The only thing that can make a hike more of an unforgettable adventure is bringing along a four-legged companion. However, proper research and planning is important to ensure you and man’s best friend have a safe, enjoyable time on the trail. Before you and your trusted pooch head out on your hike, there are certain things to consider and rules to be cognizant of. Get the most out of your outdoor adventure today with our pet-friendly hiking guide.
Can Your Dog Handle the Hike?
Before you can head to the trail with your furry friend, it is important to make sure your dog is capable of the hike. Not all dogs are physically able to tread along even the mildest of trails. Puppies or elderly dogs may not have the stamina and strength to endure a hike. When it comes to puppies, it is best to wait until they have all of their shots, which is typically around four months old.
No matter what kind of dog you have, check in with your vet and make sure they are up-to-date on all of their shots, flea and tick medication, and heartworm preventatives before taking them out into nature. If you have doubts about your dog’s ability to enjoy a long hike, it might be a good idea to try a shorter hike first or visit a dog park so you can see how they respond to hiking and being around other dogs and people in new environments.
Which Trail is Best for My Dog?
Once you’ve decided your dog is up for a hike, it’s time to make sure the trail you have chosen allows dogs. This information will typically be on the trail’s website page. If not, consider calling ahead to confirm. If the trail allows dogs, make sure the terrain is dog friendly. You will want to take your dog to a trail that is safe for their paws. That means soft, cool terrain without sharp rocks or other possible hazards.
Packing for the Hike
When you hike with your dog, it is important to remember that you are packing for two. You will need to save some space in your pack for your friend’s supplies, however, you can always lighten the load by investing in a doggie backpack. If you choose this option, be sure your pup’s pack weighs no more than 25 percent of their total body weight to avoid straining or injury. Things you should pack for your dog include:
Plenty of water
A Pet First Aid Kit
Healthy snacks and dog food
Two collapsible dog bowls
A collar with identification tags
Be Sure to Follow Proper Trail Etiquette
When you have finally hit the trail with your dog, the real fun begins. However, there are some important trail etiquette rules to follow to make sure you, your dog, and your fellow hikers have a great time.
Consider Keeping Your Dog on a Leash
Many hiking trails require you to keep your dog on a leash at all times. Keeping your dog on a short leash (six feet or less) is the best way to keep your dog, other hikers, and other animals safe and comfortable. A leash will keep your dog from chasing wildlife, coming in contact with dangerous plants, or getting lost. If you choose to let your dog run free, be sure they are well-trained and will listen to your commands even in a distracting environment.
Yield to Other Hikers
When other hikers are passing by, be sure to keep your pet at a safe distance. If your dog is on a leash, simply give the other hikers space. If your dog is roaming free, ensure he or she stays close to your side as you pass. Some hikers may be allergic or afraid of dogs, while others simply may not want a dog jumping on them or stealing their snacks.
Leave No Trace
Just like with any hike, follow the Golden Rule – “Don’t leave anything, don’t take anything.” Make sure to pick up after your furry companions. For shorter hikes, collecting and carrying your dog’s poop off the trail is a simple task. However, for long or overnight hikes, you may have to carry around their waste longer than desired. In these instances, it is sometimes best to bury the poop as long as it is at least eight inches deep and 200 feet away from trails, water sources or camp sites.
Hiking with your dog can be an exciting activity for you and your furry little friend. With these tips, you will be ready to have fun and stay safe with your dog out on the trail. To gear up for the trip, be sure to explore our wide selection of camping and hiking apparel at www.ruggednation.com