Hiking with your dog is a great way for you to exercise your pooch. Not only that, but hiking together will actually strengthen the bond between you and your dog. Sounds great right? It is, but before you pull out your map and start charting your path across the Appalachians, you need to be absolutely sure that both you and your dog are prepared. Just as you might do physical conditioning before embarking on a long hike, your dog will need the same preparation. However, you should think about a few things before you begin.
Ask yourself “is my dog physically able to hike?” The answer to this question could be “no” for a variety of reasons. If you have a young dog, you shouldn’t take them hiking because their bones have not stopped growing yet. They do not possess the required stamina for longer hikes. Strenuous physical activity when a dog is young and unprepared can lead to issues with joint pain down the road. Likewise, if your dog is too old for hiking, you could also cause an unintentional injury from a difficult hike.
You also should consider whether or not your dog’s breed is appropriate for hiking. If you have a smaller dog, with short legs it will be much harder for them to navigate difficult terrain out on the trail. If your dog’s breed is known to have breathing problems, it is also best to avoid hiking with them as the intense physical activity of hiking could put too much of a strain on your dog’s lungs.
You should also make sure that your dog is up to date on all of their vaccinations before you go hiking. If you are going hiking in a very specific area, you may want to consult your vet as to additional vaccinations that you may want your dog to be given before your trip.
Training Is Key
Before you hit the trail, you need to make sure that your dog is well trained enough that you won’t have any accidents on the trail. The dog should be able to reliably respond to commands to sit or stay. Additionally they should know “leave it,” and “drop it,” and should not jump on people you may encounter on the trail. Knowing these commands will be essential if you should run into hikers or other wild animals in the woods, be they horses, snakes, bears etc.
Stay On Leash
Always have your dog on a leash when you are out hiking. Doing this will prevent your dog from bolting if they catch sight of a small animal to chase. It will also keep your dog close by as other hikers may be frightened of dogs. Since many trails do allow horses, you do not want to spook a horse and cause a rider to be thrown. You may also be sharing the trail with cyclists who may not be able to maneuver around your dog if they suddenly appear on the trail in the path of the rider.
Being Prepared Is Important
Aside from having a good leash, there are a couple of other things you should consider taking along with you when you are planning to take your dog on a hike.
Water is very important for animals and humans alike when out on the trail. You should make sure that your dog has at least 1 quart of water per every 3 miles you hike. Bring a portable water bowl so that you can make it easy for your dog to rehydrate while you are out.
I like the portable water bowl from Cool Pup because it collapses down, so you can easily fit in your backpack. It also comes with a freezable cold pack that you can prepare ahead of time and bring with you for extra cooling power.
If you are going on a hike that will require more water than you can carry, you should bring a water filtration device, or water filtration tablets.
Your dog will need to eat when you are out on your hike. Just as you need to eat throughout the day to replenish your energy, so does your dog. You should plan to bring some kind of healthy snack for your dog
You should also bring a first aid kit, just in case something happens on the trail. I personally really like the first aid kit from RC Pets because it’s small but it still has everything I might reasonably need if my dog gets hurt.
Another important thing to bring that I think a lot of people leave out is a second leash. What happens if your leash breaks when you are out hiking? You’ll be up a creek if you only have one. The second leash could also come in handy if you need to tether your dog for some reason. A great durable leash is the no pull stretch leash from Wacky Walkr. I like it because it keeps the dog from pulling away from me on the trail, and it’s made from natural rubber latex so I’m not worried about it snapping.
So if you think your dog is physically able, trail ready, and you have prepared yourself for the trek with all of the necessary items, then what are you waiting for? The trails are really nice this time of year.