Hiking with your dog can be a way to explore the world around you while getting great exercise. As Hobo and I prepare to explore the national parks in our area we thought Hiking Tips for Your Dog is a must-read before hitting the trail. Hiking with your dog should be fun and enjoyable for everyone including people and wildlife you may encounter along the way. Being out in the wilderness provides mental, emotional, and physical stimulation that may also help reduce destructive behavior in some dogs. Most important, dog hiking is a sport enjoyed most when you are prepared and properly conditioned physically and socially.
A dog spending most of their time being a couch potato it probably is not ready to hike the Appalachian Trail. I recommend starting slowly and progressing as you and your dog build endurance. Discuss hiking plans with your veterinarian and be realistic with any health concerns or recommendations they may have. Make sure your dog is up-to-date on vaccinations and you have a solid parasite prevention plan to protect you dog from fleas, ticks, and heartworms.
Eight hiking tips for your dog:
· Water: Having clean water for your dog to drink while hiking is essential. I recommend at least sixteen ounces of water per hour of hiking. Take a collapsible bowl or other type water dispenser. I discourage Hobo from drinking water from puddles or streams related to possible bacteria and parasites. The most common parasite found in backcountry streams and lakes is giardiasis which can do more than upset your hike. Giardia infections can cause abdominal cramping, bloating, nausea and diarrhea. I suggest hiking with your own water supply and a filtration or purification plan in cases of emergency.
· Food: Avoid feeding your dog a large meal before hitting the trail. We take nutritious snacks for us when hiking—don’t forget your canine companion. Carry nutritious/energy packed treats for your dog and offering them frequently.
· First aid kit: A simple first aid kit prepares you for the unexpected curve sometimes thrown your way along the trail. Consult your veterinarian for their recommendations and suggestions. Hobo the Wonder Dog’s hiking first aid kit contains: scissors, bandages, gauze, saline wash, rubber gloves, pliers/multi-purpose tool, Benadryl® (consult your veterinarian for dosing recommendations) and non-adhesive bandages such as Coban®.
· Waste disposal: Be good stewards of the Leave No Trace Dog Dogma, use a plastic bag to pick up and pack out your dog’s poop. Remember, you represent all dog owners when you are in public and hiking trails are no different please pick up after your dog for the comfort and safety of others and nature.
· Stay on the trail: Staying on the trail is always a good idea; you are less likely to attract parasites such as ticks/fleas, and encounter poison ivy, thorns and briers. Steering clear of these off trail obstacles offer a safer and more comfortable hiking experience.
· Control: You are responsible for the safety of your dog and keeping them under control at all times while in the Park. Dogs are required to be on-leash in most National Parks and you can be fined $75 per violation. Leash should be six feet or less. I am not a fan of retractable leashes and are particularly ill-advised for hiking. Having control of your dog is not only the law — it is the easiest way to protect them.
· Identification: Your dog should have identification on their collars/harness at all times. If your dog is not permanently tagged by microchipping or tattooing, please consider one of these options to help reunite you if you ever become separated from your dog.
· Paw protection: Be mindful of foot protection and wearing the right shoe for the job. Having the right shoe is essential to enjoying your day on the trail. Hobo is no different; paw protection is a must in preventing lameness. I use Musher’s Secret year-round on Hobo’s paws to protect him from hot pavement, rough terrain, and irritants he may walk-through. Pack a set of dog boots in case your dog’s paws become sensitive to the terrain you are hiking is a good idea. Introduce your dog to dog boots before they are needed otherwise it may cause stress to an already stressful situation.
Don’t get bogged down in getting prepared that you don’t enjoy the hike. Although being prepared is important, don’t forget to enjoy the great outdoors and your dog. After all, getting out and bonding with your dog will strengthen the human animal bond between you. Be sure to check with the Park Service on their individual polices and trails for dogs in the park. Start slowly and steadily to ensure your dog is ready for the trails and I promise your lives will be enriched in a very significant way.
Hobo the Wonder Dog and I hope to inspire you and your dog to get out and enjoy our National Parks and local attractions this summer. Good social skills and basic obedience are yours and your dogs key to enjoying a lifetime of fun and adventure together. If you do not have a dog, please consider adopting your next-best friend from a shelter or rescue. Life is better with a dog — woof.
Hobo is a rescue dog out to make a difference in animal rescue and education. Please follow Hobo on Facebook at Hobo the Wonder Dog or contact him at: [email protected]