Taking Your Dog Hiking

Dog HikingWe have two great dogs.  They love to go for walks around the block.  In fact when they hear us taking out their leashes, they freak out with excitement.  We have also taken them on a few hikes and they just couldn’t get enough of the smells, sights and sounds.

Before you decide to take your dog hiking, there are some things to take into consideration to make the trip safe and enjoyable for both you and your pooch.

Health: (“I don’t eat meat, so that makes me a veterinarian.”)

  • Vaccinations: Make sure your dog is up to date on all of their vaccinations.   Make sure you bring a copy of their rabies vaccination.
  • Veterinarian:  It is also a good idea to let your vet know that you are planning to go hiking with your dog and ask them for any advice or information they can give you to help.
  • Exercise: (cue “Rocky” music)  If your dog is used to laying on the couch and taking a 10 minute walk around the block once a day, then they are not in shape for a 5 mile hike.  In order to take your dog hiking, you need start on shorter distances and work them up to the length of hike that you are planning.  If you are planning on having your pet carry a doggie backpack, then training them to wear that will take time as well (more on that below).

Obedience Training:

I cannot emphasize enough that any dog that is on a hiking trail should be under control. Here are two important reasons why:

  • Safety: Control of your dog is paramount when they are in unfamiliar territory.   If a dog is uncontrollable, that can lead to injury of your dog, another dog or other people or animals.  This can lead to a dangerous situation for you, your pet and possible others.
  • Courtesy: No one wants to hear your dog bark all night.  People at the campsite, also, don’t want your pooch taking their food off their plate or getting in their face.  There are many parks that do not allow dogs at all on their trails and for me personally, I don’t want to see that become all trails at every park.  The other people on the trail are there to enjoy nature. When you take a dog hiking, be mindful of others.

I hate to say it, but if you can’t keep your dog under control, they need to be left with friends at home.

Selecting the Hike:

When selecting any hike with your pet, make sure to take them into consideration:

  • If it’s summertime or if the trail is going to be hot, find one with a lot of shade.
  • Find one that is easy on the paws.  Soft terrain and without a lot of sharp rocks.
  • Fine a flat trail instead of steep inclines.  (This is especially true if you are getting your dog in shape)
  • If you have never taken your dog hiking on a trail, find one that is less crowded or take them in the “off-season”.  This can be a good training session, as well as, a practice run.

Basically, be kind to your pet and think of their needs.

When You Finish Your Hike:

When you have finished your hike, check your pet for burrs, ticks and other items caught in their fur.  Also inspect their paws for cuts or abrasions (this is also good to do at any long stops along the trail).   Some types of plants can irritate your pet’s skin, so a give them good bath with medicated shampoo when you get home.

Besides your pet’s safety, I want to reiterate how important it is to be considerate of others on the trail.  When taking your dog hiking, remember that not everyone likes dogs.  Children especially can be afraid of Fido.   We are all out there to enjoy nature in our own way.  If having your dog with you enhances your experience, then go for it, but make sure that you are not spoiling if for others.

For even more great information about bringing your dog hiking, here are some recommended books:

To find out what to pack for your pet, click below to go on to part two:

Part Two : Taking Your Dog Hiking: What to Bring

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