Whilst most dogs enjoy their daily walks or runs on the park, actually taking your dog on a hiking trip is a great way of spending quality time with your pet and offers a heightened sense of exuberance for both you as a pet owner and, of course, your dog will love the unfamiliar but interesting surroundings.
One of the first things you should do is to find out if dogs are allowed on the trails or footpaths you intend to hike.
Whilst your dog need not be super-athletic, you should only take it on walks where you feel comfortable it can cope. Make sure your dog’s vaccinations are up to date, it has its nails clipped and is in general good health.
Make sure your dog is wearing name and address tags in case it goes missing. If you carry a mobile phone, it’s a good idea to include the phone number on the name tag so that you can be reunited with your dog far more quickly if it goes missing.
Like humans, proper nutrition is important for keeping up the energy levels of an active dog. To prevent your dog being sick, don’t feed it right before you take it on a hike. Feed it afterwards when it’s rested.
What to Take With You
Dogs rely on water even more heavily than they rely on food so make sure you bring plenty of water and a bowl or you’re hiking where there are regular stop off points where you know there is fresh water available. This helps them maintain their energy level and stops them from becoming dehydrated and it’s even more important if you’re hiking on a hot day so take extra water if that’s the case. If you’re going to be out for an extended period of time well over and above the length of time your dog would take its usual exercise, it’s OK to bring along a few doggie food treats but don’t overfeed them if you’re planning to continue on with your hike.
Take along a first-aid kit. If you’re an experienced hiker, you’ll inevitably be carrying one of these anyway but most injuries to dogs occur on the pads of their feet so hiking can cause cuts and scrapes from rocks, sticks and thorns that your dog might not usually encounter over the course of their daily exercise routine so it’s important to be well prepared.
It might be raining or you may be hiking in muddy or boggy terrain so bring a towel with you so you can clean up your dog if necessary and don’t forget to bring along an extra supply of bags to clean up any dog mess and make sure you do pick it up for health reasons and as a general courtesy to those who will be following on behind you.
On the Trail
Avoid hiking when the sun is at its strongest. Go out in the morning or early evening to prevent your dog from overheating.
No matter how well trained your dog is and how well it behaves, always keep it on a lead, even if it’s used to being off one when it usually goes out. It’s your responsibility to keep your dog under control at all times. Do not allow your dog to chase wildlife, other dogs or other hikers and keep it closely supervised around adults, children and other dogs at all times. Remember, it’s unfamiliar territory so even though you think you know your dog’s behaviour well, all dogs can be unpredictable so it’s better to be safe than sorry.
You’ll find it fascinating to watch the reactions of your dog as you head out on your hike. It’s all new terrain to your dog so its senses will be working overtime. Dogs can give you an early warning for approaching hikers, animals or other dangers so pay attention to your dog’s behaviour and be alert.
Take regular rest breaks at which point, ensure your dog has access to plenty of drinking water.
Clean up and bag any dog excrement and, if there are no dog waste disposal bins on the trail, don’t just leave it or dump it anywhere. Carry it with you until you find a designated safe bin to dispose of it.
Be aware that your dog is increasingly exposed to the dangers of fleas and ticks when hiking in woodland, forests etc. so at the end of the hike make sure you check your pet over for any unwanted parasites that have taken a shine to the furry coat as a place to hide and an easy meal. Your dog won’t thank you if it ends up itching and scratching for days on end.
Ticks and fleas aside, however, with a little careful thought and preparation, both you and your dog will have tremendous fun and a hiking trip will bring you even closer together.