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As the weather continues to get nicer and the days longer, you may be thinking about getting outdoors on a hike with your dog. Exploring nature is a great way to unplug and bond with your four-legged friend. There are just a few things you should know before you embark on your first journey together.
1. Consider your dog’s fitness level and the conditions
Not all dogs are the same and not all hiking trails are the same. It’s important to think through what your dog will be able to handle before embarking on a hike that may be too strenuous for him.
There are several factors to take into consideration, including:
- Fitness level
- Is your dog well socialized with other dogs and people?
- Round trip distance
- Elevation gain
- Extreme hot, cold, or wet weather
- Is the trail highly populated with other people and dogs?
It’s important to make sure your dog is physically able to take on the chosen hiking conditions to ensure a pleasant experience. If your dog is small or can’t go long distances, choose a shorter trail that is relatively flat. For brachycephalic (flat-faced) dogs like French Bulldogs, hot weather can be a serious issue. Choose appropriate conditions based on what your individual dog can handle.
If you’re feeling ambitious and want a tough challenge, play it safe and leave your pup home this time.
2. Pack all the necessary supplies
Some supplies are essential no matter the distance or weather, whereas others will depend on the conditions of the hike.
- Collar or harness with up-to-date ID tag
- Plenty of water
- Travel bowl
- Poo bags
- First aid kit (recommended)
- Tick removal tool (recommended)
- Jacket, booties (depending on the weather)
If your dog wears his own hiking backpack, be sure that it weighs no more than 25% of his body weight.
3. Brush up on hiking etiquette
Choose a dog-friendly trail: The first thing you should do is make sure your chosen trail is dog-friendly. Most US national parks do not allow dogs, and it’s not safe to assume that all hikes are pet-friendly. Check ahead of time to make sure you’re good to go.
Obey leash rules: Some hiking trails require dogs be leashed at all times. This ensures the safety of you, your dog, other hikers, as well as the wildlife and environment. Be courteous and respect the rules.
Leave no trace: Mentally prepare yourself to carry a full poo bag the entire hike if your dog decides to go potty just as you’re getting started. Fortunately, most trails have trash cans at the trailhead.
Yield to those with the right of way: Proper hiking etiquette means those going downhill should yield to hikers coming up. Keep your dog close when passing or being passed by other hikers who may be afraid of dogs.
4. Be wary of parasites and other threats
Parasites: Flea and tick preventatives are a must if you plan on spending lots of time outdoors with your dog. Additionally, it’s best to avoid drinking from creeks and streams because they may contain giardia or other parasites. Regularly offer your dog fresh water to help prevent the temptation.
Other threats: Take note of the wildlife in the area you plan to hike, such as snakes, poisonous plants, bears, moose, and mountain lions, and how to stay safe in those conditions.
5. Examine your dog after the hike
Before you get in the car, check over your dog’s entire body, including between paw pads and inside the ears. You’re looking for injuries that might need attention as well as anything that should be removed, such as:
- Other bugs
- Other plant materials
Now that you’ve got the big picture, you’re ready to embark on your journey. Bon voyage and safe hiking!