If you’re a hiker and a dog owner, then you and your furry companion are likely going to be great trail buddies. Hiking with a dog is lots of fun, but is also work, and requires the right preparation! In this blog, we’re sharing everything you need to know about hiking with dogs.
Speak to Your Vet
You’ll want to ask your veterinarian some key questions before you and your dog head into the wild! Based on your dog's age and breed, ask what distance your vet thinks is appropriate. A dog’s bones don’t fully develop until after a year, so if you have a puppy, you’ll need to make your outings short and sweet.
Brush up on Obedience Training
A leash isn’t always enough when it comes to obedience on the trail. For example, If your dog likes to pull, it can make sections of trails difficult to navigate. You’ll also likely see other dogs out on the trail as well, so be prepared with training treats to help your dog stay calm and step off the trail and let others pass.
Know the Trail Regulations
Always make sure you check the specific regulations of the place or trail you’re heading too! In general, though, most U.S. national parks do not allow dogs on trails while national forests and state parks do allow leashed dogs on their trail systems.
Practice Leave No Trace
If you’re taking your dog hiking, be prepared to clean up after them! Make sure you have poop bags, and pack them out. Don’t leave a filled bag on the trail with the “I’ll grab it later” mentality - we just end up with baggies all over the trail. If you’re worried about the smell, consider an odor proof carrier like this one.
Help your pup out by starting a trail training regimen! Start with a shooter distance, and slowly work your way up to your desired length and elevation gain. This allows your dog to build their hiking muscles, as well as toughen up their paws.
How to Find Dog-Friendly Trails
It’s not always easy to find a place to bring your pup! Thankfully, there are some great resources that can help. Bring Fido has a dog-friendly hike section of their website. Simply type in where you live and it will serve you some trails in your area that allow dogs! Hikingwithyourdog.com is another great resource that has a state-by-state list of state parks with hiking trails along with links to websites where you’ll find each park’s policy on dogs.
Now that you know what to consider before you go hiking with your dog and how to find dog friendly trails, let’s chat about hiking gear for dogs! Let’s break down some of the essentials, and then some of the nice-to-haves.
Water Container and Food
Hydration for your dog is a must! You have a couple of options. You can pour water into a small, collapsible bowl like this one, or use a water bottle with a built-in bowl like this one. You’ll want to carry about 8 ounces of water per dog per hour of hiking. Carrying nutritious snacks for your dog and offering them regularly can help keep your dog’s energy level high. It’s better to feed your dog smaller amounts on a more frequent basis to prevent the discomfort of exercising on a full stomach.
Collar and Harness
You’ll want to make sure your dog is wearing a collar, or some other form of identification in the event they get lost on the hike! Consider using a harness as well. Dogs can injure themselves if they pull too hard on a leash with only a collar. A harness relieves this strain, as well as discourages pulling. It also helps to stop your pup from getting tangled in the leash.
Any dog owner knows never to be without! Make sure you keep a couple in your pack at all times.
Canine First Aid Kit
Just like you would for yourself, carry along some basic supplies that will help you to deal with injuries that your dog might sustain on the trail. A few of the items to take would include: hydrogen peroxide to disinfect cuts, scissors with rounded tips to trim hair around wounds, bandages and gauze pads, tape, tweezers to remove foreign objects in a wound, and a small sock or bootie to protect a wounded foot.
If you’re worried about carrying all of the supplies for both you and your dog, consider a dog pack! They come with two small pouches on the side, allowing your pup to carry their own water, food, and first aid supplies. Ruffwear makes some great dog packs. Before purchasing, make sure to measure the circumference of your dog’s chest around the widest part of the rib cage. Then, have them practice wearing it at home to get them comfortable with it before hitting the trails.
If it’s snowy out, or if you’re worried about the softness of your dog’s paw pads, consider booties. Know that it’s not uncommon for a dog to lose a bootie on the trail, so make sure to bring a spare!
If you live in a hot environment or have a dog with thick fur, consider purchasing them a cooling collar. These accessories maintain moisture, so your dog can get some relief from the heat.
If you’re out in winter and have a smaller dog (or one unaccomosted to snow) you can get them a cute and effective jacket! Like jackets for people, the synthetic insulation will keep them warm while wicking away moisture.
Now that you’re geared up and ready for the trails, there’s one last consideration: trail hazards for dogs. Since you’re not the one bending down and chewing plants on the trail, it can be easy to forget that there are some hazards you need to keep an eye out for!
If you see your dog stopping to chew on anything, your best bet is to stop them immediately to prevent them from eating poisonous or tainted plants, and having digestive problems later. Keep an eye out in particular for foxtails. Found on a variety of grasses in spring and summer, these barbed seedpods can cause a whole host of issues for your dog, the most common being a serious infection.
Dogs are susceptible to most of the same waterborne pathogens as humans. Your safest bet is to only allow your dog to drink the water you’ve brought.
In the spring or after rainfall, rivers can pick up a lot of speed. Make sure to evaluate the flow before letting your dog enter to avoid the risk of them getting swept away. If you’re unsure of how they’ll handle the river, pick them up and carry them during river crossings.
Overdoing it / heat stroke
As you learn your dog’s comfort level while hiking, make sure to take lots of breaks for water and rest. If your dog is panting heavily and keeps stopping to rest in the shade, it’s a sign you need to slow your pace or shorten your hike.
There you have it: everything you need to know about hiking with dogs! Here at AdventureTripr, we’re big fans of furry friends. Make sure to tag us in your dog adventures using #AdventuresForEveryone!
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