It's no secret that exercise is a necessity for us humans and our pups. We often forget that our dogs are pack animals and their origins are rooted in hunting, playing, and roaming all day long with their pack family. Since you already walk your furkid, you know that it's a special time for the two of you to bond as well as establish yourself as the leader of your domestic pack. Why not shake up your routine a bit and take your pup for a hike?
Follow these 5 tips and your hikes will surely be a wonderful experience that you'll both enjoy together.
1. Know Your Limits (Yours and Your Dog's)
Does your current exercise endeavor consist of walking around the block a couple times? Then you may want to rethink that 10 mile hike you're mapping out. Not only do you need to be able to hike without difficulty, so does your furry companion. Start intensifying your walks by making them longer and include hills if possible so the two of you can build up your stamina. It's also advisable to take your dog to the vet just to ensure that he will be able to accompany you comfortably when you're ready to hike. Dogs are people-pleasers and they never want to let on that they are injured or in pain, so they will endure it for as long as they can.
2. Be Aware of Your Surroundings
Plan your hikes on trails that are used often and provide a clear path; now is not the time to forge a new one through the wilderness. In most cases, you'll likely encounter the usual suspects of the wildlife world, such as squirrels and maybe a deer or two. Keep your eyes open for common canine offenders, including porcupines and skunks. These animals are not as easily scared off by your dog and may become agitated.
Familiarize yourself with what poison ivy and other unpleasant plants look like. Although it's rare for dogs to get poison ivy, it can irritate dogs with sensitive skin. Plus, they can pass it on to you. So it's best to keep them away from anything suspicious.
3. Mind Your Manners
The same rules you follow on your routine walks apply to your hikes. Have a carry in, carry out mentality, which includes cleaning up after your dog on the trail. Using a leash will ensure that other hikers, other dogs, as well as the flora and fauna around you will remain undisturbed. If you're both on a more leisurely hike, let others moving at a faster pace pass you easily.
4. Pack the Essentials
Just like you need to fuel up and hydrate for a workout, the same holds true for your canine companion. Bring plenty of water and a pet travel bowl that he can drink from and offer it often along the way. A good rule of thumb is to bring 8 ounces of water for every hour you plan to hike (and don't forget to bring water for yourself!). It's best to keep him from drinking the water in streams or other natural sources, as these could contain nasty bacteria that will make him sick. Bottles of water that are frozen are also great to pack in case the weather is hot and can offer immediate relief to your pooch. Food/treats should be given on rest breaks or during bouts of less intense activity to ensure that you don't upset his tummy or cause bloat. It's also recommended to pack a first aid kit and sunscreen (for both you and your pup).
Other considerations include:
- Orange vests - Know whether or not you are taking your hike during a hunting season. Orange vests for you and your dog will make sure you both stand out. Try our reflective dog safety vest.
- Appropriate dress - When hiking during cooler weather, bring along an extra layer if your dog tolerates clothes. For summer hikes, keep a cool, moist scarf or bandana that he can wear to take a bite out of the heat.
- Pet backpack - Perhaps your pet would like to carry his own gear. You can find a pet backpack for any sized pooch.
5. Follow the Rules
Last but not least, be sure to follow the trail rules. Most trails require that your dog is on-leash. Be sure to abide by the rules, even if your pet has good off-leash recall. There are also some trails near nature preserves that do not permit dogs, so take the time to do your homework before heading out
Hiking with your dog is a wonderful way to spend quality time together and enjoy the outdoors, all while getting a great workout. You and your pup will have a safe and enjoyable hike just by taking a bit of extra time to plan and prepare. Happy trails!