The best part about hiking is enjoying the great outdoors with the people and pets closest to you. However, when it comes to hiking with your dog, there are a few extra steps that you need to follow before hitting the trails to make sure both you and your pet have a safe and happy adventure.
Below, we’ve curated a cheat sheet that will get your pup ready for the great outdoors in no time.
Your Dog’s Fitness Level
Before you schedule a hike, make sure you know your pup’s fitness level. This is paramount since you’ll be able to then gauge how long a hike you and your pup can safely do. It’s also best to get your pup checked out by the vet first and let them know that you’re planning a hike. Your vet may also help you gauge just how much physical activity your four-legged friend can comfortably do.
In particular, the dogs to watch out for are really young pups and senior canines. Both should not be pushed too hard on the trail and should only take short hikes up to a few hours. A puppy is still growing into a dog and too much strain could hurt that process. In the case of senior dogs, the stress could be too much for their aging bodies.
Conditioning Your Dog
Once you get the green light from your vet and you know your pup’s limits, it’s time to start a healthy training program. Start with light walks around the neighborhood every other day and then increase to small hilly hikes in a nearby park. The idea is to mimic the terrain that you’ll be hiking on so that your pup gets comfortable with the various obstacles.
The key is to stay consistent with an every other day regime. Don’t push for every day because rest is equally as important as exercise in this case. The goal is to build up stamina, not train for spurts.
Be Weather Prepared
Just like hiking solo or with your pals, it’s important to also be prepared when hiking with your pup. You don’t want to be out on the trails in the blistering heat as this can cause dehydration and heat stroke. You also don’t want to be caught in an unsafe rainstorm. Check the weather forecast in your area and either reschedule or outfit your pup with the proper tools.
Signs of a Tired Dog on the Trail
Once you’re outfitted and you’re happily on the trail, it’s important to always look out for your furry friend and learn his or her body language to tell you when he or she has had enough. If your dog stops and sits, slows down or changes walking speed, it’s time for a break.
Make sure to have plenty of water and a water bowl for your little friend to drink out of and get re-hydrated. While he or she is doing this, it’s also a great time to check his or her paws for any splinters, thorns, or anything else. Sometimes your dog will slow down because of a minor trail injury so it’s important to be vigilant.
Signs to watch out for aside from your pup slowing down are heavy panting, disorientation and an overall sense of your pup getting tuckered out. Most importantly, once you see these signs, it’s time to either turn in or place your smaller pup in a backpack and tote him or her along the rest of the trail. Don’t push your dog; that will only lead to injury.
Practice Trail Etiquette
As hikers, it’s important to keep the trail clean and share the trails. This is equally important when hiking with your pup. Make sure to always bring poop bags with you on a hike so that you can safely discard your pet’s waste. Keep to one side of the trail so that other people and their pups can also enjoy the views the trail has to offer.
Have fun out there together!
If you’re having a hard time figuring out where to start, reach out to a pet adventure company like Dog Gone Tripping for advice on planning a perfect adventure for you and your Fido.
Nicole Lenora is a screenwriter and producer who is the proud owner of an adventurous shih tzu rescue named Caesar. Together they have frolicked in snow, splashed through lakes, hiked desert rocks and wandered through the woods. You can read about her adventures with her little guy on the Dog Gone Tripping website.