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Not only does hiking offer great exercise and beautiful scenery, but an outdoor trek can also be a wonderful bonding activity to share with your dog. Your pup will love the fresh air and all the new smells along the trail. But, as with any new outdoor adventure, adequate preparation is key. When planning a hike with your furry friend, make sure to follow these tips on what to bring with you to ensure a safe, enjoyable experience.
Find a Trail That’s Dog Friendly
Not all trails allow dogs, so make sure you do some research before you head out. The best place to start is by doing general online search for “dog friendly trails” along with your state or location. You’ll likely find a comprehensive hiking guide that will provide you with maps and insider tips. If not, try searching for a specific National or State park. While these parks often allow dogs, your pup might only be allowed in certain areas. BringFido.com is also a great resource for finding dog friendly hiking trails in your state.
Assess Your Own Backpack and Determine What’s Relevant for Your Pooch
Consider the items you’re packing for yourself—does your pup need these items too? For example, water is an essential that you’ll want to have plenty of, both for yourself and for Fido. Never assume you’ll come across natural water sources for your pooch as they might be few and far between, or even non-existent. Plus, lakes and streams can be dirty and home to dangerous parasites. While hiking, use your own thirst level as a guide for how often to offer your pup plenty of fresh, clean water. A good rule of thumb is to offer a drink every 15-30 minutes to prevent dehydration.
Bring Sustenance in Addition to Water
Depending on the length of your hike, you may want to pack food for Fido, as well. Especially for all-day or overnight hiking trips, be sure to measure and pack enough food to cover all of your pup’s regular meals. You may even want to increase his servings based on his fitness and the hike’s level of difficulty. Dogs burn calories with exercise just as humans do, and need food to fuel them. Treats might be a good idea as well, especially if you like to use them as a reward for good behavior!
Research Leash Laws and Abide Accordingly
Find out beforehand what the leash laws are wherever you and your pup are going. For example, some state parks require dogs to be on a leash of a certain length. If in doubt, it’s always a good idea to keep your dog on a leash even when it’s not required. Use your best judgment based on your pooch’s level of obedience and your feel for his safety.
Make Sure Your Dog Has a Collar On, Regardless of Leash
If you decide to keep Fido off-leash during your hike, make sure he still has a collar on. The collar should fit snugly (but not too tightly) and should have your dog’s name, your telephone number, and his rabies tag attached to it. If you should get separated from your pup, proper identification will ensure that whomever finds him has a way of contacting you.
Consider Protective Wear
While dog booties can sometimes look a little ridiculous (yet cute of course!), they can be extremely useful in helping your pup navigate difficult weather and terrain. Booties protect your dog’s paws from harsh elements such as cold, salty sidewalks, rocky paths and hot surfaces; not to mention that covered feet can protect vulnerable paws from injury. Your dog might look a little funny when first trying on booties, but once he gets used to them, he will be grateful for the extra layer!
Come Equipped with First Aid Supplies
A first aid kit is another essential, especially if you’ll be taking your pup on a long or multi-day hiking trip. Pack items like bandages and antiseptic for wounds, a liquid bandage for split or cut paws, and tweezers for tick removal. Gauze, bandage scissors, adhesive tape, stop-bleeding powder, and a muzzle are also recommended to be fully prepared for any unexpected incidents.
Take a Load Off (If Your Pooch Can Handle It)
Now that you’re aware of the necessities for hiking with your pooch, you’ll need a knapsack to carry it all in! Dog packs are useful accessories that allow your dog to share some of the load with you. In general, dogs can carry up to 25% of their body weight. Some breeds can carry more, while others can’t carry much at all. Check with your veterinarian to confirm what size load your dog can carry safely. Alternatively, pack doggy supplies in plastic baggies within your own pack, so they’re easy to locate in a pinch, and separated from all the human stuff.
Looks like you and Fido are ready to hit the trails! With these hiking essentials, you and your pup are sure to have a safe and enjoyable hiking trip.