A Dog-Friendly Walk Through George Washington’s Mount Vernon

By Karen Johnson, PawsGo

On Saturday mornings in May and October, Mount Vernon offers a special walking tour for dog owners and their BFFs (Best Furry Friends), called the All the President’s Pups. While Mount Vernon is ALWAYS dog-friendly – dogs are welcome everywhere BUT the mansion, Boomer and I took this special 1.25 mile walking tour that’s a great combination of light cardio, history and canine trivia.

With the exception of the mansion, Mount Vernon is dog friendly.

We met our guide and 5 other history loving pups, at the estate’s Bowling Green Gate – with the mansion in the distance behind us, we embarked on a gentle walk along the original carriage route and soaked up tidbits about George Washington – dog lover.

As we walked, our guide explained that the Father of our Country was a tremendous animal lover – especially dogs. Records show that Washington had numerous dogs representing every “classification” – hunting, herding, guard, coach, house, etc. – each with a very specific job.

Our first stop on the tour was a visit to Mount Vernon’s sheep – a flock of rare Hog Island sheep that ran to the fence, excited to see the dogs.

Along the route we heard that Washington was so fond of his granddaughter Nelly and her “house” dog (probably a Caviler King Charles Spaniel) that he purchased a special decorative collar for the dog at the cost of $1 – a significant amount in the 1700s. Washington loved his dogs and he was creative in their naming – including, Drunkard, Tipsy, Vulcan, and Sweetlips.

Meeting Mount Vernon’s Sheep.

Hunting was THE sport in Washington’s time. He had plenty of hounds to assist in the hunt. A man of incredible intellect, interests and curiosity — Washington set out to breed the quintessential hunting dog — “a superior dog, one that had speed, sense and brains.” In the mid-1780s, Washington’s friend, the Marquis de Lafayette, sent him seven huge hounds from France. Washington bred those French hounds with the standard black and tan hunting dogs and created what Washington called the Virginia Hound, which we know today as the American Fox Hound. So, not only is he the father of our country – Washington is the American Kennel Club’s recognized father of the American Fox Hound!

This is not a strenuous walk, but October can be warm. Water is NOT provided during the walk – so bring plenty for you and your dog.

The All the President’s Pups tour starts at 10:00 a.m. and takes about 90 minutes. It’s a leisurely “behind the scenes” walk with plenty of stops. The tour is only held in May and October. Humans pay the full daily admission and dog tour tickets cost $7 each.

Karen Johnson is the founder of PawsGo, the Alexandria-based online community for women and their dogs, promoting an active lifestyle for both! PawsGo merchandise can be found online and locally at From Head to Tail Grooming and Spa, Bon Vivant Café and Farm Market, Reunions and Art on the Avenue (Oct 6th)

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