With the temperatures getting cooler, more people, and dogs, are getting out and hiking. If your dog is a newbie hiker, or hasn't hiked in awhile, you may find yourself questioning which hike you should choose for them. Here are a few of the things that we consider when planning a hike with our dog.
Know your dogs’ abilities
Not every dog is built for the wild and that’s okay! It’s important that you are honest with yourself about what they are able to do as it will set you both up for a successful day. To better understand what they might be capable of think of what your regular routine looks like and how that affects them. If you walk 2 miles a day and they end up pretty wiped you’ll want to find a hike of a similar length. Conversely, if you’re running 5 miles a day every day and/or involved in dog sports, you’ll likely be able to take on something a little more challenging.
Do your research
Once you know what type of hike would be best for your dog start doing your research. There are a number of questions that you should answer before deciding if a hike is right for your dog or not.
How long is the hike and what is the elevation profile? Check your local, state or national parks websites to find out key details on the hike. Pick something that is within your dogs’ abilities, taking on too challenging of a hike your first time out isn’t going to be fun for either of you.
What types of terrain will you encounter? Familiarize yourself with the trail so you know what you’re going to encounter and be prepared for it. Use an app like AllTrails or a local hiking group to get feedback from people who have already hiked the trail and find out what type of terrain or obstacles you may encounter. For example, a rocky surface can cut up a dogs paws or hot rocks can burn them – consider bringing along a pair of dog boots to protect their paws.
Will you be able to take rest breaks in the shade? Even in cooler temperatures direct sunlight can be hot. Finding a trail with shaded areas for rest breaks gives you both an opportunity to catch your breath, take a drink of water and maybe even enjoy a little snack.
Is there an adequate water source? The easiest way to make sure your dog stays hydrated is to hike near a water source. If you aren’t able to hike near a water source make sure you pack enough water for both you and your dog.
What wildlife frequents the area? Wildlife encounters can be anything from adorable to dangerous. Find out what wildlife frequents the area and familiarize yourself with the dangers they could present. For example, a trail that is frequented by elk may be okay in June but would be best to avoid during rutting season.
Keep in mind that not all trails are dog friendly and even ones that are may allow other users that your dog might not be in to. Are they afraid of horses or bikes? What about ATVs? Make sure you know what you might encounter on the trail.
Train, train, train
Being able to climb mountains isn’t a skill dogs are born with. If you’re planning a hike with any sort of elevation they are going to be engaging muscles that they may have never used before. Start training by varying your regular walks to include more distance, more elevation, and different types of terrain. The more things your dog can get used to ahead of time the easier their hike will be.
Start small and have fun
Even the greatest mountain dogs had to start somewhere. Pick something small and close to home so that you can monitor and evaluate how your dog takes to hiking. If you both aren’t enjoying the hike, call it a day and head home. At the end of the day, the most important thing is that you and your dog have fun!
Dogs That Hike started in the Canadian Rockies as an Instagram account that aimed to show the world the amazing adventures of our four-legged friends. During their growth they loved seeing all of the places that their community of outdoor enthusiasts went and the gear that they used. It inspired them to create their site as a resource to those who are looking to get outdoors with their dogs and are seeking information to help them on their journey. Visit them at www.dogsthathike.com or check them out on Instagram and Facebook @dogsthathike.