Man’s best friend is also a solid companion for the trail. Dogs are always ready, willing, and eager for adventure – especially when it’s filed with so many fresh scents. Hiking with dogs can provide many health benefits to both you and your furry friend. Hiking is a great way to destress, get some exercise, enjoy the outdoors, and interact with others – even if your companion has four legs. But like any hiking adventure, you need to be prepared how to handle the trails with your dog. These five simple tips will help to ensure that your hike is a safe and enjoyable one.
1. Start with Short Hikes
While you–and your dog–may be excited to go hiking, it’s important not to overdo it in the beginning. Consider your dog’s age and health before heading out.
Older dogs may not be able to manage a strenuous hike in the same way a younger dog would be able to. Similarly, if your dog has any health conditions such as arthritis you will want to limit your hike to a shorter distance.
Start with a short hike to see how your dog handles it, then gradually increase the distance if suitable.
2. Pick Dog-friendly Trails
Be sure to check the rules for the trails you plan to hike on. Most trails will require that your dog is on a leash at all times. This is to ensure the safety of everyone on the trail and to protect the environment. Some trails do not permit dogs at all.
If you will be hiking on busier trails, you will want to make sure your dog is not reactive around other people or dogs. Many trails are narrow and people must pass by closely–consider if this is something your dog will do well with.
3. Leave No Trace
Pick up all of your dog’s waste while you are hiking. If there are no disposal bins on the trail you will need to bring the waste home and dispose of it there. One of the golden rules of hiking is to leave the trail in the same condition that you found it–or better.
4. Pack water & treats
Make sure that both you and your dog have enough water packed for the duration of your hike. A good rule of thumb is to give your dog water whenever you have a drink. Watch for signs that your dog is overheating or becoming dehydrated, such as excessive panting, sunken eyes, or lethargy. Bring a lightweight packable bowl to fill so your dog can drink clean water. Snacks help provide us with energy when we are hiking. Its a good idea to bring dog-friendly snacks and treats as well.
5. Be Mindful of Your Dog & Others
Ensure that your dog stays away from any plants that may be poisonous as well as any water that is not safe for drinking. If you are hiking in an area where there will be wildlife, take proper precautions. Be sure to check your dog–and yourself–for ticks when your hike is completed.
Also, don’t assume that every hiker you meet on the trail is a fan of dogs. Keep your dog close and controlled so that other hikers don’t feel frightened or threatened. Also, don’t assume that other dogs you might meet on the trail are friendly, even if they are wagging their tails. Its a good idea to leash your furry pal anytime others (especially with dogs) pass by and keep yourself between them and your dog until you are sure they ready to say hello to your pet.