Useful tips for hiking with dogs
I’ve always found hiking with dogs to be fun. There’s something about being in the wilderness with these curious creatures that adds to the experience.
For several reasons, it just seems like their instinctual gifts come alive whenever they’re outdoors. Be it smelling something in the distance or hearing other animals nearby, dogs make hiking more enjoyable.
Taking your dog hiking is a great way for you to bond while spending quality time together. Moreover, it gives your fur-baby a chance to exercise and enjoy a controlled romp outdoors.
If you could ask your dog if he would rather take a walk around the block or visit a nature trail, which do you think he would pick?
But here is the thing. Not every park welcomes dogs. The ones that do have very strict rules that rangers tend to enforce. There are several reasons for this, including:
- Dogs often think of parks and campgrounds as giant play areas.
- Some dogs are instinctively impulsive and will give chase to other animals.
- Canines can (and have) transmitted diseases to other wildlife, such as nesting birds and marine animals.
- A dog’s unique scent, often left on trees or bushes, can disrupt the natural behavior of other animals native to the area.
- Some parks and camping areas simply aren’t safe for dogs because of topography, dangerous wildlife or poisonous plants.
For these reasons and many more, it’s critical to check ahead and find out if dogs are allowed on the hiking trails or campgrounds you plan on visiting.
Assuming it is OK, here’s 10 tips for hiking with dogs that can help keep him safe so that both of you can have a good time.
1. Not all dogs are good hikers
If you’ve been hiking for any amount of time, you already know there’s a conditioning process that takes place. With each new hiking experience, you help to build your endurance. It’s important to keep in mind that your dog needs to be conditioned, too.
- Don’t expect your dog to easily hike the first couple of times out.
- Some dogs that are overweight struggle. Hiking can be good exercise but too much stress can cause cardiovascular problems. In extreme situations, even death.
- Your dog will always try to keep up with you. If your pet is new to the trail, pace yourself so that he doesn’t overheat.
- Consider doing some light training in advance with your dog before a hiking trip. Extended walks through hilly areas can be helpful.
2. Make sure your dog is vaccinated
This tip may seem like common sense but is often overlooked during the planning period because there’s so many other things to focus on. This is particularly true for wilderness hiking trips.
- Make sure your dog has a rabies, parvo and heartworm vaccination.
- Inform your vet that you want to take your dog hiking. Be open to any feedback.
- Do an Internet search to find out if there have been any medical problems related to dogs in the area (ex: dog flu).
3. Dog tags are a must
This point is also obvious but important to mention. Sadly, many dogs become lost on hiking and camping trips. There are tons of reasons for this, including an excited canine that breaks free from camp or dog owners that don’t properly leash their pet.
- Doublecheck your dog’s tags to make sure it contains the proper information.
- Consider a micro-chip bar code. You can buy these online and do it yourself. See Amazon for pricing.
- Explore micro-chips that have a geo-tracking device. There are many on the market.
4. Clean up after your dog
Many people who bring their dogs on hiking trips don’t bother to clean up poop after their dog and they should.
- Dog poop is no fun to step in for other hikers.
- Canine excrement can disrupt local wildlife.
- You and your dog can be fined or banned from a park.
- Too many incidents of dog poop from visitors on a hiking trail can cause a park to ban all pets.
- Carry several dog poop bags in your backpack to scoop up your pet’s waste.
5. No wildlife chasing
Dogs are natural born chasers. Depending upon the breed, some will instinctively run after birds, squirrels, snakes and even wolves. That’s why it’s critical to keep your dog on a leash.
- If wolves are in the area, keep your dog very close.
- Be mindful of wildlife and work on strategies to keep your dog from getting overexcited. Excessive barking can be an annoyance to other hikers and campers.
- Never let your dog come face to face with other wildlife. There have been incidents where dogs (or native animals) have been injured and killed.
- Pay attention to your dog’s behavior. There is a good chance he will sense wildlife in the area well before you do. Dogs can act as a natural radar against potential danger.
6. Trail users have first rights
If your dog is unruly, he can cause you to get fined. On hiking trails, dogs must yield to other hikers.
- Make sure he is leashed up and close to your person when encountering horses, cattle or cyclists.
- Move off the main trail during heavy traffic periods to let others pass by.
- Avoid hiking in packs with other pet owners. This causes congestion.
- Too many incidents of unruly dogs on trails can cause administrators to close the park to dogs permanently.
7. Carry water for your dog
Some people think a simple water bottle is enough to hydrate themselves and their dog. Believing this, however, is a mistake. It’s important to have enough h20 with you so that both you and your pet can remain hydrated.
- Remember that dogs do not tolerate heat as well as humans.
- Consider your dog’s size when planning water supplies.
- Think about getting a specialized drinking container for dogs on the go. See Amazon for pricing.
- Don’t let your pet drink from stagnant water puddles. They may contain harmful bacteria that will cause your dog to get sick.
- Running rivers and streams may be OK to let him drink unless signage indicates otherwise.
- As a general rule remember: if you won’t drink the water source, don’t let your animal.
8. Get a dog first aid kit
Just like humans, dogs experience cuts, nicks and breaks. In some situations, dogs can even fracture bones due to falls. That’s why you need to bring along a dog first aid kit.
You can buy these almost anywhere. Some can be fancier than others. I personally like the Canine Friendly First Aid Kit. Not only does it come with a ton of supplies, it also has a small booklet for helping you to administer emergency care.
Finally on this point, make sure you carry any medication that your dog may need to take. You can stick it in the first aid kit or fit your pet with a dog backpack.
9. Be mindful of poison oak
Dogs – the cute little monsters that they are – love to roll on grass and rub up against trees and bushes. The problem is they can sometimes come into contact with poison oak and sumac. In turn, they can spread the poison to you and your family.
- Get to know what poison oak looks like. See this article with pictures on Health Line to learn more.
- Do not cuddle or pet your dog until he is cleaned.
- When washing your dog, use a degreasing soap to remove the oils from your pet’s coat.
- Wear gloves when washing your pet.
- The best way to handle poison oak, ivy and sumac is to avoid your pet encountering these plants in the first place.
10. Check for ticks
The final tip is to periodically check your dog for ticks while in the wilderness. The fact is ticks love to hitch rides on pets and then feed off their blood.
- If you find a tick, grasp it close to the head with tweezers and pull out firmly.
- Make sure no part of the tick is left behind.
- Clean the tick’s burrow area with alcohol.
- Keep an eye on the area closely to make sure it doesn’t get infected.
- If you see redness a day or two after the tick has been removed or other signs of infection, get to the vet asap.
- Carry a flea and tick spray and to help keep critters away. Also consider using a flea and tick collar.
Bringing your dog on a hiking or camping trip can be a lot of fun. The memories created will last a lifetime.
By following these 10 tips, you both will be well on your way to safe and happy travels.