Mindfulness, self-care, being present – these sayings are saturating society right now and everyone wants to pursue the benefits provided by these practices. One of the best ways to truly slow down is by spending time in nature, hiking with your dog. Maybe you are new to hiking, or maybe you feel completely in your element on a trail taking in the scents and sights of the woods. Whatever experience you have hiking with your dog, we can all use some tips and refreshers before going on our next adventure.
7. Plan, Plan, Plan
Making an hour drive only to find out dogs aren’t allowed is not the way to get your weekend started. Read up on the trail you want to hike – dogs allowed? Cool, what are the leash laws? It’s also important to know the route and type of terrain so you can pack the right gear. Pick an appropriate trail and start slow if you and your dog are new to hiking, working your way up to trails rated as ‘Difficult.’ Check out AllTrails.com or download the app to help streamline your planning and watch your hike in real-time.
6. Check the Weather
Knowing what type of weather to expect will set the tone for the journey. Rain doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t go hiking with your dog, it just means you need to make a few adjustments. Is it going to be 90 and sunny by 10 am? Set the alarm for a sunrise hike - heat stroke and heat exhaustion in dogs is very real and in extreme cases can cause death. Planning for a hike to a snow-capped mountain means extra warm clothing and footwear for you and your dog!
5. Dog Training & Commands
Taking your dog on an epic, off-leash hike in the woods sounds pretty badass but, be considerate of others. Some dogs may not respond well to an off-leash dog approaching them. Establish a strong re-call and practice at a park before hitting the trails. You can work with Fido on your own or invest in a dog trainer for their expert advice and tactics. You also want to make sure your dog is obedient and socializes well with other dogs, as you are likely to encounter other hikers with their dogs. Most trails are also shared with mountain bikers and/or horses, so make sure your dog will not react if you happen to encounter them on your trek.
4. Steer Clear of Critters and Poisonous Plants
Nature can be unpredictable at times, so it’s a good idea to keep your head on a swivel and hike with your dog without any ear pods in. Watch for snakes that may be sunbathing in the trail up ahead and be alert if the area you are exploring is known for mountain lions or coyotes. It may even be wise to take a hiking stick that can scare off animals or be used to push some poison oak out of the way. As the saying goes, ‘Leaves of three, let it be.’ Also, sometimes it seems unnecessary but, don’t skip the post-hike tick and flea check once you’re back to your car.
3. Leave No Trace
This is a principle many outdoor enthusiasts know well, and it essentially means respect mother nature. Leave it how you found it and that includes cleaning up after your dog. Make sure to pack eco-friendly dog waste bags, the kind that attaches to a leash make it super easy to never forget them. Let's be real, the idea of carrying a bag of dog poop for miles might deter you from hiking with your dog. So, re-use an old water bottle with a wide mouth and store the bags in there. It will keep your hands free and the smell contained until you can find a trash can.
2. Have the Right Gear
It may seem like a lot, but these items can easily fit into a hiking backpack, especially if Fido carries some of his gear.
Pet First aid kit
Bug repellent and sunscreen
Dog Harness / Dog Collar
Portable water bowl
1. Know your Dog
Responsible dog owners know their dogs’ abilities and limitations. Some breeds will do better as hiking partners than others and, kind of like humans, be careful with young and old dogs. If you notice your dog acting ‘off’ don’t ignore that – panting heavily, the need to lie down, and foaming at the mouth are warning signs. Give your dog time to rest, plenty of water, and head home if she’s not improving. If you’re ever uncertain about how your dog will handle a hike, talk with your vet and remember to start slow and build up to longer hikes.
Hiking with your dog is truly a fulfilling experience that will have you appreciating your pup and mother nature. The smell of wet leaves and soil, views of unending natural beauty, and that feeling of calm contentment – these are just a few of the rewards you and your dog will enjoy on a well-planned hike together.
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