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Hiking through shallow water

How to hike with a dog

Bringing along your dog on a hike is a wonderful way to exercise and bond. Being out in nature can allow them to express their curiosities in a healthy way, without destroying your favorite pair of Nikes. However, there are some things you’ll want to consider, and some preparation guidelines that should be followed. Keep reading to find some tips for getting trail ready.

Before You Begin Your Hike

Visiting the vet is the starting point if considering taking your dog on hikes. Know their overall health, what to bring in case of an emergency, and find out what vaccinations might be necessary.

Training can simply begin by just going on small walks or mini hikes through basic trails near home. Adapting to the feel of a trail versus a paved pathway will help with preparation. Work up to having pups carry their packs and wear their booties, basically completing a full blown “dress rehearsal”.

Having plenty of clean water and food is vital for both human and pup, and burning extra energy traversing trails means more fuel is needed. REI experts state “ Larger dogs might drink 0.5 to 1.0 ounces of water per pound per day. Dogs 20 pounds and lighter will be closer to 1.5 ounces per pound per day,” while stressing these are general guidelines, and signs for dehydration should be watched for vigilantly.

According to the AKC, signs of dehydration in dogs includes:

  • Loss of skin elasticity
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting with or without diarrhea
  • Reduced energy levels and lethargy
  • Panting
  • Sunken, dry-looking eyes
  • Dry nose
  • Dry, sticky gums
  • Thick saliva

Picking the right trail means finding something that fits the stamina level of you both, and making sure dogs are allowed. Check out both state and national park sites to confirm which areas are open, and what the rules are.

Safety first! Know all the potential native wildlife and foliage that could pose threat to your baby. Keep an eagle’s eye while walking, to notice any strange signs or sounds before approaching something potentially dangerous. Keeping pups on leash can ensure your ability to prevent bad encounters.

Must Have Dog Gear For Hiking

While lots of handy dandy gadgets are out there that could be suitable for different types of dogs, some basic essentials are among the must haves.

Dog Pack. Yes, it’s adorable—functional too. Dogs can carry some of the weight when it comes to their food and water. Consider your pup’s size and be sure not to overload the pack. Keep the weight evenly distributed on both sides.

Booties. I know, I know—all this gear is too cute! But booties are meant to protect paws from thorns, brush and other rough terrain. Let dogs get used to wearing these around the house, because at first it’s going to be awkward.

First Aid Kit. Your vet will discuss what some of the most important things to bring in the kit—this will vary a bit from human kits. But absolutely bring along emergency supplies for furry ones.

Safety Light. Maybe it’s dusk and you’re still working back down the trail—a safety light will keep dogs visible to bikers and other hikers, as well as to you, in case they accidently get out of site.

Hiking Trail Pet Etiquette

A lot of the same courtesy you practice when at a dog park or just in public will apply on the trails. But here’s a refresher:

  • Clean up all waste, no matter how remote an area may seem. Poop is gross. It’s as simple as that. Bag it up and carry it out of the park or forest, along with all other trash. Leave no trace—that’s what keeps these areas gorgeous.
  • Have commands down to a science by the time you hit the trail. Dogs should be able to follow all the core commands to keep them in line in all situations, both social or downright dangerous. 
  • Be certain dogs are prepared to see other people, and know that you can keep them calm and cool when others pass by.
  • If you see someone coming down the trail, be the first one to step aside and allow them to pass.

Your veterinarian is going to have more detailed information depending on a dog’s overall profile, and local parks may have their in depth guidelines as well. These tips will get pet parents started when readying a trail loving pup!

Editor’s Note: Ready to hit the trails with your pooch? These tips for off-leash adventures can help make your shared time on the trail fulfilling!

Karyn Wofford is a “Mom” to her fluffy, sweet dog Halli. She spends much of her time traveling and advocating for Type 1 diabetes—and Halli sometimes accompanies her on her adventures. You’ll find Karyn’s work on sites like Mother Earth Living, and in magazines such as Diabetes Forecast.

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