With spring in full swing, it’s time for warm weather adventures with your pooch. One of the best ways to have fun in the sun is hiking with your dog. Unlike a normal walk or a day at the park, a hike requires more preparation. Here are some tips to keep you, your dog, and other hikers safer and happier when you hit the trails.
Check with your veterinarian to make sure your dog is healthy enough to hike. Some dogs may not be capable of hiking due to age or physical characteristics such as having a short muzzle or proneness to hip dysplasia. During your check-up, ask your vet about any needed vaccinations or preventative measures for outdoor excursions including treatment of snakebites, parasites, or waterborne pathogens. If you haven’t microchipped your dog, ask your vet to do so. Microchipping will help you locate your pup if you get separated on the trail.
Familiarize yourself with the trail you want to hike and the trail’s rules and regulations. Many trails require leashes and some trails may not allow hiking with your dog at all, such as many U.S. National Parks. For reference, here is a list of some of the national parks that allow hiking with dogs. In addition to learning the rules and regulations, research the wildlife and potential hazards to watch out for such as paths with sharp rocks or routes with steep drops. Remember to check the weather the days leading up to as well as the day of the hike to make sure you’re properly equipped for any drastic weather changes that you and your four-legged friend may experience on the trail.
Brush Up on Canine Behavior and Etiquette
Before you tackle any trail, make sure your pup is sufficiently well-behaved. Your dog needs to sit, stay, heel, and come at your command as well as walk comfortably on a leash. Socialization with other dogs and humans is also important as you never know if you encounter any other dogs or strangers during the hike. You will be very close to others when you pass on narrower trails or hike on more popular trails. If your dog isn’t properly well-behaved, you or your pet can get injured when you try to get the situation under control, especially if there are other hikers in close proximity.
Essential Doggy Items for Your Hike
Leash & Harness
It’s best to use a shorter, heeling leash when you hike. Some parks require leashes to be 10 feet or shorter. Even if your dog doesn’t wear a harness on its regular walks, it’s a good idea to use one during your hike. Many harnesses remove pressure from the dog’s neck and displace it throughout the chest and back. See our post here to determine which harnesses may be right for your dog.
Dogs that will be exploring with you on the trails should be up-to-date on vaccines and flea, tick, and heartworm preventives. Once in the car or upon arrival home, thoroughly inspect your pup for ticks, cuts, burrs, and any other abnormalities. If you find a tick on your dog, don’t panic—but do remove it right away.”
Collar with Proper Tags
Some dogs may roam free in their abode collar-less but it’s important your dog is equipped with a well-fitting collar with tags that have your dog’s name, your contact information, and license information. If your dog is prone to overheating, pack a cooling collar to help easily dissipate your dog’s heat.
Your dog may love feeling the grass between its paw pads but when it comes to hikes, booties will help prevent cuts, scrapes, and potentially hot trail surfaces your dog may encounter on the hike.
Water and Water Container
Bringing fresh water is better than your dog drinking from babbling creek you come across on the trail. A collapsible, silicone water dish will come in handy due to being lightweight and easy to store.
Dog Food/Healthy Snacks
Bring dog food or nutritionally balanced healthy dog snacks. If you get hungry on the trail, chances are your pup is hungry too so remember to take regular water and food breaks on your hike.
Don’t forget to bring doggy poop bags to clean up after your pooch so you can keep the trail clean.
Pack a dog coat in case of rain or a sudden drop in the weather.
Dog-Friendly First-Aid Kit
In addition to bringing a human-friendly first-aid kit, bring a dog-friendly first-aid kit as well. Pet stores have dedicated kits with dog-friendly medical items. You can also make a DIY first-aid kit for your hike. Don’t forget to add any special medication your vet has prescribed for your pet.
Bring a dedicated towel to wipe off any muddy fur or dry your pooch after a jump in a lake or soak in a sudden downpour.