Dogs and hiking go together like peanut butter and jelly. As a man or woman’s best friend, enjoying the company of your dog while out on the trail is hard to beat. But before you head out on a long hike with your canine companion, you need to ensure you’re both ready for what lies ahead. It’s easy to assume a dog’s wild roots will make up for anything you haven’t prepared for — but this could not be further from the truth. Dogs are just as vulnerable as we are to risks on the trail, and poor planning can result in a bad experience. We’ve compiled the below checklist to make sure you and your pup are ready for whatever lies on the path ahead! Photo by Flowfold ambassador @connormcnulty
✔TRAINING: This is hands down one of the most important ways you can prepare your dog for the trail. There are lots of distractions, temptations, and triggers out there that can inspire dogs to misbehave or turn listening ears off. Even if you plan to keep your dog leashed the entire time, it’s important that he or she isn’t creating a problem for wild animals, hikers, cyclists, and other dogs on the trail. Aggression, barking, or anxiousness during encounters with other groups on the trail will not contribute to a positive experience, and could result in a confrontation. The best way to prepare for this kind of stimulation is to train for it. ✔AGE: The age of your dog is very important. Puppies under 12 months will need to grow bigger and stronger before you can take on longer hikes. Older dogs may not be able to keep up or handle more challenging terrain. Don’t put your dog in a situation he or she may not be able to handle — Check in with your vet and build your way up to longer, more challenging hikes if you have concerns. ✔HEALTH: Is your dog healthy enough to hike? This is a difficult question that is best answered by a veterinarian. Limping, food complications, social issues, or a history of disease are all red flags that should be taken seriously before planning longer hike with a dog. Parasites, bacteria, and terrain are all health risks your dog can be exposed to on the trail - Just like you! On that note, if your dog has any known conditions, preparing treatments and prescriptions for your hike is important. Your dog also needs standard vaccinations against rabies, hepatitis, etc. ✔BREED: In general, small dogs need to work harder than bigger dogs do to cover the same amount of distance. If you have a smaller breed, be conscious of this in planning the intensity and distance of a hike so that your dog can enjoy the terrain, not just survive it. ✔PAWS: It’s important to remember also that your dog doesn’t get to wear tough hiking boots like you do. If your dog is primarily walking on asphalt or smooth trails right now, make sure you help build up some calluses by starting with short hikes and building your way up to longer ones. ✔RULES: In all the excitement of planning your hike, it’s easy to forget that not all parks allow dogs on the trails. Make sure you do a little research before arriving at the park with your dog.
✔TENT: One thing you may not think about — your dog has sharp claws that can damage your tent. Trim & file your dog’s nails, and bring something that will protect the floor of your tent to a reasonable extent. A canvas drop cloth, wool blanket, or foam pads are all examples of materials that will provide a layer of protection. ✔OBSTACLES: Beyond the typical challenges of trail, there are sometimes features to trails that just don't work well for dogs. Trails with steep ladders, fire towers, or edgy cliffs are not ideal situations for your dog. ✔REST: Like children, your dog’s enthusiasm is not always a great indicator of his or her physiological needs. Take regular breaks in the shade with water, make sure your dog gets plenty of water and sleep, and don’t push it too hard. Lots of heavy panting or a limp are signs to slow down. ✔ANIMALS: It’s likely your dog will be curious about other wildlife, but curiosity can have bad results. Use caution and keep your dog on a leash as much as possible to avoid losing control of the situation. Skunks, porcupines, snakes — or the scent of these animals — may entice your dog to run off and investigate. Encounters between your dog and animals like these can be anything from annoying to life threatening. On that note, be mindful of other dogs on the trail and keep yours close until you've assessed the situation. Your dog may be friendly but it's not unheard of for dog fights to happen on trail, which could be hours from any veterinary help. ✔PLANTS: Don’t let your dog chew on any plants as they could be poisonous. To best avoid the common poisonous plants that irritate skin for both humans and dogs, stay on the trail and watch out. Steer clear of areas that are heavily populated with foxtails as these plants can cause major problems for dogs even though they are not poisonous. ✔STREAM CROSSINGS: Remove the dog's pack and hold he or she close by the harness, or pick your dog up when crossing any streams. Don’t let your dog swim through turbulence— you don't want to bank on rescuing them. ✔ONE DOG: It's best practice to have one person behind each dog you bring on your hike. Don't overdo it and bring more; multiple dogs can be very challenging for one person to wrangle.
✔REI EXPERT ADVICE: HIKING WITH A DOG ✔THE BEGINNER'S GUIDE TO HIKING WITH A DOG ✔OUTDOORS.ORG: GUIDE TO BRINGING YOUR BEST FRIEND ON THE TRAIL ✔KURGO'S DOG HIKING CHECKLIST [divider width="full"] So there you have it -- Using this checklist to prepare for a hike with your dog can help ensure that you both have fun and stay safe on the trail! Did we miss anything? What has been your experience with hiking with your dog? Comment below and help others prep for their next hike with a dog.
Featured image by @cfphotography of Flowfold ambassador @photocait
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