Visiting the national parks is a wonderful experience no matter who you visit with. This includes human family and friends, of course, but it can also include your furry loved ones. That’s right, dogs are welcome and encouraged to enjoy the national parks too, and you should absolutely take your pup with you on your next national parks adventure!
Not only are dogs at national parks welcomed, they’re even given the opportunity to become national parks rangers themselves. They call these canine rangers BARK Rangers, and they are some of the cutest rangers around.
Obviously, all national park-loving dog owners out there are going to want to know how their pups can become BARK Rangers. Lucky for them, we’ve provided all the information you need to take full advantage of the BARK Ranger program below.
The Meaning of BARK
First, let’s talk about what the term “BARK” means. Obviously, this is a play on words, as it rhymes with “park,” and well, dogs bark. However, the term is also an acronym that we think is very clever.
The acronym B.A.R.K. stands for:
- Bag your pet’s waste — Clearly, nobody wants to hike through pet waste. Be sure you pick up after your pet and dispose of the waste appropriately. Need a bag? Many parks offer them free of charge in the visitor centers.
- Always leash your pet — Even the most well behaved dogs can have their moments. For this reason, it is incredibly important that all pets stay on a leash 6 feet or shorter for the duration of their visit to the national parks.
- Respect wildlife — It’s important to remember that the parks are home to many wild animals. As visitors, we must be respectful of these animals, and dogs are no exception to this rule. Teach your pup to avoid barking, sniffing, digging, or chasing while in the parks.
- Know where you can go — Different parks have different rules for pets and where they can go. Make sure you understand where your dog is and isn’t allowed, and stay within the set boundaries. This helps keep everyone in the parks as safe as possible.
The duties represented above also happen to be the most important aspects of being a BARK Ranger. Fortunately, this acronym makes them easy for you and your furry friend to remember and apply during all your national park outings. By sticking to these basic rules, your dog can be an outstanding BARK Ranger, caring for the parks and setting a good example for other pups in the parks.
How to Become a BARK Ranger
Wondering how your pet can become a BARK Ranger? The first step is to follow the guidelines represented by the acronym letters listed above. Once you and your doggie companion have these down pat, you can consider your dog an official BARK Ranger.
To take things a step further, consider learning the BARK Ranger pledge:
“As a B.A.R.K. Ranger, I promise to Bag my pet’s waste, Always leash my pet, Respect wildlife, and Know where we can go.”
With this pledge learned, you are welcome to download, share, and print a digital badge. These can be found on many park pages. Try finding your local park BARK Ranger page here.
We recommend sharing your digital badge on social media to help revise awareness of this awesome program and help others understand the importance of following the BARK code of conduct when visiting NPS sites.
Earning a BARK Ranger Dog Tag
Want more than a digital badge? Physical dog tags can be earned in certain parks. These look just like National Park Ranger badges and can be attached to your dog’s collar. They are an adorable addition to your pup’s look, especially when visiting the parks.
To find out if your park offers dog tags, give the rangers a call or check their webpage. You can also plan to ask a ranger in person about the opportunity to earn a tag once you arrive.
In some cases, earning a tag is as simple as learning and following the BARK Ranger rules listed above. In other cases, you might need to complete an activity booklet in order to earn a tag. Either way, we’re betting you’ll be glad you put forth the effort once you see your furry friend in their new tag.
Have a kitty who likes to walk the parks with you? Not to worry, feline friends are often welcome to earn a tag also.
BARK Ranger Ambassadors
Those looking for ways to spend even more time in the national parks with their pet might consider becoming a BARK Ranger Ambassador. These individuals and their pets are available to chat with visitors bringing dogs (or cats) into the parks to help them have a safe and enjoyable time.
The ambassadors help ensure all pet-owners are aware of positive pet behaviors, decreasing the number of non-compliant pet issues in the parks.
Celebrating BARK Ranger Day
In addition to the options above, you might also consider attending one of the many events for dogs at national parks. Many of these are happening on BARK Ranger Day (April 26th, 2021) as part of National Parks Week.
Pet-friendly events might include hiking and walking, as well as opportunities to earn the aforementioned BARK Ranger dog tag. Additionally, you’ll want to be sure to share any photos of your dog in a national park with the tag #BarkRanger or #NationalParkWeek, so everyone can enjoy looking at your adorable pup in a beautiful environment.
Ready to do some exploring with your pup? One of the best ways to go on a road trip with a dog is in an RV. Check these tips for successfully RVing with your pet, pick the perfect national park to visit with your pup, rent an RV to call home for a bit, and prepare to make some awesome memories with your furry friend!