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Hiking With Your Dog: How To Be Safe and Have Fun on the Trail

Hiking With Your Dog: How to Be Safe and Have Fun

It’s finally that time of year when everyone starts dusting off their hiking boots and hitting the trails! Hiking with your dog can be a fun and rewarding bonding experience. Plus, it’s a great way for both of you to get some exercise and fresh air. Before you head out, though, remember to prepare your pet for a safe, stress-free hike by following these tips.

Hiking With Your Dog

What To Consider When Hiking With Your Dog

  • Make sure your dog is properly vaccinated and treated.

    Before you even think about hiking with your dog, make sure their vaccines and parasite preventatives are up-to-date. Even if you don’t encounter other dogs on your hike, there’s a chance your pup could get into wild animal feces or urine. Keeping your dog’s vaccines up-to-date can help prevent any complications from these run-ins. Ticks are also extremely common in most of the United States, and they can cause disease and even death if untreated. It’s best to make sure your pup is on a proper flea and tick preventative long before you hit the trail.

  • Decide whether or not your dog is physically fit enough to hike.

    Chances are your couch potato dachshund won’t be able to keep up on a five-mile hike over rough terrain, especially if it’s their first time. Before undertaking any long or strenuous trails, take your pup on some shorter, easier hikes to increase their stamina. These practice hikes will also help toughen up their paw pads, meaning your pup will be less likely to get held up with foot discomfort.

  • Pack the necessary food and water.

    Like humans, dogs require more food and water during intense exercise than they do on a lazy day at home. Make sure you bring plenty of water for both you and your pup. Don’t count on your dog drinking from a stream or lake to stay hydrated. These water sources can carry pathogens and bacteria like giardia, coccidian, and Leptospirosis. Always provide clean, treated water for your dog just as you would for yourself. Also, it’s a good idea to bring a snack for your pup on longer trails. Consider jerky treats or calorie-dense dog energy bars for a low-mess, easy-to-pack snack.

  • Know the signs of overheating and how to treat it.

    In the summer, it's easy for dogs to overheat even just sitting outside. When they're hiking, that risk is even greater. If your dog is panting excessively, breathing erratically, drooling more than usual, or has pale gums, they may be overheating. Soak a washcloth in cool water and apply it to their paw pads, between their toes, and their belly/groin area. Find shade, and allow your dog to rest and cool off.

  • Gather your first aid kit.

    Hiking trails are full of dangers – from parasites to wildlife to steep drops. Always pack a doggy first aid kit in case of emergencies. You can purchase pet first aid kits from online pet retailers and big box stores, or you can build your own!

  • Know the rules, and follow them!

    Many national and state parks do not allow pets on their trails at all, and most of the others require dogs to be leashed at all times. No matter how well you think your pet behaves, always respect the rules of the trail when hiking with your dog. They are in place not only for the safety of others but also for the safety of you and your pet. Plus, these rules help protect wildlife from your pet – and your pet from dangerous wildlife. If the trails forbid dogs, leave Fido at home. If they require a leash, use a leash. Period.

  • And our most important tip: TRAIN, TRAIN, TRAIN.

    A public hiking trail is no place to test an untrained dog’s tolerance. Be honest with yourself about your dog’s training, and prepare ahead of time. You and your dog should be comfortable with leash-walking skills and etiquette; socialized to people, dogs, and wildlife; and confident in your recalls. You don’t want your pup charging another dog or person on the trail or darting after a squirrel or deer. Accidents can occur on- and off-leash, so practice these life-saving skills far in advance of your hike. If you plan on hiking with your dog off-leash, make absolutely sure that your dog is ready for that challenge. If you struggle to keep your dog in eyesight, they’re reactive to other animals, or they don’t always come when you call, they’re not ready to be off-leash. And there’s nothing wrong with that! You can have just as much fun and adventure hiking with your dog on a leash, and you’ll probably find that it makes both you and your pup more comfortable and less nervous.

There’s nothing quite as rewarding as an adventure with your furry best friend when you’re both prepared and up for the challenge. If you practice and plan before hiking with your dog, you’ll be set for a fun and safe experience!

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