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Hiking can help promote better health and to lose weight. Research has shown that hiking helps calm anxiety and lower the risk of depression. And one of the best ways to enjoy it is, of course, to take your furry friend with you!
However, it requires a lot of stamina, which is why picking the right breed is crucial as some dogs might not be fit enough. You don’t want to stop when you are halfway through simply because your pooch is too tired to keep going. Imagine if that happens when it is near night time, and you don’t have the right gear to hike in the dark.
So, make sure you have a high energy level breed that is suitable for hiking to keep up with your pace. That said, there are a few things you need to know before you hit the trail to make the experience more enjoyable!
Preparation for Hiking
First of all, make sure you and your furry friend are mentally and physically ready to hike. Get in shape by taking a routine walk at a steady pace. It is also great to start practicing by going for small hikes to build up the stamina. Then, increase the duration gradually to ensure you both are fit enough for a more intense adventure.
Consider using a dog muzzle when training your dog to form the habit of not eating everything they see. This is to ensure that they are safe at all times, as you may encounter poisonous plants while hiking.
You will also need to understand both you and your dog’s fitness level. It is crucial because if you choose a trail that is beyond what you both can handle, you will most likely have lots of problems along your way.
Additionally, don’t take your dog on the trail if they are too young or too old as they may not have enough strength and endurance. Not only that, but dogs also tend to have weaker immune systems at this vulnerable age.
If your dog is too young, it might cause permanent hip problems due to the stress putting on the developing joints. So, until they are finish growing before taking them on trips. Smaller breeds will usually be fully grown when they are around 12 months old, and larger breeds will be up to 18 months.
That said, you should always consult with the veterinarian to see if your dog is suitable to go hiking, whether it is their health condition or their age, and ensure that they are up to date with vaccinations.
Also, consider parasites prevention vaccinations. Fleas and ticks are not only annoying, but they can also pose serious health risks to your dog. Depending on the severity, it may cause skin inflammations, infections, and hair loss. It may also be a good idea to ask if the leptospirosis vaccine is right for your dog as leptospirosis disease can be fatal.
If your furry friend is microchipped, make sure your contact info is up to date in case they get separated. Once you are ready, you will need to decide which trail to take on.
Understanding the Trail and the Surroundings
Make sure you choose a dog-friendly hiking trail as not all welcome dogs. Otherwise, you might get yourself fines. Once you have selected, you will need to familiarize yourself with the area.
You can either get a map or do some research online as there will be a lot of great resources available. Find out things like if the area is dangerous, hiking difficulty, distance, elevation gain, and the route type such as loop and backtrack. This is to ensure you both can handle the trail to have a good experience.
You should also check if there is any vet nearby, make sure you note down the contact number in case of emergency. If your dog is bitten by a snake, you should take them to the emergency vet immediately as the venom can be deadly.
Know the Trail Etiquette
1. Leave No Trace
You should be responsible for your dog’s behavior and abide by the rules. So, make sure you always pick up the poop. The reason being is that your dog’s waste can contaminate the water, and nobody wants to see that on the trail. Besides, your dog’s poop may contain thousands of bacteria and viruses which can be life-threatening if eaten by another dog. This can also cause some serious problems for the native wildlife.
2. Respect Other Hikers
When you encounter someone on the trail, you should step aside and get your dog to walk next to you instead of behind or in front of you. This is to respect other hikers and let them pass safely as not everyone is comfortable with dogs. You will also need to give your dog enough obedience training before hiking. So that they don’t chase off others and to ensure you are capable of keeping them calm when they get overly excited, especially seeing other pooches pass by.
3. Follow the Leash Rules
Always follow the posted leash rules. Put the leash on so that your dog doesn’t stray off the trail and to ensure their safety. There are possibilities where off-leash dogs will run off the trail to go after other animals and lose their owner, which you don’t want that to happen to yourself. Unless the rules permitted and your dog can walk well off the leash, then you can consider letting them walk freely.
4. Protect the Nature
And of course, you will need to protect nature like the wildlife and plants. You want to have a good hiking experience and able to enjoy nature’s beauty when you come back the next time. Not only are you doing this for yourself, but also other hikers.
Check the Weather
Always check the weather before you head out as you don’t want to hike in extreme temperatures. It is important because too hot or too cold can be very uncomfortable for your dog.
Extreme heatwaves can be very dangerous and can pose life-threatening risks. The worst-case can cause heat stroke, also known as hyperthermia, which can potentially lead to organ failure and death. Tips to test if it is too hot is to lay the back of your hand on the pavement, and if you can keep it there for 5 seconds, then it is fine to go.
Generally speaking, you shouldn’t go hiking with your dog at 25°F or below. Otherwise, your dog will have the risk of suffering from frostbite. Frostbite in dogs can occur when they are exposed to cold weather for a long time. It can slow down the blood circulation, and depending on the severity, it may kill the tissues and eventually lead to amputation of the affected area.
That said, every dog has different heat and cold tolerance. For example, Arctic breeds are designed to live in the cold, meaning they will have a higher risk of hyperthermia if you are taking them out on a hot day. Regardless, you should always check on them along the way to ensure they are comfortable.
What You Should Bring For Your Furry Friend
Since hiking requires a lot of energy, you will need high protein food for your dog. The amount of treats you need to bring will depend on how long you want to spend on the trail. It is also great to feed them a small serving of food for more energy before you go. But be mindful that feeding them less than 1 hour before hiking will get them sick.
2. Water and A Portable Water Bowl
Generally, a healthy dog should drink 0.5 to 1 ounce of water per pound of body weight each day. However, your dog will certainly need more water for hiking. There are also other factors that you should consider, like the weather and hiking difficulty. If you see your dog panting excessively, you should take a break and give them water before you continue.
Read More: 6 Best Dog Water Bottles
3. First Aid Kit
This is important as it allows you to treat the injuries in time if anything happens. You should have the basic items such as bandages, pet-friendly antiseptic, antibiotic ointment, gauze pads, and so on. Having tweezers in the kit is equally vital as you may need to take out ticks from your dog.
4. Poop Bags
Bring enough or extra poop bags with you. As mentioned earlier, you should never leave the poop on the trail.
5. Short Leash and Harness
Remember to bring the leash before you hit the road, generally 6-feet long to secure your dog during the hike. Consider using a dog hiking harness rather than a collar as it is safer and more comfortable. And if you are thinking of giving your pooch a more intense workout, use a dog backpack instead to let them carry their own essentials.
6. ID Tag and Rabies Tag
If you didn’t microchip your dog, make sure you have the ID tag and Rabies tag on them in case they are lost.
7. Other Essentials You Should Also Consider
If you plan to stay overnight, you should also bring things like waterless shampoo, towel, dog brush, attachable dog flashlight, soft sleeping foam pad, and pet-friendly insect repellent. This is to make sure that they can get through the night safely and comfortably.
Stay Away From Trail Hazards
Avoid poisonous plants like poison ivy and areas that have foxtails as they can cause serious injury to your dog and potentially lead to death. Keep in mind that water from the streams or lakes can be contaminated, so refrain them from drinking it. Also, if you find your dog gagging or vomiting, you should take them to the vet immediately in case they have eaten poisonous stuff on the trail.
Remember to always groom your dog after hiking to make sure there are no fleas as they can cause Lyme disease. If you happen to find ticks on your dog, pluck the whole thing out as soon as possible with tweezers or a tick remover. And don’t forget to disinfect the entire area after you are done to prevent infections or any further complications. Here is the video from Dr. Clayton showing you how to remove a tick from your dog.
Additional Safety Precautions
There are additional safety precautions you can take to ensure your dog is safe.
Think about this, if you and your dog were separated for some reason, how would you find them? Yes, they might be microchipped or have the ID tag on them, but do you really want to wait for someone to discover them and contact you? The worst case is you might not even get them back.
This is why you should also consider a dog GPS tracker as you will never know what will happen. There are 2 types of dog GPS trackers on the market, cellular and non-cellular. If the trail you are taking on has no network coverage, your best bet would be a non-cellular dog GPS tracker.
Another gear you should also consider is dog hiking boots. It helps to protect their paws from rocky and uneven terrain, or anything that could injure them. Good hiking boots can also help support their joints and provide them extra comfort while hiking.
One more thing you can do is to prevent your dog from walking on hot surfaces or sand. Alternatively, pick a trail with shade and water where you can keep them cool to minimize the risk of heat stroke.
Lastly, you should always tell your friends and family the estimated time you will be home. And remember to use a dog ramp to help your furry friend get into the car to help protect their joints.