Ever wanted to hike with your furry friend but didn’t know how? Questions bamboozle our brain as soon as we even consider the option; how…is it safe…what do I bring? I myself contemplated these very thoughts, but as you will soon find out this conquest is completely doable. You will not regret creating new and wonderful memories with your best friend by your side. Let’s get to the nitty gritty of these questions and help you hit the trail in no time!
Can My Dog Hike?
Each dog breed is different than the next, but some are more fit for strenuous exercise. You don’t want to get halfway through your 10-mile hike and realize you have to carry your dog the rest of the way. Prepare your pooch the same way you prepare yourself for these long hikes…train them! Not many people, myself included, could run a marathon if we only ran a few miles a week. There is no need to train your dog for a marathon if you plan to hike only a few miles, but even this distance can strain a dog who has not properly been prepared.
If you’re brand new to hiking with a dog, make sure to check out my post on hiking with dogs for beginners.
Start out with short walks here and there, slowly building their stamina. Before long you will notice your furry friend can out-run you in any race. It is a good idea to know your dogs age. Puppies should have all vaccines before hitting the trails. And old dogs may not make it as far as they used to. Know the health of your pooch and each hike will go just fine.
What Should I Bring?
If you’re like me then you over-pack every single time. Never a bad thing to be over-prepared right? Well…you might say otherwise on mile seven. Bring the essentials and don’t forget that your dog can carry a few items too! Not only are dog backpacks helpful with carrying extra gear, but they make your furry friend even more precious. Give your bud a job to do and make them feel extra special. It’s a win-win all around. Packs should never exceed a third of the dogs body weight. To make sure your bud is extra comfortable even out the weight to each side of their body. Waterproof packs are a plus, because we know our silly doggies are going to jump right into the first water source they find.
Dog friendly first aid kits include gauze, heavy-duty bandages, a liquid bandage for split or cut paw pads, pet-friendly antiseptic, antibiotic ointment, pliers or tweezers for thorn and tick removal, styptic swabs, an antihistamine like Benadryl in case of snake bite, canine sunscreen, and a bottle of Tecnu in case you run into a patch of poison oak or poison ivy. Poop bags follow the “pack it in, pack it out” rule. Make sure to double bag when carrying out (you’ll thank yourself later). Another option is to bury the feces. When doing this bury 8 inches deep and 200 feet away from trails, campsites and water sources. Do not bury poop bags.
Feed your doggies plenty along the way! Just think to yourself “if I need a snack then my dog probably does too”. It’s a good idea to bring dry dog food with high protein and fat levels for energy. When going on long or overnight hikes make sure to pack extra dog food.
Rule of thumb for this is to add an additional cup for every 20 pounds of dog weight for each meal. Before the hike give a small serving about 1 hour before; feed small and frequent portions throughout the day. Both you and your dog need to stay hydrated, so drink water and share some with your best bud about every 15-30 minutes.
Protect their paws from rough terrain with boots. Snowy and rocky trails can be tough on their pads, so make sure to have back-up dog boots just in case. Colder conditions can also warrant a dog coat or sweater as well. And when hiking towards dusk definitely bring lights and reflectors. It’s always fun to attach some reflectors to your dog’s harness and leash. Light them up for the night sky! And it makes us worriers feel better when our pooches are safe. For the end of the trip a towel or seat cover is handy with dirty dogs. Granted we love them, but I for one do not want their muddy paws all over my car.
Safety! Safety! Safety!
Many safety concerns have already been acknowledged, but again us worriers can always think of more scary scenarios. Firstly, check park regulations about allowances on dogs. Some parks do not allow dogs and others require that they remain on-leash. Secondly, vaccinations for all dogs, no matter the age, need to be up-to-date. Make sure your dog has some form of identification whether it be a tag or chip. In the unfortunate event your buddy gets lost it is always best to provide those who find him with proper contact information.
Additionally, check the weather before heading out. What may be descent hiking conditions for you could be unsafe for your dog. These weather conditions can sometimes lead to hypothermia or even heatstroke. Now it’s time to bring out that first-aid kit you packed! Instant ice packs, or alcohol pads can be applied to doggie paw pads to cool off. Other treatment includes a wet or ice-packed bandana tied around the jugular vein in a dogs neck, or pressed against their femoral artery on the inner thigh. Be sure to always know the trail before you go! Avoid trails with heavy horse and bike traffic. If the trail includes cliffs you should keep your dog on-leash to prevent any falls.
Many dog owners, like myself, have more than one dog and want to take all of them on our adventures. But it is unwise to take three or more, as this becomes a pack and harder to handle. When approaching other dogs on the trail make sure to have control of your own dog and ask the other owner if their dog is friendly before you let the two of them meet. No accidents are needed here! Watch out for overexertion, which can happen when dogs get excited. For example, if they turn flips in the air when they see other dogs like my pup does, then they are in danger of overexertion. Keep an eye on their breathing and allow them to take breaks when needed.
Be aware of the flora and fauna around the hiking trail. Dangerous plants to watch out for are poison oak, poison ivy, sumac, some mushrooms, hemlock, burrs, foxtails, cacti and thorns. After a hike it’s always a good idea to check your pup for ticks. A dog brush or comb can easily remove burrs from dog fur.
Overall, if you are relaxed then your dog will be calm as well. It may sound like voodoo, but your dog knows you and can read your body language. If you seem nervous then they will become skittish, which leads to dangerous situations. Go and enjoy the great outdoors! Take your best friend and make some unforgettable memories! Leave all worries behind and embrace good times in good places.
Eliza Blackwell is an adventurer seeking out every new experience. Sharing the joy of these explorations is her passion. Bringing her dogs along on these conquests is just the icing on top.