Your dog is your best friend, so don’t leave them at home during your outdoor adventures! As long as dogs are allowed on the trail, hiking is a great way for dogs and their owners to stay in shape. Here are some tips to make hiking with your dog a safe and fun experience!
Make Sure Your Dog is Ready to Go
While you might be able to go on long hikes, your dog may not be. Some things you will want to take into consideration are your dogs age, current activity level, how well trained they are, if they are a breed that will want to bolt after wildlife, and if they are susceptible to heat.
A dog that is very young or elderly may not be capable of a difficult hike, even if their activity level is high. Overweight dogs may also become overheated, as could short nosed (brachycephalic) breeds, such as pugs or boxers.
Breeds that have a high prey drive, such as hounds, may ignore your commands or make it difficult to enjoy your hike. Likewise, any dog that is not well trained may be overwhelmed by the new sights and smells and may put you (or themselves) into a dangerous situation if they do not listen to commands.
Always check with your veterinarian to make sure your dog is able to go hiking with you, without putting them at a health risk, and make sure they are up to date on vaccinations, as well as flea and tick prevention.
Keep Your Dog on a Leash
Although you and your dog may enjoy having an off leash hike, it is usually not permitted, and is always a safety risk. Keep your dog on a leash to keep them from getting lost, and for their safety, as well as the safety of other dogs and hikers on the trail.
Preparation is Key
The most important thing you can do to make sure hiking with your dog is an enjoyable experience for you both is to prepare. Make sure you have enough water for your dog to cool off on the hike, and pack a collapsible bowl so that they are able to drink. Many dogs carry their own gear in a harness pack, but be sure they are physically able to do so before purchasing one.
You will also want to bring dog food in case of an emergency, poop bags, and a pet first aid kit. If the weather is warm, your dog is at risk of overheating and dehydration. Since they can’t sweat, a cooling harness or collar will make them much more comfortable on the trail. You may also want to invest in booties if your hike involves climbing over hot or sharp rocks, or if the terrain might hurt your dog’s feet.
If your dog is not used to hiking and you are planning a big weekend adventure, take them on smaller hikes leading up to it, to get them more prepared. Practice their obedience training with them often, so that they are safe on the trail. There are often poisonous plants, snakes, ticks, and contaminated water that they can get into off the beaten path, so make sure you can keep them close to you, even on a leash.
Pack it Out
Dogs are becoming less and less welcome on many trails, and every year more parks and trailheads are banning dogs from the area. This is largely due to dog owners leaving dog feces on the trail, which damages the local ecosystem. Don’t forget to bring your dog bags with you, and don’t leave it on the side of the trail to pick up later; you may forget. It is never okay to litter, so remember to pack it out - even if it’s poop.
Hiking with your dog is a great way for both of you to stay in shape and create new memories together, but it’s important to make sure you are both safe, healthy and happy while doing so!
Abi Pennavaria is a dog mom, avid vet volunteer, and co-author of Saved By The Bark blog. She enjoys sharing tips and tricks for dog owners of all breeds.