There is nothing better than exploring nature with your best friend. There are lots of sights to see (and smells to smell) for both of you. To make this a great experience for both you an, here are a few tips about hiking with dogs to keep you both happy and hydrated.
Do Your Research
Trails can vary in degrees from beginner to advanced and it is best to know what you are up against before you start your trek. A quick Google search can provide information on specific trails in your area. For hikes in U.S. National Parks, the National Parks Service has information on every park in all 50 states. Make sure to know where you are going, especially in heavily wooded areas. Print a trail map just in case—don’t assume you will have mobile service.
Be aware that your pooch may not be welcome on all trails or in certain areas of parks especially near beaches or on nature preserves. Most trails require your dog to be on a leash.
But there are reasons for this, it’s not just anti-dog legislation. It is for the safety of your dog, the preservation of habitat, and the protection of wildlife. Odors left behind by dogs may prevent wildlife from returning to important habitats. Predators such as coyotes and mountain lions can hurt or kill your pet, even in the daylight hours. Dog feces left behind can disturb the natural balance and spread harmful bacteria, which brings me to the next point…
Be Willing and Prepared to Pick Up Your Dog’s Poo
Most trail heads have disposable (and sometimes biodegradable) poop bags to clean up after your pet, but don’t count on it. Your local pet store will have bags, some with even a carrier you can clip onto your dog’s leash.
There is nothing worse than walking a beautiful trail or a sandy beach and seeing some dog’s leavings soiling up the place. Remember, just as you wouldn’t litter on a trail (you wouldn’t, right?) you don’t want to leave dog poop behind to spread disease and potentially ruin someone’s day.
Hike With The Dog You Have
This one is complicated. As ambitious as you may be to scale rock cliffs or hike the Pacific Coast Trail, you need to remember your canine friend may have limitations based on age, breed or size.
Small puppers may seem like they are full of energy, but just by sheer size, they are limited. Snub-nosed breeds such as pugs and bulldogs can get fatigued and overheated easier than their long-nosed friends. Elderly and overweight dogs may need to rest more often.
Avoid long hikes at first to see how your dog responds. Don’t assume that they will be able to keep up with you. However, the opposite may be true and you may find yourself out of breath while your four-legged buddy is still raring to go.
Trail heads usually have information on the trails themselves. But you should already know the trail difficulty for you and your pet if you did your research.
Be Prepared For The Worst
There are many unpredictable factors that come into play the minute you leave home. Going out into the wilds of nature increases that factor by 100 percent. Your dog could become lost.
Make sure your dog is microchipped and their information is correct according to the service. Even if you have your contact information on your dog’s tag, there is always a chance that they can break free from their collar and be running free without ID. Microchipping your pet can’t guarantee that they won’t get lost, but it provides a greater chance that they will be found if they do.
Collars and harnesses are always of a personal preference, but make sure you have one that your pup can’t slip out of whichever you choose. Harnesses are best for small and medium-sized dogs, and there are many different types. Your dog will feel more secure, and you will be prepared to deal with unforeseen confrontations on the trail.
Dogs are social animals, but if your dog has not been socialized around other dogs, you may have issues when you encounter dogs. Hiking in groups with other socialized dogs may help ease your dogs fear anxiety over other dogs. Just make sure that you let them make their own introductions. Don’t force socialization.
Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate
Bring plenty of water for yourself and for Fido. A good rule of thumb is if you are thirsty, your dog probably is too. At the very least, provide water for your dog every hour, more if it is warm outside. Purchase a collapsible water dish you can easily store in a backpack. Don’t count on rivers and streams to satiate your pup, and don’t let them drink from puddles.
Most of all, be prepared for extremes in weather for yourself and your dog. If it is too hot for you, it is too hot for your dog. Rest often and find shade if your dog is panting more than usual. Dogs can suffer from heat stroke just like humans so be aware when you are hiking on hot days or in warmer climates.