Whether you have a jumpy new pup or a loyal old friend, taking your dog on a hike is a great way for you two to bond and burn off energy. Like anyone who begins hiking, it's important to be prepared, start off small and know your limits.
All dogs aren’t natural-born hikers. It’s important to take into consideration your dog’s age, breed and health when planning a hike.
Visit the Vet: Make sure your dog is up to date on all of their vaccines. While not all preventive measures are mandatory for dogs, it might be worth looking into getting your dog on heartworm and Lyme disease prevention. Ask the vet about additional preventative measures you can take.
Do Your Research: Always check local regulations before planning a hike with your dog; not every trail allows dogs. While most National Parks don’t allow dogs (even on a leash), many national forests and state parks allow dogs, though their rules vary. Do a quick internet search to find local dog-friendly trails in your area. To keep these trails dog friendly, be sure to follow their leash rules and as always - pack in, pack out (and yes, this applies to dog poop).
Keep in mind that temperatures typically peak in the afternoon. If the trail doesn’t have shade, it’s best to keep your hiking limited to early morning hours to avoid overheating for you and your pup.
Keep the Ball Rolling with Obedience: No matter how well trained your pooch is, it is always a good idea to brush up on their obedience and trail manners before taking them on a hike. While you love your dog, not everyone you meet on the trail is going to love their slobbery kisses. Trails are unpredictable, so until you know how your dog responds to elk, other hikers or rivers, it's a good idea to keep them leashed.
Photos: Audrey Fisher @utahdoggos
From water to gear, keep your dog happy and healthy on the trail.
Water: Hydration. Hydration. Hydration. One of the most important things you can do is keep your pup hydrated. Dogs get dehydrated faster than humans, so it's important to keep your dog hydrated to keep them healthy and able to hike on. Pack a collapsible water bowl to give your pooch water. Like humans, dogs are susceptible to waterborne illnesses, so pack them filtered or tap water just as you would for yourself. As a general guideline, you should bring an ounce of water per pound your dog weighs for every 2 hours you’re hiking.
Treats: Since your pooch is burning more energy than normal, it's important to keep them energized. Wet food is a great way to keep them hydrated while giving them additional calories. If you’re packing apples, carrots or other dog-friendly snacks for yourself, share a little with your pup every time you stop for a snack break. While a lot of meats, vegetables and fruits are healthy for your pets, some can be toxic or make them sick. Do a quick internet search to find a list of safe snacks for your dog.
First Aid: From rocks to bushes, your dog can easily get cuts that need to be treated on the trail. Having a simple first aid kit and knowledge of how to treat your dog is essential. Dog booties can help prevent their paws from getting torn up on the trail.
Hiking Packs: If you want your dog to carry its own weight on the trail, look into a dog backpack. Most packs come with multiple adjustment points, making it easy to achieve the perfect fit. Though there may room to load your dog up with weight, try keeping the pack around 10-15 percent of your dog’s body weight.
Collars and Harnesses: While your dog’s day to day collar works just fine for hiking, there’s a few multi-purpose collars and harnesses that make your job easier. Both collars and harnesses can be found that either glow in the dark or reflective light. These are great when hiking along roads or at night. Another multi-functional collar is RMU’s dog collar which converts into a water bowl.
From regulations to supplies, there’s a lot to remember, but it’ll be worth it. After proper preparation and planning, your furry sidekick is sure to be the perfect trail companion.