If you enjoy spending time with your canine companion enjoying the great outdoors hiking is a wonderful activity that offers many health benefits for both of you. There are dog-friendly hiking areas virtually everywhere! Whether you’re a first-time hiker or an avid adventurer, these 8 tips will help keep you and your pup safe while hiking.
Dogs are naturally curious, which can get them into trouble when exploring unfamiliar areas. It’s our job as pet owners to keep our pups safe in every situation. When hiking, this means choosing an appropriate location and bringing along the right gear.
There’s more to hiking than just finding the right trail. You also need to prepare yourself, prepare your dog and follow the rules of the trail that you’re using. Here are my tips for hiking with dogs:
1. Choose the Right Trail
If you’re not familiar with available hiking trails in your area, look some up online. Educate yourself on the incline of the trail and how tough the terrain is. Think about your dog’s abilities and your own abilities. Is the trail you want to hike an appropriate option for both of you?
Look for blog posts or trail reviews from other pet owners. The more research you do, the more you will learn. The more you learn about the trail, the more prepared you will be. Be sure you know the rules of the trail that you’ll be hiking, and follow those rules!
2. Make sure your dog is up to it
Just because you’re up for a 9-mile hike on rocky terrain, doesn’t mean your pooch is. Small breeds, senior pets, and dogs with certain health issues (like respiratory problems) may not be able to keep up on long hikes or hikes on rough terrain.
If you’re new to hiking with dogs, have a conversation with your vet about your dog’s athletic ability and physical condition. They can help you decide on the types of hiking trails that will be best suited for your Fido. Your dog should also be treated for fleas and ticks before hitting the trail as well, and your veterinarian can help you with this.
3. Check the weather
It sounds simple, right? It’s not just rain that you need to be wary of. Hiking in hot temperatures can also be a problem. On warmer days, you’re going to need to bring more water with you and take more frequent breaks. If you have a brachycephalic breed (scrunchy-nose breed), a large breed or a dog with a thick coat, he may have a harder time dealing with the heat than other breeds.
Don’t let the rain stop you! Of course, if it’s going to pour rain all day you will likely want to stay home. But, if the forecast calls for a few showers, you can still have a fun outdoor adventure. You have limited time to spend with your dog each day. Make it count! Watch the weather radar and plan your trip between showers.
4. Bring the right gear
When hiking with dogs, there is some necessary gear that you have to bring with you. Make sure you have a comfortable leash and harness. It’s important that you use a harness instead of a collar. If your dog pulls on his leash while smelling something exciting or trying to follow a woodland creature, you don’t want all of the pressure to be around his neck. A harness will distribute the weight equally throughout his chest.
Other gear that you MUST have included:
» canine first aid kit
» water for you and your dog
» food for you and your dog
» dog bowls
» ID tags and/or microchip
» dog waste bags
You may also want to equip your dog with boots depending on the terrain you’ll be hiking on or a raincoat if you think there is a chance of showers. You can also fit your dog with a backpack to allow him to carry his own gear.
5. Warm up
If your dog isn’t used to hiking and taking long walks, you need to condition him gradually to this new activity. Start with short hikes on fairly flat terrain, and work your up to longer, more challenging hikes.
You can also help your dog’s body warm up before beginning your hike. Using a canine massage tool or your own hands, give your pooch a light massage. This will help to warm up the muscles and get his blood circulating faster. This can prevent injury and cramping while hiking.
6. Keep your dog on a leash at all times
The last thing any pet owner wants to deal with is a lost dog. The only way to prevent this is by keeping your dog on a leash at all times. Keeping your dog on a leash also prevents him from running after small animals that he sees on the trail. Plus, you won’t have to worry about meeting other people or canines on the trail if you know that your dog is safely tethered by a leash.
7. Keep an eye on Fido at all times
DO NOT let your dog eat or drink anything that he finds outdoors. This includes any standing water from puddles. Eating berries, mushrooms or other wildlife could lead to your dog being poisoned. Eating feces from another animal could cause your dog to become infected with bacteria, viruses or parasites. Stagnant water is also full of bacteria that your dog will ingest if he drinks it.
8. Check your dog after the hike
After your hike, be sure to observe your dog for any signs of pain. Giving your dog a light massage after the hike will help to cool his muscles down and prevent injury. You’ll also want to check his body and the pads of his feet for lesions and ticks.
This Written by Samantha Saunders of The Chesapeake Bay Dog Company