Hiking and dogs just go together. If you and your dog have wanted to hit the trails and take a hike together, why not do just that this summer?
We’ve put together some tips for making your trail hike fun for the two of you:
Make sure your dog is healthy. If your dog is healthy enough for a walk, chances are he is healthy enough for a hike, but you may want to ask your veterinarian just to be sure. You don’t want to exert your dog too much and cause an injury. Even a dog with an injury might benefit from a slow, short hike -- again, ask your vet.
Pay attention to any signs of heat exhaustion or over exertion and take a break and give your dog a chance to cool down, out of the sun, and give him a drink. Stop for frequent water breaks even if your dog doesn’t seem to show any signs of slowing down.
Not all breeds are hike-ready. Know your dog and know his particular limitations. For example, not all large breed dogs are made for long, steep climbs. If you’re a hiker by nature, adopt a dog who can be a hiking partner.
Train for the hike. Unless you’re both accustomed to hiking, you will want to build your endurance. Start out with short hikes and increase the incline and the length of time until you’re both fit. Just as you wouldn’t go from being a couch potato to running a marathon, don’t expect your dog to go from couch potato to long distance hiker without building his stamina.
Be prepared for the hike and for potential trail dangers. It’s safest to keep your dog on a leash while on the hike. You don’t want to risk losing him if he gets scared and runs off. In fact, many hiking trails require your dog to be leashed. Also, if there are off leash dogs on the trail you want to make certain you have control of your dog even if the other hikers don’t.
Bring a water bowl and bottled water for the two of you. Pack snacks to keep you both nourished on the trail. Make certain your dog is wearing a harness and/or collar with a tag with your contact information on it. Check for ticks during and after the walk. Safely remove them. Bring a first aid kit with items for both you and your dog in case of an emergency.
Pack sunscreen for you and your dog. Dogs can get sunburned and need to have their delicate skin protected. If your dog has fragile paws you may want to consider hiking boots and/or paw balm to protect his pads. Don’t forget to pack poo bags; if you have a medium to large-sized dog you may want to outfit him with a backpack and he can carry the used bags.
Find dog-friendly hiking areas. Not all state parks or other hiking areas that are human-friendly are dog-friendly. Do a Google search for “dog friendly hiking areas” in your part of the country. Follow all rules posted on the hiking trail to assure both you and your dog have a safe, fun trail hike.
We don’t recommend heading out to a particular trail until you have assured yourself that Fido will be welcome as well!
What tips can you give to first-time hikers? Are you planning a trail hike this summer? What are your must-have take-along items?