Nantucket Dog Walk

Walk. Walk your dog. Walk Nantucket.



Nantucket is notorious for having great bike paths. In the summer they can get pretty crowded with walkers, joggers, in-line skaters, baby carriages, bikes, bikes pulling carts, cars pulling off the road, lemonade stands . . . well, you get the picture.

If you have a super-social

dog or if you are trying to

train your dog to BE social, the

bike paths can be a great place to practice “meet and greet,” “quiet,” “sit,” “stay,” etc.

But if you have a dog who is a little more timid or plain doesn’t like people or other dogs, the bike paths just might be too much. Know your dog’s limits and use a road less traveled if you have a scaredy cat dog like I do.


Horses use the trails here (usually along with a rider). Be aware that you might run into one.

Most dogs will have some kind of reaction to running into a horse on a trail. Malke, one of our guest walkers, came upon a horse on a dirt road and barreled head-long after it. We didn’t know he could run that fast! (Heck, we didn’t know he could run.) The horse reared, the rider held on, and Malke promptly passed out (to be fair, he had a heart condition). Luckily for us, no one was hurt and the rider was more concerned for Malke than herself or her horse. But this tale could have ended badly.

Look for the telltale signs (you know what they are) that a horse is in the area, and if you get the feeling they are close, leash your dog.


Most of the walks I mention do not provide dispensers or receptacles for these necessities. So be sure to have one with you, use it, and pack it out with you.


Not to be confused with the name of this web site, the phenomenon in local parlance known as the “Nantucket Dog Walk” involves a human driving a vehicle along a moor trail, a beach, or other area and having the dog run alongside or behind the car. I’m not kidding. People do it. I’m assuming that either the human is too lazy to actually walk the dog or that the dog is one who needs a ton of exercise in order to be happy. I’m not judging either reason, but I do feel it is far too dangerous a way to exercise your dog.

I have seen the dead dogs brought in to the animal hospital because they were on a “Nantucket Dog Walk” that went bad.

And once I was almost hit when coming out from one trail onto another by a woman running her border collie on a trail at Gardner Farm. The truck literally came about three feet from my head!

If you have a dog that needs that much exercise, try these alternatives:

    With caution, ride your bike and have the dog run along side you on leash. They make special devices so that the leash stays safely out of the gears and tires. Here is one, but there are many different kinds.

    Bring your dog to one of the beaches at an off-peak time and throw a ball with a Chuckit.

    Walk with your dog. It can become a fun and healthy habit, not to mention a nice way to bond with your dog.


Ok, so we’re not the Serengeti. We don’t have a plethora of wildlife here on our little rock. And what we do have is pretty harmless to your dog—rabbits, squirrels, birds, nonpoisonous snakes. That’s about it. With a few exceptions, no animal on this island is going to hurt your dog.

The exceptions: Deer and seals that are feeling threatened will fight with a dog. The dog is probably not going to come out of it so well in either case.

That just leaves us humans as threats. Dogs do get hit by cars here. They have been shot during deer season, and I’ve also seen a dog come into the animal hospital shot by an arrow. Good reasons not to let your dog wander too far away from you.


Ticks and Nantucket go together like marriage and in-laws. If you’ve got one, you’re pretty sure to have the other, and you’ve got to take the good with the bad.

There are all kinds of stories (most of them probably true) of people getting tick-borne diseases here on Nantucket. And some of these diseases, including Lyme disease, are no laughing matter. I have been walking in the wilds of Nantucket for 12 years, have had many tick bites, and have not ever contracted an illness. But not everyone has been this lucky. So take precautions. For you, and for your dog.

For your dog, it’s best to keep up with monthly tick preventative remedies such as Advantix or Frontline. Both of these products can be purchased at Offshore Animal Hospital at 11 Crooked Lane, Geronimos has some products, and of course you can purchase them online.

For you, please visit the Nantucket Conservation Foundation’s website to find out more about our dirty little tick secret and how you can stay safe.


In theory, Nantucket does have a “leash law.” In essence it reads: “No person within the confines of the Town shall at any time permit a dog owned or kept by such keeper to run at large beyond the confines of the property of the owner or keeper unless the dog is held firmly on a leash.”

In practice, however, many people do walk their dogs off leash here. Of course there are risks to doing this—lost dogs, hit-by-cars, run-ins with deer, that kind of thing—and I have seen each of these things happen.

That said, I’ve rarely had an issue with my dogs, who are pretty dog- and people-social, being off leash. Please use common sense about when to leash them and when and where to allow them a little freedom. (And realize that you are breaking the law if you don’t have them on leash, and don’t say I didn’t warn you.)


First, check your cell phone for messages. If your dog has tags on, someone may have her and be trying to call you.

Then call the police: 508-228-1212. They will call the Animal Control Officer, who will begin looking.

Then, call and report it to Nantucket Safe Harbor for Animals: 508-825-2287. Any dog picked up by the Animal Control Officer is brought to NSHA. Most citizens who find a lost dog will also bring it to NSHA for safe-keeping. Be sure to leave your phone number in case the dog is brought in. That way they can call you.

If you have a Facebook and/or Twitter account, report your lost dog and ask people to share/re-tweet. Add as much detail as possible and be sure to include where the dog was last seen.

BEFORE all this happens, be sure your dog is wearing a collar with tags. Tags should include a name tag with a LOCAL number, rabies tag with CURRENT vaccine date, and a microchip ID.

If all this fails, start plastering the town with flyers. Again, be sure to include as much detail as possible.

Don’t let this happen to your dog!


A lot of dogs live on Nantucket. And a lot more come as visitors. No doubt on one of your walks you are going to run into these dogs (either on or off leash).

If you have a dog who does not get along with other dogs, be sure yours is on leash, and be aware of your surroundings. If you run into a dog who is not on leash, just pull over to the side of the path and have your dog sit. That way, at least one of them will be under control.

If you have a dog who is dog-social, let them meet and greet in their own unique doggie way. But stay close by in the event of a canine tiff needing human intervention.


Some interesting things happen to happy, fun-loving dogs on Nantucket that aren’t so fun. Here are a few to be aware of:

  1. Swimmers Tail. Dogs not used to swimming can literally sprain their tail after a day of swimming! You will notice either a limp tail, or excessive pain at the base of the tail. It hurts! It will need some pain medication from your veterinarian.

  1.     Salty Paws. Dogs who aren't used to a day of playing ball and digging in the sand can get interdigital dermatitis (inflamed skin and irritation in between the toes). Rinse off the feet at the end of a long beach adventure and check the bottoms of their feet at night to look for red rawness. If you see this, make sure they skip the beach for a day or two, and if the inflammation persists, see your vet.

  1. Swallowing Salt Water. A thirsty dog WILL drink salt water. And, trust me, it’s not going to end well. Dogs can vomit, dehydrate or get something known as “beach diarrhea.” Be sure to bring plenty of fresh water for your dog to the beach with you.

  1. Eating Sand. Dogs can and will eat sand at the beach (usually because it is surrounding a 2-day old turkey sandwich crust that someone has left behind), but unless your dog has other troubling physical symptoms, it’s usually not something to worry about. You’ll see it come out the other end the following day.

Before You Walk


The boats and planes allow dogs. For the plane, you must call ahead, as they only allow dogs from the same family on the same flight.

NRTA, the Wave, Nantucket’s public bus system, does allow dogs, on leash and off the seats (cats, too, in carriers).


This May, in breezy Nantucket, a dog died in a hot car. As horrible as this is, even more tragic is that this was 100% preventable.

In short, it is not safe to leave your dog in a car in even “warm” weather . . . ever. 

Why it’s Not OK:

  1. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, it takes only 10 minutes for the temperature in a car to go up 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Cracking a window open and parking in the shade aren't sufficient to cool it down. Even at 70 degrees outside, the heat inside a car is deadly. 

  2. Studies have shown that on a 78-degree day, the temperature inside a parked car can soar to between 100 to 120 degrees in just minutes, and on a 90-degree day, the interior temperature can reach as high as 160 degrees in less than 10 minutes. 

  3. Unlike humans, dogs cannot sweat to cool themselves down and they can quickly succumb to heat stroke.

  4. Though you may think that leaving the dog in the car with the air conditioning on is the answer, this can also be dangerous: the car can stall, the dog might knock the car out of gear and/or someone could steal your dog from the car.

  5. If your dog is left alone in a hot car and suffers or dies because of it, you can be charged with a felony in the state of Massachusetts.

Try This Instead:

  1. The easiest way to avoid a tragedy like this is to leave your dog at home. Run your errands. Then come home, leash up the dogs and head out for a fun walk together. This may seem inconvenient, but when compared to losing your beloved pet and possibly going to jail, it’s a breeze!

  2. Take your dog only on errands that allow dogs inside, too: pet stores, outdoor cafes, drive-through banks, etc. If the dog can’t get out of the car with you, or if you can’t stay in the car with your dog, choose to leave your dog home.

  3. Make it a habit to always check the back seat before leaving your car. Dogs have died in cars in their own driveways because people forgot they were in the car.

If You See a Dog in a Hot Car:

  1. Immediately call the police: 508-228-1212.

  2. Try to find the owner of the car. If the car is in the parking lot of a store or restaurant, write down the license plate and ask the manager to make an announcement for the person to go back to their car. 

  3. If the dog is in immediate danger, try to open the car door. 

  4. Unfortunately, smashing a window in order to save the dog is illegal, so if you choose to do that, know that the vehicle’s owner may decide to prosecute (and then decide according to your conscience). Currently, even the police are not allowed to break the window of a vehicle, though there is legislation pending that could change that.

Summers on Nantucket are the times we all look forward to. Don’t let this wonderful season be marred by a tragedy that is completely avoidable. Be KIND, leave them behind!

  1. Visit this web-site to find out more about how to keep your dog cool in the summer.



According to the Massachusetts Dept. of

Fish and Game, there are four deer hunting seasons on Nantucket. For those dates, go here, but it basically runs from a little before Thanksgiving until the very end of the year.

One of the safer places to walk your dog during hunting season is the beach. I especially recommend Smith’s Point and Jetties during hunting season.

The bike paths are another safe(r) option.

For a list of Nantucket Conservation Properties that DO NOT allow hunting, go here. Be sure to read the whole document, as some places allow hunting under certain circumstances. As a quick reference, however, these are closed to hunting:

Sanford Farm, Tupancy, Masquetuck, Milestone Cranberry Bog, and portions of the Windswept Cranberry Bog.

Of the Land Bank properties, only Mizzenmast does not allow hunting.

Also, even if you are walking your dogs in these areas that are “safe,” be sure to wear flame orange—you and your dogs. I also recommend, especially if you are going to allow your dog some off-leash time, that you put bells on your dog. That way a hunter will hear the bells and know that any rustling they hear is not a deer.