If you’re an outdoorsy person, there is no better way of spending your day than hiking with your pooch. However, if this is your first trip into the wilderness with your dog, there are some things for which you should prepare before venturing out into the great outdoors. Following these simple precautions and safety measures will ensure that both you and your pooch stay safe on the trail, along with all your fellow hikers.
#1 Prepare your dog for the trail
Although hiking is great, it can get strenuous, so make sure that your pup is physically ready for the trail. You should also keep seasonal temperatures in mind since too much exertion on a hot day can lead to heat stroke.
If this is your pup’s first hiking experience, you will have to build his stamina. The easiest way to do this is to take him on longer walks at home first, and gradually increase the distance.
Furthermore, if your dog is going to carry a pack on the trail, first train him to wear an empty pack around the house. Once he is accustomed, add weight during walks and remember that the recommended load shouldn’t exceed one-third of your pup’s weight.
#2 Get familiar with trail etiquette
Always check regulations for the area where you are planning to hike with your dog. Most U.S. national parks do not allow dogs on their trails, for example.
On the other hand, many national forests will allow only leashed dogs, so try to familiarize yourself with all the various regulations in order to avoid a hefty fine.
Even with those trails that are more lenient on leash policy, you should still carry a leash. Choose a four- or six-foot leash that will give you better control over your pooch; for larger dogs, opt for the harness.
Once you are in the wild you need to clean up after your dog. You can use a disposable bag to carry the poop out from the park. Another option is to bury the waste 200 feet away from the trail, camps or water sources.
#3 Pack a nutritious meal
Being on the trail all day will exert your dog, and he will need more food and water than he typically consumes. Pack an appropriate amount of the best dog food that your pup loves, and enough fresh water.
If your pup doesn’t know to drink from your hand, pack a light bowl that will serve as a water dish. You need to be especially watchful about water consumption on a hot day—a dog with a dry nose is under-hydrated and needs water!
Also, don’t shy away from frequent breaks to rest yourself and your pup. Generally, if you are feeling hungry, your pup will be as well, so take a break to fuel up both your batteries and continue to have a great time together.
#4 Take safety precautions
Once you are out in the wild, it is better to come prepared if something happens to your pooch. Make sure that your pet has had all her vaccinations before you get up-close and personal with the wildlife.
You should also pack a first-aid kit if your dog gets a lacerated paw or obtrusion in an eye. This way you can treat any minor injuries until such time as you are able to get your animal to the vet.
In some cases hiking involves harsh terrain, so it is best to bring doggy boots to protect you pup’s paw pads. And since your pup will likely be roving around, she might lose a booty or two so it’s recommended to pack a reserve.
In order to prevent your dog from catching Lyme disease, it is best to protect him against ticks before you go hiking. There is a variety of flea and tick products that will keep your dog safe while he is exploring the great outdoors.
#5 Dangers to watch out for on the trail
Keep an eye out for anything you pup might ingest, such as mushrooms, dog poop, pinecones or anything else that might endanger her life. Of course, the best way to prevent your dog from chewing on something dangerous is to keep her on the leash.
Do some research about the area where you are planning to hike and get informed if there are any snakes there. And get familiar with the first-aid procedure in case a snake bite does occur.
Don’t let your pup drink from any water sources you encounter while hiking. He can get waterborne illness just from splashing in contaminated water, so be mindful of any posted warning signs.
Hiking is a great activity and can help deepen the bond you already have with your pooch. Just make sure to research the area and pack all the necessary gear. This will ensure a safe and exciting adventure that can become a routine for both of you.
Charles B. Hardy is the founder of PawPawLover.com. Originally a vet, his tremendous love for dogs extends to his own little Golden retriever. He aspires to share his own experiences to anyone who cares about dogs.