When hitting the trails, there’s no need to leave your four legged friend at home. Hiking with dogs is a great way to explore the great outdoors and to get some solid exercise for both of you. There are a few things to consider to keep your dog safe in the outdoors and to be knowledgable of his or her physical limitations.
Before leaving for your trip, look up whether or not the park and specific hiking trail you are planning to take allow dogs. There are many that do, but those usually have extra rules pertaining to dogs that are important to remember. For example, most parks require dogs to be leashed. Additionally, leashes should generally be less than six feet in length. Even if your dog is leashed on a trail, it’s proper etiquette to keep your dog under control when other people and dogs are passing by. You do not want to intimidate any fellow hikers and having good control of your four legged friend is considered polite.
Is Your Dog Ready for a Hike?
Make sure your dog is physically in shape enough to do the hike. This is especially true if you will be having your dog carry their own bag full of treats and water. Start small, by taking short walks with a pack around the neighborhood and work up from there. If your dog is older or in poor physical condition, they will probably be happier left with a friend or at home.
First-Aid for Dogs on the Trail
Be prepared. Take a lesson from the boy scouts and be ready for anything. You will likely be far from the closest vet so it is important you know how to react should anything happen. Petco and the Red Cross offer first-aid classes for pets, while the internet is also a great source for educating yourself on how to care for a wounded dog on the trail.
Dog packs are specifically designed for mobile hydration and for carrying dog snacks. They are best for day hikes or trail runs. For backpacking trips, you’ll want a dog pack with more padding, cushioning and bigger volume. Young and healthy dogs can carry up to 25% of their weight in their pack. Some can carry more, but it’s not a bad idea to run it by your vet.
What to Pack for your Dog
Keep your pooch well hydrated and nourished on the trip. Dogs need water while hiking just as much as we do. As mentioned earlier, there are packs that dogs can carry where you can pack their food and water. Some of these packs come with a compressible water dish or it can be purchased separately. Instead of packing a food dish, it is recommended to simply place the food on a rock. This will help save some weight when hiking. Additionally, bring filtered water. Water from lakes can have algae or parasites that can make your dog extremely sick, so it is important to keep an eye on what they drink.
If you are headed out on an overnight trip, there are a few things to remember. First, depending on the temperature, you may consider purchasing clothing to help warm your dog. Some dogs prefer to sleep in clothing rather than a sleeping bag on cold nights outside. In addition, depending on the terrain, your dog will appreciate foot protection. Dog boots are available in various sizes, so be sure to find the right one that will stay on your dog’s feet while running on the trails.
Many dogs like to swim, however not all of them are comfortable around water. Depending on your dog’s swimming abilities, or if you will be around water at all, it is a good idea to bring a doggie PDF (personal floatation device). PDFs also increase your dogs visibility should he or she get caught downstream and they’re easy to grab onto should your dog jump into a moving current.
Just like humans, your dog’s waste should be buried at least 200 feet away from water sources. Cleaning up after your pooch in the woods is proper trail etiquette!