6 Tips for Hiking With Dogs
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Few things beat a good hike — except making the same trek with your best 4-legged friends. Most dogs can’t get enough of the great outdoors, making them fabulous trail buddies, even if you prefer to stride along in silence. They can even lend a sense of security, allowing solo travelers to brave adventures that might otherwise take them too far off the beaten path for comfort.
However, you must take precautions to protect your canine companion in the wild. Most of today’s breeds are far removed from their wolf ancestors and have come to rely on their owner’s guidance. Here are six tips for hiking with dogs.
1. Keep Them Leashed
Dogs love the outdoors because there’s so much to explore. Unfortunately, they can get distracted by their explorations, much like toddlers, and quickly end up lost. Even if you hike the same trails day in and day out, a rabbit or squirrel crossing their path can cause your canine to bolt — and good luck catching a greyhound. However, no breed is immune from the lure of tasty-looking prey.
Perhaps your dog heeds your voice like a beacon. However, you can’t stop them from contracting a disease from contact with someone else’s sick pet or a wild animal. Parvo and distemper can lead to heartbreak.
Finally, leashing your dog helps promote a positive hiking experience for everyone. You might have the most even-tempered and friendly pup in the world, but strangers don’t know that. Too many people have had bad past experiences with unleashed canines, and parents of small children may panic if Fido takes them unawares. Even well-trained animals can behave erratically in fearful, stressful situations, and you don’t want to be liable for a nip — or have your beloved pet pay the price.
2. Carry Supplies
If you’ve ever gone hiking without sufficient water, you know how miserable — and sometimes downright scary — the return trip to your car can be. Your doggo is no different in requiring hydration to stay happy on your hike. Please take one of their favorite bowls and a few extra bottles to fill it.
In addition to extra water, it’s wise to carry the following supplies when hiking with dogs:
- A collar or harness: You need somewhere to attach the leash. Furthermore, your dog should have tags for identification, even if you also have them chipped. Not everyone understands microchipping, but they know that a collared dog means there’s an owner somewhere.
- Doo-doo disposal: While many trailheads feature pet sanitation stations, not all do. Be prepared to clean up and pack out. Uncontrolled waste can harm the environment by causing toxic algal growths and contaminating drinking water reservoirs.
- Treats: Treats reward your pet and help you reinforce their training in a new environment.
- Canine first aid kit: You should carry one for yourself and your pup. Fortunately, many of the remedies are similar, like hydrogen peroxide for cuts. However, check with your vet.
- Protective clothing: Dogs can experience sore feet and chilly bodies like humans. Thanks to their fur, you don’t have to dress them in layers, but you should have something, especially with thin-coated breeds.
3. Protect Against Fleas and Ticks
The great outdoors is home to numerous creatures, including the ones that many humans and canines wish didn’t exist. Fleas and ticks aren’t mere itchy inconveniences for your pet. They can carry various diseases affecting their health.
Talk to your vet about the best flea and tick remedy for your dog. Many canines do well with topical medications that you only need to apply every few months. Others prefer chewable treats.
You should also inspect your dog for ticks when you return indoors, especially with long-haired breeds. They can hitch a ride in your canine’s coat and bite family members.
4. Respect the Environment
You might feel tempted to let your dog’s “business” lie. After all, bears do poop in the woods — why should it be any different for your canine companion?
Chances are relatively few bears frequent trails where humans frequently cross. Canine poop contains numerous bacteria that can harm people and other pets should they come into contact with it. Therefore, you should bag it up just like you do when walking your puppy on a city sidewalk.
Furthermore, you should stay on the beaten trail, especially when hiking in a desert environment. Why? The soil’s crust forms a protective barrier to hold in moisture — walking across it disturbs this layer.
5. Remember, Pets Are “Human” Too
Your canine companion won’t start to complain when they get tired or their feet hurt. However, that doesn’t mean they don’t have feelings. They’re every bit as “human” as you in that hot stones and sharp thorns hurt them, and long outings make them tired.
Therefore, please take plenty of breaks. Don’t push your dog faster than they seem comfortable, and pay attention to their needs if you come to a bridge or barrier they won’t cross.
Would you want to hike barefoot? You might not mind on a smooth, well-maintained trail, but a rocky desert number littered with cholla and prickly pear is another story. A pair of puppy shoes can keep your dog’s paws as comfortable as your favorite hiking boots while simultaneously providing traction on ice and snow.
6. Talk to Your Veterinarian
You know there are times when you aren’t healthy enough to hike. Your dog is no different. Before you hit the trail, consult your veterinarian and get a clean bill of health.
Your vet can also advise you of any health risks peculiar to your breed. For example, snub-nosed dogs like pugs might struggle with breathing issues during exertion. Let the professionals advise you of safe limits based on your pet’s health history.
Tips for Hiking With Dogs
Hiking is a blast to do solo. It’s even more fun when you bring your canine companion.
However, you must ensure your pup has a safe, enjoyable trek. Follow the above tips when hiking with dogs.
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About the author
Rachel serves as the Assistant Editor of Environment.co. A true foodie and activist at heart, she loves covering topics ranging from veganism to off grid living.