Hiking with Your Dog
Dogs like being out there as much as we do. Even the smallest and boutique dog breeds enjoy going out for a hike. Think about the happy moment when your pet is joyfully jumping around your day-pack literally bagging for new adventures. Don’t hesitate, take him/her with you. If you have never done it before and you are worried about the experience, check out the tips below. It will not go by a plan and that is perfectly O.K. Simply enjoy that day with your buddy.
Hiking is the perfect way to get active for both you and your dog. Doing it together also adds some protection on the trail. Wildlife often shies away from dogs and is more likely to leave you alone when you have your pet with you. He or she can also give early warning signs of impending (and unwanted) visitors. Furthermore, it is a really great bonding experience.
Hooked on the idea? Let’s get started.
This applies both to you and your dog. Consider your and your four-legged friend’s physical condition and start taking long walks and some shorter but intense hikes prior to your trip. If your dog is a puppy, make sure he or she is socialized and feels comfortable with other dogs, people and new places.
Tip: It’s always a good idea to take your dog to the vet prior to your hiking trip to check his/her condition. If you are an active person and plan to share your activities with your pet, make regular visits to your vet at the beginning of each season.
This is mandatory for all kind of hiking trips. You should always check the weather and research the trail. However, in the case when you are accompanied by your pup you have some additional homework to do. Not only you need to find a dog friendly trail (meaning no sharp rocks all the way etc.) but you need to make sure that it is not restricted for pets. Be sure to look for additional rules for dogs on the trail (leashes mandatory etc.). The temperature should also be considered. In warmer weather your dog will do better if a trail offers plenty of shade or shallow water crossings to cool off in.
Tip: It’s a good idea to make your dog wear some tags. In the event you get separated, they will help anyone that finds your pup reunite you.
Hiking off-leash with your dog may be a common sense in your view. However, that is not necessarily true for other people in the mountain. Even if your pup is the friendliest dog around, not everyone is comfortable encountering dogs on the trail. Therefore, there is certain etiquette that needs to be followed.
1. Keep your pets from getting too close to other people and dogs, especially on narrow trails. This means that if you do wish to hike off-leash with your dog, then you will need to manage him or her attentively.
2. Always ask permission first before allowing your dog to approach anyone. Recall your dog, restrain him or her, and step aside if such is not given.
3. Horses have the right of way. If your trail is often used for horse riding, remember this rule.
4. Always communicate clearly if your dog is not friendly with other dogs. In this case, use a leash every time another four-legged friend appears.
5. Leave no trace! Discard your pet's poo. It's an imperative.
N.B. Do not under any circumstances leave bags of poop next to the trail! It is so not cool!
Treats, food and water
A day of hiking will burn considerably more calories than your dog's normal routine of napping all day long, so it's ok to reward them with extra treats. Bring their normal food and zip pack a mixture of their favorite snacks to use whenever needed on your way. For water you can bring just the collapsible bowl you probably use for walks in the park. However, if you will hike an area that is short on water, consider bringing a separate water bottle for your dog. You can then pour any extra water your dog doesn't drink back into his/her bottle (just don't mix up yours with theirs!).
Dog First Aid Kit
You should have a dog specific first aid kit or supplement your own kit with items for your furry hiking buddy. Hopefully, you will never need it, but you should always be prepared. In the event that your pup cuts a paw or gets a tick, you will be happy you are able to treat it immediately.
Let your dog carry a pack
That's a fair decision. Depending on your dog's age and physical condition, you can let him or her carry some of their gear in a pack. Such are available in the pet stores and offer quite a variety on design and sizes. Choose the one that suits your pup and make sure you do some pre-hiking training.
Tip: When loading your dog's pack for the trail make sure to load each side evenly and to keep the weight in line with recommendations for your breed from your Veterinarian.
You might be surprised to read that but the layer system isn't just for humans and can be used for your dog too. Depending on the conditions bring layers like a fleece, puffy vest, and breathable rain shell. When staying overnight your dog can sleep in layers as needed and if it is really cold, share your sleeping bag or make one for your pup (see how here).
Tip: This extra mile applies for people who hike frequently and on very advanced and often long trails with their dogs. It is definitely not something to worry about on a one day hiking trip or if you are camping in a regulated area.
A favorite dog toy
Why not? Bring your dog's favorite ball or squeaky toy. These don’t take much space and are as light as a feather. The benefit - it will give your dog something to do in camp and can also be used as a distraction if your dog is constantly running off to explore.
Monitor your dog and take breaks
Frequent breaks go a long way – especially on hot days or trails with little shade. If you don't want to be carrying your pup back down, do not push it to hard. Enjoy a moderate pace, take time for contemplation and some bonding time with your four-legged friend and simply have a great day out.
Check your dog before driving home
You made it! You're back to your starting point. Before you drive back home, check your pup for ticks, other bugs bites and burrs in the pads of their feet. If needed, use your first aid kit immediately.
Tip: It's always a good idea to keep an old blanket or sheet in your car to spread it on the seat. This way you will skip the part when everything inside get muddy and massy.
Ready to go? Grab your backpack and go out with your dog for that hike!