Guest Post by Jenn Jackson
If hiking is your favorite pastime, and your dog is your favorite companion, it’s only natural to combine the two. Bringing your dog on the trails is a wonderful bonding experience to strengthen your relationship and make priceless memories. It might be a little intimidating to introduce your pet to the wild trails, but following some of these tips should help the transition.
- Consider if your dog is a good hiking companion
The first thing to consider before taking your dog out on the trails is whether or not they’ll be a good companion. Vigorous exercise and long walks are part of a healthy lifestyle for most dogs, but with increasing age and varying ability some of the more challenging pathways are no longer an option.
Dogs can suffer from chronic and seasonal allergies like humans, so avoid heavily pollinated areas. There is a trail for every dog out there, it’s just a matter of doing your research and finding the best option for you.
- Make sure your pup is prepared for the trail
Proper preparation is essential to a successful trip with your best friend. There are several vaccines that are recommended before exploring the great outdoors. You may also consider investing in flea and tick repellant to avoid unwelcome infestation. Your hiking partner should respond to all basic commands. Consider signing up for obedience training and make sure you and your dog have a strong understanding of each other.
- Burning doggie calories
Whether or not you’re staying overnight, remember to pack plenty of essentials. To keep up with the extra calories your dog will be burning, pack additional food and a collapsible bowl from which they are comfortable eating. Make sure to bring enough potable water for the both of you. Do not depend on natural sources as they can be polluted and contain parasites such as giardia. Filter drinking water for your pet as thoroughly as you would filter any water for yourself.
- Watch out for trail hazards
Hiking can pose many hazards if you’re not careful. Areas with aggressive wildlife such as bears, coyotes, and moose should be avoided. There can also be unexpected dangers like porcupines, venomous snakes, or, tragically, illegal traps. Keep your pets close on the trail and consider using bear bells and leashes. Do your research online before you go and make sure to keep a cautious eye out while on the trail.
- Follow backcountry etiquette
The trails belong to everyone and anyone who want to use them, and the responsibility to keep them clean falls on the whole community. The standard etiquette for any outdoors adventuring calls for you to “leave no trace” of your presence. This means you should be diligent about covering or picking up your dog’s waste and deliberate about not disrupting any wildlife or vulnerable fauna.
Make sure the trail you intend to use is safe and approved for dogs. Be respectful of other hikers and their pets by training your dog to be well behaved in social situations. The Animal Humane Society provides suggestions for canine etiquette on their website that should be followed while hiking.
- Bring a first aid kit, know how to use it
Just like you should be familiar with basic human first aid tactics before venturing into an area where emergency medical teams are unable to respond effectively, you should also familiarize yourself with the essentials of pet first aid such as tending to wounds and doggie CPR. There are numerous online videos that teach proper pet emergency care. You can either buy premade first aid kits or make your own, but they should be packed with bandages, disinfectant, paw salve, and dog booties.
If you are hiking out of town, make sure to look up a local veterinarian before beginning your adventure so you know who to call in case of an emergency. The American Veterinary Medical Foundation provides a great list of basic medical techniques all pet owners should know.
- Bring the right accessories
Even if you let your well-trained dog walk unleashed, it is essential to bring a leash along for emergencies or situations with other unfriendly dogs. Some trails require dogs to be on tethers and these regulations should always be respected. Other accessories you might consider bringing include dog booties to protect their feet, and dog packs if your pup is capable of carrying some supplies. If they will not wear a pack, consider investing in a harness with reflective gear for optimal safety.
Jenn & Scott run My Open Country - a campaign to try and get more people excited about the outdoors. Improve your wilderness adventures with their in-depth articles on hiking and backpacking skills, inspirational trip guides and awesome gear reviews.