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November 17 is recognized as National Take A Hike Day. As pet owners, we love to participate in activities that our dogs get to be a part of. Hiking is a great activity you can do with your four-legged companion. Continue reading below for pointers to consider when preparing to enjoy a hike outdoors with your pup!
Keep Your Pup Leashed
When sharing a trail with your dog, it is important to remember that you will likely encounter other hikers along the way. Some hikers may not be comfortable with dogs or may be accompanied by their own pets. Additionally, some pups may be inclined to wander off trails which may put wildlife at risk and potentially change the natural environment. As a result, it is important to always keep your pet on a leash no longer than 6 foot long.
Share the Trail
While hiking with your pup, consider stepping to the side of the trail to let other hikers pass. Do not allow your dog to approach others without being given verbal or physical indication that the hikers would like to interact with your dog.
Leave No Trace
Parks have adopted the motto: Leave No Trace. The intent behind this statement is to leave the natural environment just as you found it, without leaving evidence of human presence. Visit the Leave No Trace website here to learn more about this stance. A solid point to remember is that all trash, including dog poop, should be removed from the trail, and disposed of properly. In some situations, like backpacking trips, burying your dog’s defecations may be appropriate.
Below are items to consider packing to ensure you and your pup have an enjoyable hike together.
- Fresh water for you and your pet
- Water bowl
- Poop bags
- Emergency First Aid Kit
- Dog food for overnight hikes
- Collar with appropriate identification and contact information
- Fully charged phone
- Appropriate tent for overnight hikes
- Coat or jacket for your dog
- Reflective gear
Some pets may be able to carry their own supplies with the use of a dog backpack. There are several options available, but dogs should be trained and conditioned to this task prior to embarking on a trail. Similarly, booties offer a great form of protection from paw pad injury, however the pet must be accustomed to wearing the booties prior.
Choose Skill Appropriate Trails
Some trails are appealing to thrill seekers that might require climbing rungs or ladders. These trails are likely not appropriate for dog companions due to their accessibility. Make sure to confirm that the trail of interest is open to four-legged companions, as not all are. Additionally, if your dog is overweight, elderly, or not used to strenuous activity, a gentle stroll may be more appropriate than a difficult hike.
Ensure Your Pet is Protected
Before adventuring too far into the great outdoors, ensure your pet is protected against potential pathogens and parasites. Depending on where you are located, having your pet up to date on the rabies, Lyme, leptospirosis and potentially rattlesnake vaccine is imperative. You can learn more about these vaccinations by clicking here.
Additionally, ensure that your pet is up to date with their preventatives. Ticks can cause disease in our pets like Lyme disease, Ehrlichia, Anaplasmosis, and a host of others. Ensuring your pet is appropriately protected against these parasites helps to protect you as well. Dogs are at risk of developing heartworm disease from being bit by a mosquito. It is imperative that dogs in endemic areas are current on their preventatives as mosquitos may be abundant while hiking, especially if exploring wet environments.
Be Aware of Risks
As stated above, your pet may encounter wildlife, parasites and other infectious agents while enjoying the outdoors. Lacerations and injuries may occur. Take steps to keep your pet protected by having them wear appropriate protective gear like booties and keeping them leashed. After each hike, your pet should thoroughly be checked for ticks, lacerations, or skin irritations.
While hiking, try to avoid allowing your dog to drink from streams or stagnant bodies of water as these water sources may have problematic pathogens.
If an emergency does occur while hiking, especially if on a backpacking or long day trip, it is important to have an emergency plan in place. What will you do if an injury occurs to your dog preventing them from walking? What would you do if you became injured?
Take into Consideration Breed and Health Factors
Not every dog is built for hiking. Brachycephalic breeds, or dogs with a short muzzle, may not be the best hiking partners. Brachycephalic dogs tend to be more prone to overheating due to their impaired ability to regulate their body temperature through panting because of their elongated soft palate and stenotic nares. This type of conformation makes breathing challenging even in normal conditions, and this is amplified with exercise.
Senior, or young pups should not be taken on hikes they are not conditioned for as this could lead to injury and exhaustion. Young puppies could potentially experience bone and joint trauma if too strenuously exercised. Similarly, dogs struggling with arthritis should not be taken on challenging hikes as this may exacerbate their discomfort.
If your dog is battling an illness, consider reaching out to your veterinarian for advice on whether hiking is appropriate for them. When in doubt, being cautious is always preferrable–skip the hike and lounge at home!
Getting out, and exploring the great outdoors is an exceptional way to bond with your pet. Take time to appropriately prepare for your adventures and ensure your dog is capable of physically meeting the demands of a hike. Your dog may require veterinary care prior to embarking on a trail to have vaccinations and preventatives updated. We hope these tips help you to enjoy National Take A Hike Day on November 17. Happy hiking!