Hiking is a great way to shake off stress out your system and get yourself a good workout. But when your dog tags along, your outdoor experience gets even better!
Dogs are the perfect hiking partners because they are actually more excited to get out in the woods than you are. They love to climb on boulders, leap over brooks, run up a dirt trail, and gain a new battery of smells and sights. Witnessing your dog’s energy and sheer enjoyment directs you away from the physical exertion involved in hiking. It only motivates you to go farther! Not to mention the breathtaking sceneries you’ll see along the way.
While hiking may sound like a mini vacation, it isn’t always a walk in the park. Here are 10 tips to make sure you and your canine companion will have a great time.
1. Make sure your dog can handle life on the trail
Age, size, temperament, genetic makeup, and health history are important factors that determine which among your pack is a good fit for the trail you’re planning on hiking. Check with your vet to determine your dog’s physical capabilities and rule out possible health problems.
Brachycephalic (flat-faced) breeds, such as Pugs and French Bulldogs, have difficulty breathing and regulating body temperature. Therefore, these dogs cannot enjoy summer’s bounties as much as an eager Labrador.
Toy breeds, such as Pomeranians and Shih Tzus, are better off strutting their tooshies in the park. No matter how energetic they seem to be, these balls of fire don’t have the stamina to endure a long, hot, arduous hike. So, there are reasons why hikers and backpackers choose big dogs over the cute little ones.
2. Complete or update your dog’s vaccine course
A gamut of harmful pathogens lurks in the great outdoors, especially in stagnant water and contaminated soil. That is why you should keep your dog’s shots up to date. These include canine parvovirus, distemper virus, adenovirus-2, and rabies vaccines. Without these vaccines, there is a significant risk that your dog will develop an illness.
Consider getting Leptospirosis and Lyme disease vaccines as well so you won’t have to worry about your dog drinking contaminated
3. Stay one step ahead of fleas and ticks
Fleas and ticks will gladly take a snack on every human and dog they see wandering off their domain. If you’re unlucky, they might decide to creep underneath your dog’s fur so they can move into your home. Unfortunately, these parasites do more than just annoy you with their itchy bites. Fleas can cause tapeworms and heartworms in dogs. Likewise, ticks carry serious bacterial infections that could affect both humans and animals.
The key is to keep fleas and ticks off your dog by using a repellent. This is the only way you can protect yourself and your furry sidekick from flea- and tick-borne diseases. You can ask your vet for flea and tick meds or better yet, view a category of tried-and-true flea and tick products at Entirely Pets.
4. Research before you go
Observe leash laws and trail closures. Research online which national and state parks are dog-friendly to make sure you aren’t breaking the rules. You might end up paying a hefty fine and ruin what would have otherwise been an enjoyable day for you and your canine companion. Likewise, research what trail hazards you might encounter so you can come fully prepared. These include identifying which wild plants can cause discomfort for you and your dog.
5. Choose a reliable harness or collar
Dogs are dogs! Your furry sidekick will scurry out of sight if given a chance and gladly chase anything that moves. You should always keep your furry sidekick connected to you using a collar or a harness. Otherwise, he might swallow something inedible, drink unsafe water, or bump into some wild animal.
Some dog owners prefer harnesses to collars because it eliminates the strain on the dog’s neck. At the same time, it gives you a good deal of control over your dog. Others stick to the good ole collar, which is a great way to keep identification and rabies tags.
Calm or well-trained dogs are fine with a collar, but not dogs who tend to lunge on walks. If you have a dog whose leash manners still need some polishing, you might as well start with a no-pull harness for your first trail.
Check out these amazing collars, harness vests, and sturdy leashes. They even have rhinestone dog collars if you want your pooch shining, shimmering, splendid!
6. Gear up your pet
Your furry sidekick needs special kinds of gear, especially when you’re planning for multiple day hikes. Have your dog wear reflective clothing or accessories at night to protect your canine buddy during road crossings. Always bring a canine floatation device. This is especially helpful if you are looking forward to water adventures with your pal. Even if you don’t have kayak or paddling adventures on the mind, it is wise to prepare for adverse weather conditions.
Additionally, your dog should wear booties to protect his paws on cold winter trails or hot summer grounds. An insulating jacket can also help keep your pooch toasty during chilly weathers. If it’s summer, consider applying non-toxic sunscreen to your dog’s exposed skin. Pay close attention especially to the noise and tips of your dog’s ears.
7. Bring a first aid kit
Don’t hit the trail without a first aid kit because there are no vets in the woods! Your kit should include a pair of scissors, bandages, cortisone, hydrogen peroxide or any disinfectant to clean minor wounds, and anything else that seems reasonable. You should also equip yourself with basic first aid knowledge so you can provide effective, life-saving assistance when your dog encounters a crisis.
8. Your dog needs to stay fueled and well hydrated
Bring more food and water your dog usually consumes. Being on the trail means you’re dog burns more calories for energy. However, don’t give your furry sidekick a heavy meal an hour ahead of a hike to avoid stomach upset. Feed your dog small portions or occasional treats just to keep him energized during a hike. When it’s time to take a long break, give your pal a full meal to help him recover.
You might as well bring a water purifier or a couple of bottled water to keep you and your canine buddy hydrated. Stay away from puddles, ponds, and other stagnant water sources as they most likely harbor parasites, algae, bacteria, and other harmful microorganisms.
If you wish to unplug for a few days, be sure to check out these tips to enjoy camping with your dog!
9. Always check on your dog
Take a break regardless of whether you’re thirsty or not. Give your dog some time to cool off and make sure you provide him with some water between hikes. Dogs are more prone to overheating because they only sweat through their paws. A break is also a good opportunity to check on your dog for cuts, scrapes, burrs, and burns.
10. Observe proper pet waste disposal
Contrary to popular belief, dog poop should never be used as a fertilizer because it is too acidic. It only harbors harmful microorganisms that can contaminate water sources and disrupt local wildlife. Respect the environment and other hikers by leaving no trace of your pet’s waste. Bring along biodegradable poop bags and stash away pet waste in a separate compartment of your bag. Throw it away as soon as you find a garbage bin. Better yet, bury pet waste in a hole that is half a foot deep and is at least 200 ft. away from camping sites and water sources.
Hiking is one of the best ways to escape the maddening rush of this crazy busy world. It is a healthy and inexpensive way to refresh your mind and strengthen your body. And when you’re a dog owner, you have the privilege to have a hiking companion who is full of enthusiasm… and perhaps, a little impatience to boot.
Hiking with your dog is a surreal experience, and your dog’s innate curiosity will surely make you appreciate nature even more. It is not the same as walking him around the neighborhood morning, noon, and night.
Your dog will also see it as an escape from his boring routine, just as much as you would with yours. Even the most stubborn four-legged couch potato looks forward to a hike! A new battery of smells and sights will energize your dog, adding stimulation to his life as well as yours. Most importantly, it promotes good health; reduce destructive behavior and depression associated with boredom; and build a strong relationship between you and your canine companion.
So, mellow out your grumpy dog and exhaust his pent up energy by taking him out for a hike! You’ll see his eyes lit up as soon as he sees you packing up his booties. If hiking isn’t your cup of tea, here are 5 ways to stay fit with your dog!
Lara Baylosis writes weekly articles for Pet Comments and does nothing without Bungo’s advice. Because of Bungo’s words of wisdom, she was able to survive the writing industry for over four years. Bungo is a sweet, loyal mutt.