Tips for Hiking with Dogs
1. Consider Your Dog’s Physical Condition
If you’re not sure how your dog will do on a hike, start with long walks in your neighborhood and slowly build up his endurance. When he’s ready, take short hikes and then gradually add distance.
If your dog is older or has physical disabilities, choose trails that will accommodate a dog stroller or wheelchair. It’s a little more work, but the rewards are well worth the effort.
2. Follow the Rules
Whenever you use an online resource to locate pet friendly hikes, it’s important to verify the rules before you go. Policies regarding pets change frequently, so call, confirm on the park’s website, or ask when you arrive where dogs can go and whether leashes are required. Then abide by the trail rules!
Many places have stopped allowing dogs on the trails after complaints about off-leash incidents. If the regulations in one place don’t suit you, find another place to hike.
3. Prepare for Weather & Terrain
Reading reviews of any trails you’re considering will help you prepare for the terrain. And checking the forecast will allow you to consider the weather. When traveling, don’t underestimate how differences in elevation, humidity, and sun strength will affect you and your dog.
Spring and summer hiking means sun and bugs, so pack sunscreen and insect repellant formulated for dogs. Breeds with short coats may appreciate an outer layer if you’re hiking in wet or cold conditions, and dog boots might be necessary if you’re hiking in snow or rough terrain.
4. Carry Plenty of Water
When I was running the rule was to drink before you got thirsty. The same applies to your dog. So, you’ll need to take plenty of water for you both.
Be careful about allowing your dog to drink from streams or lakes. These water sources can contain gnarly parasites that will give your dog severe gastrointestinal issues or worse. Insisting he only drink water you’ve brought along could save you a trip to the vet.
5. Allow Your Dog to Share the Load
Rather than carrying all the water yourself, get your dog a backpack and let him haul his own! Acclimate your dog to the pack by starting with little weight and short walks. When you start hiking, be sure to adjust the pack contents and straps as needed to keep the weight balanced.
Most dogs can safely carry up to a third of their weight, so be careful not to overload them. Buster loved his backpack, and we appreciated him for packing his and Ty’s water and a light collapsible bowl.
6. Carry A First Aid Kit
A human first aid kit will have most of the supplies you and your dog will likely need for any cuts, bruises, and abrasions. Consider adding compression tape or booties to wrap injured paws. And include an antihistamine after talking to your vet about the proper dosage, in case you or your dog gets bit or stung and has an allergic reaction.
Be sure that you know what’s in your kit and how to use it. When someone is howling in pain is not the best time to search the kit or read the directions!
7. Check Your Dog’s ID
Before you head out, make sure your dog’s ID tag is properly secured to a collar that won’t slip off. The tag should have your cell phone number and any other information that someone might need if they find your dog.
If you know you’ll be leaving cell coverage behind, be prepared with a plan to find your lost dog in a cell phone dead zone.
8. Take Extra Care During Hunting Season
Extra precautions are necessary when hiking during any hunting season. A bright or reflective dog vest and bear bells will help keep your pup from being mistaken as a target. You’ll also want to wear something bright that will help you stand out from the natural environment.
During hunting season, it’s also a good idea to keep your dog on leash – even in areas where he’s allowed off-leash. This will help him avoid confrontations with any hunting dogs that might be in the area.
9. Leaves Of Three, Let It Be
Dogs are susceptible to plant-based toxins just like people. And they can pass the oily substance from poison ivy or poison oak to you on their fur. Take a moment to be sure that you can identify the toxic plants common to the area you’ll be hiking.
10. Be Aware Of Wildlife
Your dogs will hear, smell, and sense things before you. If you’re hiking with your dogs and they start barking, they could be warning you about a potential threat in the vicinity. Make yourself aware of what kinds of wildlife you could encounter on your hike, and learn how to avoid confrontations.
If you’re hiking in bear country, fit your dog with bear bells and carry a can of bear spray. And anytime you’re entering an area where bear sightings are possible, always keep your dog in sight and stay alert!
11. Let Someone Know Where You’re Going
Stuff happens! If for some reason you were unable to get back and needed assistance, having a relative, friend, neighbor, or park ranger know where you are and when you expected to return is a big help. Printing this information on a simple note card with relevant contact numbers is helpful.
Carry a copy of the trail map or take a photo of the map at the trailhead and take the park phone number with you during your hike. If you end up lost on a trail, you’ll be glad you did! Calling the ranger for directions might save you from spending a night under the stars.
An app like Runkeeper, which tracks exactly where you’ve hiked, can also be helpful. If at any point you need to backtrack, it will show where you are and the route you’ve covered. Take a mini portable battery along to recharge your phone, too!
12. No One Should Be Able To Tell You Went Hiking With Your Dogs
All trash and dog waste should be bagged, carried out, and disposed of properly. Don’t leave any evidence that you and your dog were on the trail's
13. Check For Ticks After Hiking
Ticks can cause severe medical problems such as Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever – both of which can be contracted by dogs and humans. Talk to your vet about an appropriate prevention program if you’re traveling to a place where ticks are common. And be sure to examine yourself and your dog after hiking in wooded areas where ticks are found.
Content barrowed from Go Pet Friendly
I am your host, Connie Watson owner and trainer here at RockyTop Hearts!