There are few better ways to explore the great outdoors than with your dog at your side. Between the smells and sounds of the forest, the view from that mountain top, or the rejuvenating glow of that alpine lake, your dog will love your adventure as much as you will. However, without the right preparation, that day or week of fun can be more hassle than it’s worth. Here are a few tips for preparing ahead of time so you can get down to the business of having fun.
You love your dog; your family loves your dog; your friends love your dog. But the general public may not. It can be hard for other hikers to know whether or not your dog will be a friend or foe, particularly if they’ve had a bad encounter previously. It’s good etiquette to keep your dog on the leash, or at the very least under voice control, in accordance with any park rules posted at the trail head. This helps not just reassure other hikers, but to help maintain the often fragile, high-trafficked ecosystem around the path, which dogs can inadvertently destroy when they sniff and frolic a little too aggressively. Always yield the right of way to other hikers, letting them pass first, and either carry out or bury any waste at least 200 feet away from the trail or a water source.
Keep an eye your dog’s health before, during and after the hike
While your pooch might appear to have boundless wells of energy when you let him into the yard after being cooped up all day, energy and health are another thing altogether on long hikes over unfamiliar terrain. This is especially true for eager young dogs who don’t yet know how to pace themselves. Before your first hiking trip, take your dog to the vet for a physical to ensure they’re fit, micro-chipped and ready to go. If you don’t already exercise your dog regularly, start doing so, going for longer and more strenuous walks and runs around the neighborhood – you should read up on what to know before running with your dog to make sure to avoid any snares. On the trail, stop for frequent water breaks, splashing any extra water over your dog’s body and head.
Don’t forget to feed during meal times and to allow for plenty of rest throughout the trip. When the hike is done, be sure to check your dog for bug bites and ticks.
Bring the right gear
The great thing about dogs is that they can carry much of their own gear in packs fitted just for their body type and size. Some can take as much as twenty pounds of extra weight, though this amount will vary based on breed type, health, and the age of the dog. Load packs with collapsible food and water dishes, as well as with any extra water. It’s also a good idea to get your dog booties to protect the soft pads of their feet from rough, rocky terrain. If you’ll be camping in cold, you might consider bringing an extra sleeping bag or blanket for those chilly nights.
In addition to outfitting your dog with the proper equipment, it is important that you bring gear not only for your dog, but also for yourself. These are standard on any hike, things like a reliable flashlight, heavy duty pants, water and water purification tablets (just in case), first aid kit, hat and sunglasses. Further, make sure you have a big backpack to carry your gear in as well as anything that won’t fit in your dog’s pack.
Hiking with your dog is one of the best ways to take advantage of all the natural beauty this world has to offer. A little preparation will help you make your adventure all fun and worry free. So grab that leash, fill up the water bottles and hit the trail.
Geoff Kenyon is an avid outdoors enthusiast and loves bringing his lab, Scout, with him mountain biking and hiking.