Hiking is a fun and exciting activity– especially if you bring your BFF (Best Furry Friend) along with you! As fun as hiking is, there are still dangers on the trail. Here are eight safety tips for hiking with your dog:
1. Always use a leash
While your dog may be perfectly trained and well-behaved, leashes are still necessary for trail hiking. Trails are distracting places (for humans and dogs alike), where there are so many lovely things to marvel at as you go along! They’re also generally high foot traffic areas, and even if your dog is well-behaved, you may run into trouble when another dog passes by, or if another person comes along to distract your dog. Some people aren’t comfortable around dogs, while some might be frightened by them in public, so it’s always best for you to have control if something goes wrong. There are even some trails that require a leash for all dogs at all times, so make sure to do your research ahead of time so you’re prepared!
2. Pack the proper gear
It’s not really hiking if you leave the house without all your proper equipment! Here are a few basic items you should always take when you go hiking with your dog:
- Collar or harness
- Collapsible bowl for water
- Plenty of water and treats!
- First Aid kits: Me and My Dog First Aid Kit
- Doggie bags
- Identification tag
3. Assess potential dangers ahead of time
Even on the safest of trails, there’s a myriad of animal species that you probably aren’t aware of! Find out which species tend to linger around the trail, and keep an eye out for anything potentially hazardous to dogs. Some things you’ll want to look out for are snakes, bears, cougars, and poisonous plants. (Note: The # 1 reason for bear attacks on humans is due to dogs antagonizing or stumbling across one. Be sure to do your research, keep your dog on leash, and be prepared with bear spray just in case.)
Potential hazards don’t just include other animals– you should also be wary of the landscape and weather. Watch out for and be cautious of the following:
- Open water
- Cliff/mountain sides
- Rough terrain
- Too much sun (watch out for heatstroke and dehydration)
- Contaminated water (only let your dog drink the water you’ve brought with you)
As long as you’re prepared and paying attention, you’ll be just fine.
4. Pack extra water and treats
It’s important for both you and your pup to stay hydrated and energized while on the trail! Your dog’s hydration on long trails is of the utmost importance– hiking is extremely taxing and can dehydrate your dog quickly. Bring fresh water along with you (some for you, and some for your dog) since unknown contaminants might lurk in water you find along the trail. Some dog owners train their dogs to drink from the bottle, while others bring a compact, collapsible bowl. Either way works! Likewise, to keep up your dog’s energy, be sure to pack treats. Bring treats that are packed full of nutrients, and will sustain your dog’s energy throughout the hike.
5. Take breaks
Breaks are important for check-ins, water and treat stops, and catching your breath. A good rule of thumb is: if you need water, snacks, or a break, your dog probably does too. Even if you don’t need a break yet, pay attention to how your dog is handling the hike, and stay in tune to their needs. For example, panting is a clear sign that your dog needs a break and/or water.
6. Leave nothing behind
This is where your doggy bags come in handy! Since you are visitors in nature, and to the trail, the courteous thing to do is ALWAYS pick up after your dog. This is commonly referred to as “Leave No Trace,” indicating you’ll clean up so well after your dog that there’s no evidence you were even there. Not only is it courteous to nature, but it’s also courteous to fellow hikers on the trail.
7. Watch out for anything your dog tries to ingest along the trail
Dogs are naturally curious creatures, and learn by experiencing the world around them! They tend to sometimes be a little TOO curious– and end up eating things they definitely shouldn’t. Younger dogs and puppies are far more prone to ingesting something dangerous on trails, so keep an extra close eye out if you’re not hiking with a dog who is wise and experienced.
8. Have a post-hike check in with your dog
The first thing you should do when you get home from the hike is check for ticks, burs, or anything else that might have clung to your dog somewhere along the way. Consider giving your dog a bath– if you choose not to, make sure you still wipe down their paws to protect from any potential irritants. Give your dog plenty of water and space to rest. Until next time!
REMINDER: If you need a simple way to remember the basic rules and etiquette for hiking with your dog, memorize the BARK rule: BAG your pet’s waste, ALWAYS leash your pet, RESPECT wildlife, and KNOW where you can go!
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