Fall is upon us with the beautiful colored leaves, cooler temperatures and alluring views. What better way to enjoy this season but with a walk or hike through the woods. It’s even more enjoyable if you bring your dog with you on your hike.
You’ve bought your new hiking boots, wool socks and water bottles; put on your new layers and that new north face fleece but what about your furry hiking partner. Are you making sure that your dog has everything they need to make the hike as enjoyable for them as it is for you. Continue reading to make sure you are prepared to bring your dog hiking with you in the woods.
Preparing or your Hike
The very first thing you need to do before hiking with you dog is to ensure that dogs are allowed on the trails that you are planning on hiking. Check with the owners of land or the managing agency such as the State Park Rangers or the Trail System agency. You can turn a beautiful hike into an expensive one if you don’t check first.
Once you have verified that dogs are allowed to hike on the trails make sure that your dog has license tags which are up to date and your dog has a tag that clearly marks at the least a phone number to call in case the dog gets lost. Also make sure that the collar you are using is comfortable and not to tight to constrain or make it difficult for your dog to breathe or move while they are on the hike. They will be making just as nimble movements as you.
The leash you use needs to be considered for the type of terrain you are hiking. If you are hiking in a field with your dog any common leash will do. However if you are hiking more rugged terrain you may choose a stronger more durable nylon leash. Some owners will choose not to use a leash if their dog is well trained. I recommend that you always use a leash. Again check with trail rules as a leash may be a rule. If the terrain is too dangerous and by bringing your dog you endanger yourself or the dog then leave him or her home.
Your dog should be current on any vaccinations and flea or tick treatment. You never know what your dog will stumble upon while out on the hike. Their nosy natures will have them sneaking up on more animals than you will probably be aware of, especially the tiny ticks hiding on the tall grasses. Make sure that their toenails are also trimmed before hiking with your dog. Long toenails can restrict the contact of the important pad on their foot with the ground.
If they are walking at home on hardwood or linoleum and you can hear loud clicks of their toenails then they are probably too long for hiking. A good frequency to trim your dog’s nail depending on the rate of growth is about every three to four weeks but use your judgement. If you have any question about the length of your dog’s nails ask your vet.
Lastly before you go hiking with your dog do not feed him right before you leave. Just like humans get cramps and upset stomaches exercising right after eating so will your dog. Instead feed your dog afterwards. It is ok to bring small treats along with you for snacks.
Also bring plenty of water for you and your dog. Bring more water than you need in one hike for both you and your dog. It is better to be prepared for anything that happens. Don’t forget the bowl either. Many pet stores and even outdoor stores carry lightweight collapsible bowls that are terrific for hiking with your dog.
On the Hike
Whether or not you decide to let your dog off the leash on the hike always bring one with you. It is recommended though that you do keep your dog on a leash as often as possible even if it is well behaved. There have been many dogs lost on hikes because the owners trusted that their dog would not run away.
All it takes is a small squirrel or fox to have your dog go running. In the wood it can get disorienting for them to find their way back to you and for you to find them. In more populated areas keeping your dog on a leash can be more for the others around you such as other hikers and scared children Save yourself and the dog the trouble and keep them on a leash.
Have a first aid kit with you and check the condition of your dog’s paws every so often during the hike. Remember they are hiking barefoot without any protection against sharp twigs or rocks. Even on even terrain in cold weather their paws can become chaffed or raw. See your vet for deep wounds or questionable conditions in your dogs paws or for any ailment that your dog has.
Just as for humans that need to check with their doctors to make sure that the activity they are doing is harmful to their health it is just as important to talk with your vet about taking your dog hiking. The vet will check to ensure that their heart and lungs are up to the challenge.
On the hike pay close attention to changes in their behaviour or the way they walk. This could be a sign that they are tired or have hurt themselves. Do not hike any further if you think they are injured or tired. You may have to carry them out if their condition does not allow them to walk any further.
After your hike and before you both get into the car check your dog (and it would be wise to check yourself) for ticks or other unwanted pests. Ticks are especially dangerous if they go unnoticed as they can carry deadly diseases. Prevention is the best measure as I stated earlier.
A quality tick medicine that you get from your vet can prevent the attachment of ticks to your dog, but still check the ticks will stay on temporarily and can be transferred to other pets or humans at home. Be cautious of using low quality brands of tick/flee treatments, especially collars as there can be adverse effects on my pets when using these as well as being less effective.
Hiking with your dog can be a great willpower for exercise and create lasting memories for years to come. The scenario and experience is eye-opening for both you and your dog. New smells and places along with the health benefits of hiking with your dog can lead you both to longer happier lives. As always consult your doctor and your dogs vet before taking part in any exercise.