Our canine companions love the great outdoors! We want them to experience as much as possible with us so they’re happy, healthy, and satisfied. If you’re considering taking your dog on a hike, here a few things to keep in mind before making the decision, and if your dog is ready, read on for a list of rules to follow and care products to bring should your pet get a wound. We’ll talk about:
- Prior considerations: Should your dog be hiking at all?
- Trail etiquette
- Suggestions and must-have items to bring
Is your pet big enough for a hike?
Any dog 40 pounds and over will make a good hiker. Don’t get me wrong, I love taking my Maltese Yorkie on the woodland trails, but he gets tired a lot faster than my Retriever. It takes him a lot more steps to trot the same distance. If the trail is rocky, your little guy might need a boost over some of the bigger rocks. Though a large dog can handle most any trail, it is up to your judgement if the little one should take on the challenge.
Is your pet healthy and physically fit?
A hike is more of a demanding commitment than a walk. The trails can be mostly uphill with varying terrain. If you and your dog like to lounge around a lot, it’s a good idea to start small. Start by taking your pet on longer walks if you normally do short strolls around the block. Hit the trails by first planning a short 1 mile trek on a friendly trail, and then increase each time you have free time to hike. If you can’t feel your dog’s ribs through his fur, that’s a sign your pet could benefit from some more exercise before going on a hike.
There are other things to consider besides fitness. The most important thing to look out for is hip dysplasia, or an abnormal formation of the hip socket. It’s common in many breeds like German Shepherds, Rottweilers and Great Danes. This condition can cause your dog pain and arthritis, especially if walking or frolicing for long distances. If you go to a veterinarian, they might be able to prescribe your dog something to relieve the pain. Do not give your dog ibuprofen, like Advil or Motrin, or Aleve. This can have harmful and even lethal side effects for your dog.
Another thing to consider is if your dog recently had puppies. You should wait until the pups are done nursing, as they need their mother around. Also, her body is under enough stress already taking care of them.
Is your pet well-trained?
If you’ve checked all the boxes for health and fitness, it’s time to think about how well behaved your furry companion is. You will be out in the wild, where your dog might feel the urge to explore further off the trail. Make sure he or she is more interested in staying by your side than chasing deer deep into the trees. Be sure your dog answers to commands like come, sit, and heel.
You will encounter other hikers and likely other dogs. Your pet should be completely socialized and friendly with other dogs and their owners. Walking in dog parks can be a great experience for you and your dog, bonding with other pet lovers and their little hikers.
Is your pet too old?
Age is more important to consider than size. Young dogs, large or small, can out run some of the most physically fit humans. Old dogs have stiff joints and arthritis that can slow them down. Any dog over the age of 10 should be thoroughly assessed before attempting any difficult trails. Puppies are also fragile. Their hips and other joints are not fully formed until up to one year in age.
Rules to follow on the trail
There is some trail etiquette to consider while hiking with your pup:
- Keep your dog under control at all times. If there is signage that the area you’re in requires your pet to be on a leash, respect it. There is a reason, like being near a road or parking lot. If not, keep your dog in sight.
- If you have more than one dog, consider bringing another human along to help you control them.
- If you see other hikers without dogs, give them the right of way. Either put your dog on a leash or hold them while the hikers pass. Unfortunately, not everyone is a dog lover.
- If you encounter other hikers, say hello and tell other hikers (with or without dogs) that your dog is friendly and won’t harm them.
- If you come across a loose dog, put your dog on a leash so that you have control of the situation. Speak in a kind manner and let the dogs sniff each other. After the brief meet, continue on your way so that the other dog can find its way. If you believe the dog is in danger, call the number on its tags or the park service.
- Clean up after your pet as you would on a normal walk. Many dog-friendly parks have bag dispensers and trash cans.
- If approaching cliffs or bodies of water, put your dog on its leash to avoid any scares. Dogs will splash around in the most stagnant of water, and you don’t want your pup to develop any waterborne illnesses.
Things to Bring on a Dog Hike
- A shorter leash. Leashes longer than 10 feet limit your control.
- A dog brush or comb in case your dog gets burs in their fur.
- A collar with your contact information
- Enough water for you and your dog to last the length of the hike
- Water bowl
- Dog food and treats. This will help with obedience if your dog has been trained with treats.
- A spare rope is a good idea in case you need to tether your dog to a larger object, like a tree, that the leash will not fit around.
- Plastic bags to clean up after your dog
- Dog first aid kit: Some essential items that make up any dog first aid kit that will come in handy in case you need to care for any wounds on your pet:
- Gauze pads and roll
- Non-stick pads
- Bandage scissors
- Adhesive tape
- Dog toenail clippers
- Tweezers for splinters
- Calamine lotion for bug bites
- Baking soda for bee stings
- Check out Fauna Care’s line of pet wound sprays that aid in the healing of any open wound your pet might acquire. First-aid spray is a good place to start.
Now you and Fido could be ready for your great adventure. Do some research and find the most dog-friendly of parks. You’ll want the most tried and true trails that other dog owners recommend. Remember to put towels down in your vehicle in case you and your pet run into some mud. Happy hiking!