Taking Your Dog on a Hike
Few things will make your pup happier than being brought along on a scenic, adventurous hike with you! But before you go, here are a few things to take into account for the safety of your dog and those around you.
Preparing for the Hike
Puppies or elderly dogs
If your dog is a puppy or an older dog, is it strong enough to go on a long hike? Check with your vet to get the sign off, especially if you’re planning to strap on a dog pack.
Vaccinations and preventative medicines
Is your dog up-to-date on its vaccinations? What about its medications for fleas, ticks, and heartworms?
Is your pet healthy and without any open wounds that could become infected?
Collar and updated tags
Make sure your dog is wearing a collar with its rabies tag and your updated contact info.
Check to see if your dog’s microchip info is updated with your current contact info.
Check the trail regulations for the trails you’re interested in hiking ahead of time.
Before you go on a hike, your dog should go through thorough obedience training.
First Aid supplies
Gauze rolls, bandages or clean towels, medical tape, scissors, and saline solution or disinfectant. Familiarize yourself with first aid techniques in case of a medical emergency.
Dog packs are great if your dog is strong and healthy! With a dog pack, your dog can carry all of its own supplies! Make sure both sides are weighted equally and that the pack doesn’t exceed ¼ of your dog’s weight. The pack shouldn’t be too tight (two fingers should fit under it), and check that it’s not chafing your dog’s skin.
- Poop bags
- Water bottle and collapsible water bowl
- Dog food, snack, treats
- Towel, paper towels, or wipes (for stepping in mud or poop)
- Dog booties (optional)
- Dog or children’s non-toxic sunscreen (if your dog needs it)
- First aid kit
Take it Slow
Now that you’ve started hiking with your dog, take the time to slowly build up to a long hike. Your dog’s paw pad toughness and overall stamina will need to increase over time, just like yours did. Start out with a 30-minute hike and slowly increase by 15-minute increments.
If your dog is drooling or panting heavily during the hike or tired and lethargic toward the end of the hike, then you’re going too hard. But if your dog still has a lot of energy after the hike, you can go a little longer or faster the next time.
To Leash or Not to Leash
Keep your dog leashed for the safety of everyone involved. You may believe that your dog has no need for leashing, but when you’re sharing a trail with other hikers, children, dogs, and wildlife, it’s important to be respectful of others and keep your dog leashed. The people and animals that your dog is running up to or whizzing by don’t know that your dog is safe. For hikers who are alone, have a dog of their own, have children to protect, or have had a bad prior experience with a dog, unleashed dogs are adding a great deal of stress to their hike.
Trail Hazards to Watch out for
- Poisonous plants
- Keep a close eye on your dog to make sure it isn’t eating any plants (check out this list of toxic plants)
- Snakes or poisonous spiders
- Steep or slippery slopes
- Hot or jagged spots can burn or cut your dog’s paws
- Water: coming across water on the trail can be hazardous for your dog:
- Your dog can become sick from drinking untreated water
- Swimming in cold water can give your dog hypothermia
- Swimming in whitewater or water with a strong current will increase the chance of drowning
Just a little practice, and you and your pup will have your hiking routine down in no time!