Dog Trail

#5 Rocky Fork Off Leash Dog Trail
Rocky Fork Metro Park
Feb 7: 0.5 hours, 0.6 mile, loop

Difficulty: 1 2 3 4 5
Interest: 1 2 3 4 5
Surface: Gravel and dirt

Even though it’s short, this is my favorite trail in Columbus. It’s officially sanctioned off leash legal! And even so, I rarely see other dogs. More often if there are others they go to the fenced in dog park the trail starts from. It’s a very short loop through some forest, but there’s a spot to go out to some wetland with a little pond.

Mudsock Trail

#4 Mudsock Trail
Hilliard, Ohio
Feb 7: 0.5 hours, <1 mile, loop

Difficulty: 1 2 3 4 5
Interest: 1 2 3 4 5
Surface: Paved


A great find! This little trail is tucked behind the Spindler Dog Park in Hilliard. It’s paved and flat, which makes it easy, but it goes through so much different kinds of terrain. There is prairie, forest, farmland, and lots of ponds! It’s very very pretty. The whole trail goes farther, but we just did the small loop because I was short on time. It’s very quiet; the trail gets close to some housing developments but they’re well hidden by trees.

Sycamore Plains Trail Loop

#3 Sycamore Plains Trail Loop
Prairie Oaks Metro Park
Jan 20: 1.5 hours, 3 miles, loop

Difficulty: 1 2 3 4 5
Interest: 1 2 3 4 5
Surface: Grass and dirt

Mud! It rained the day before and the trail was VERY MUDDY. It starts with a big down hill and I slipped immediately, while taking a picture of how steep and muddy it was. It’s a great trail through the forest, there are lots of branching paths and interesting features. I much prefer unpaved trails, and most of the pet trails in the metro parks are paved, so this is one of my favorites.

At the end of the loop you climb out of the forest into a big prairie. It’s a good place to let dogs off leash even though it probably isn’t officially allowed. You can see people coming from a long way off and they can only come from one direction so you can leash up before they come close and if you stand at the top of the hill you can keep an eye on your dog even if they’re far ranging.

Ironweed Trail

#2 Ironweed Trail
Glacier Ridge Metro Park
Jan 13: 1.5 hours, 2.5 miles, out and back

Difficulty: 1 2 3 4 5
Interest: 1 2 3 4 5
Surface: Paved

The Ironweed Trail is an easy trail, but remote. It’s a little removed from the rest of Glacier Ridge Metro Park, but that’s a feature I enjoy. There aren’t many people there and apart from a little traffic noise near the start of the trail it’s really quiet. The trail runs all the way up to the rest of the park, but we turned back at Mitchell-Dewitt Road because it was getting dark. The section we hiked is mostly prairie and farmland. There was lots of wildlife, we heard a lot of birds and something much larger rustling! I wasn’t able to catch sight of it, but it was larger than a squirrel. My guess is probably a fox or coyote.

March 13: Pilot and I came back to this trail for some biking. Turned back at the road again due to time constraints. I’d like to hike the whole way sometime!

Blacklick Creek Greenway

#1 Blacklick Creek Greenway
Blacklick Woods Metro Park
Jan 7: 1 hour, 2 miles, out and back

Difficulty: 1 2 3 4 5
Interest: 1 2 3 4 5
Surface: Paved

Our first hike of the year! Unfortunately it was kind of boring. The trail is paved with a few hills at the start. It’s potentially very long, but it was too cold and getting dark for us to go very far before turning around. We started from the last trailhead in the park and walked south, and once you leave the park the trail runs under some highways and there isn’t anywhere that you can’t hear traffic noise.

52 Hike Challenge

Last year my trainer-and-outdoors friend Amanda of Cloud Nine Canine posted about a hiking challenge on social media. New to the area and missing how easy it was to get outdoors in Wisconsin, I used it as a motivation to explore more of Columbus’ green spaces. The 52 Hike Challenge is pretty much what it says on the tin: a challenge to hike 52 times in a year. As competitive as I am, it doesn’t bother me much that I didn’t even make it halfway to my goal. I still spent a lot of time with my dogs traipsing around in the outdoors.

It’s back for 2017! This year I also want to showcase some of the dog friendly trails in Columbus. I’m a big fan of the Columbus Metro Parks and they include 62 miles of dog friendly trails. My goal is to hike every step of them this year.

  1. Blacklick Creek Greenway
  2. Ironweed Trail
  3. Sycamore Plains Trail Loop
  4. Mudsock Trail
  5. Rocky Fork Off Leash Dog Trail
  6. Olentangy Trail
  7. Blue Hen Falls
  8. Ironweed Trail
  • 5 Waterfalls (1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
  • 1 Forest
  • 1 National Parks, Monuments, Preserves, Recreation Area or Historic Trail
  • 2 Hikes to bodies of water: Lakes, Rivers, or Ocean (1, 2)
  • 1 Stewardship hike
  • 1 Group hike
  • 1 Introduce someone new to hiking
  • 1 Sunset or Sunrise hike
  • 1 Hike from your Bucket list (somewhere you have always wanted to go)
  • 3 Reflection hikes (journal at the beginning, middle, and towards the end of your challenge).

The first thing I teach any dog

Mikasa is our guest for a couple weeks from Marcato Shepherds. She’s here for some problem solving in the breed ring and skill building for competition obedience. Mikasa is like a lot of the dogs we work with, she’s had a little bit of training at home but her owner struggles with making progress in training.

Reward based training is really hard with unmotivated dogs, so the first thing I always do with a new dog is develop great rewards! Here’s a video of Mikasa learning a game called “Scatter.” It’s a pretty simple treat tossing game but there are lots of benefits.

Scatter is a game with food that acts like a game with toys. I use Scatter so I can get started teaching dogs the things they need to know before our toy games are developed to a point where I can use them as a reward in training.

It’s a simple game, but there’s a lot going on. After eating a single treat, the dog has to turn back to you to see where the next treat is tossed. Turn away from distractions and look at you for what to do next is exactly what you want your dog to do in busy environments. One of my favorite easy training games is to play Scatter in every new place I take my dog as soon as we get out of the car (on leash!). It dials the dog in to paying attention to you.

Risk management and active dogs

In the age of social media, dozens of videos go viral showing dogs doing amazing things: back flips, climbing trees, walking on tight ropes. A common response to these videos is outrage over the danger the dog is put in. Even more common activities like agility, trick training, or hiking carry an element of risk. It’s important not to dismiss that risk as other people being over sensitive, because injuries can happen in any of these activities. This is how I manage risk in deciding what activities I do with my dog, and how I keep us both safe during them.

Minimize risk

When I’m doing an activity where I or my dog can get hurt if something goes wrong, I want to make it as unlikely as possible that anything does go wrong. 

When I go camping with my dogs, I research where we will go and download maps to my fully charged phone. I make sure my dog has the training he needs to listen to me in unusual situations.

Before I ask my dog to be vigorous and athletic, I make sure he is warmed up just like a human athlete does to avoid injury. He exercises either off leash so he doesn’t get tangled, or wearing a harness so I can spot him.

Minimize fallout

If an accident does happen, I want the damage to be as little as possible.

I keep a first aid kit stocked with supplies for humans and dogs in my car, and have a smaller kit in my backpack (and I’m trained to use it).

Someone always knows where we are camping or hiking and when we expect to be back, even if it’s just one of the trails through the metro parks.

When I bike with my dog, we stick to trails away from busy roads so if there’s an accident, we don’t fall in to traffic. And wear a helmet!

We do agility with competition quality equipment so if there is an accident, it falls away safely.

Maximize reward

I want to make sure I’m getting real benefits from the risks I’m taking, and that the benefit is more than the risk it takes to get.

When I am teaching my dog that things moving under his feet is fun and exciting, a broad and low tippy board gives me just as much benefit as a regulation agility teeter does.

When I have my dog pose on objects for cute pictures, I make sure it has a non-slip surface and he can fit on it comfortably.

I love playing dog sports and being outdoors, having adventures with my dog and I want other people to be able to experience the same things I do. But we’re able to do those activities safely because I take steps to manage the risk inherent in those activities and learn the skills I need to do them in a safe manner.