If you're a dog parent and love to hike, then we're sure you have plans for you and your four legged friend to be great trail buddies. Before you head out into the wilderness though there are some preparations and safety measures you should review first to ensure you and your pet have a fun and safe time.
Prepare Your Pup for The Trail
Make sure your dog is capable of the physical exertion involved in a hike. This will vary based on your pet’s age, weight, breed, health history and the trail you’re planning on hiking. Also keep the seasonal temperature in mind: dogs can overheat if exerting a lot of energy outdoors on hot days. Brachycephalic dog breeds with short snouts, like bulldogs, pugs, Pekingese and Boston terriers, will have a difficult time regulating their breath in warmer climates. Refer to your veterinarian for assistance determining your dog’s limitations. If you get the green light from your vet, it’s time to work on your dog’s stamina. For fitness and endurance, train your dog first with walks and increase the distance (You may want to add weight if you plan on having your dog carry a pack). As you both become conditioned it’s time to find an appropriate trail for you and your sidekick. Make sure the trails you’re hiking allow canine companions. Many national parks prohibit dogs on the trail. Check out websites like bringfido.com and hikewithyourdog.com. Ease into the routine of hiking. Start with hikes of an hour or so, then monitor the energy level afterwards. If your dog is still super active, increase the time for the next training hike. Your goal is to work up to the amount of trail time you plan to do on future day hikes or backpacking trips. This slow approach also helps toughen up the paws.
Know Trail Etiquette
You have to maintain control of your dog at all times. Step off the trail to yield the right of way to hikers, horses and bikes. And having your dog on a leash isn’t enough. You also need to be able to keep your dog calm as other people and pooches pass by. Your dog should wear a collar with up-to-date identification tags in case you’re separated. While some trails have a mandatory leash policy, others are more lenient. It’s best to always carry a leash none the less. Instead of a retractable leash, carry a short four- or six-foot leash so you have better control of your dog’s distance should he become startled or suddenly interested in chasing wildlife. Larger dog breeds may benefit from wearing a harness should you need better control. Leave no trace. Cleaning up after your dog means either burying the waste or packing it in a disposable bag and carrying it out of the park. More parks are taking strides to improve waste conditions—and the effects on the ecosystem—by instilling waste policies. Make sure you know what the regulations are for the particular area in which you’re hiking. You could face a fine if you don’t comply.
Food and Water Planning
Being on the trail all day requires you to provide more food and water than your dog typically consumes. Hydration for your dog is best handled by fresh water carried by you. Some owners train dogs to drink as they pour from a bottle. A lightweight, collapsible dish also works. Larger dogs might drink 0.5 to 1.0 ounces of water per pound per day. Dogs 20 pounds and lighter will be closer to 1.5 ounces per pound per day. These are general guidelines, though, so you need to be watchful and offer water often, especially on hot days. If the nose is dry, then you’re under-hydrating your dog. The rule of thumb for feeding is that you need to start with the usual amount of food, then add one cup for every 20 pounds of dog weight. Remember, if you’re thirsty, hungry or tired, then chances are that your dog is, too. Take a trail break to chow down, drink up and catch your breath together Be careful of Heat Stroke. Dogs can only pant and sweat through their pads to cool off. Be conservative—rest and drink often and bring a cooling collar with you on hot days. Other Essentials Pet First Aid. It’s crucial to bring a well-packed pet first aid kit; it’s also just as important that you know how to use it in case of an emergency. If your dog gets a laceration on a paw pad or an obtrusion in an eye, for instance, you can be prepared to aid him until you’re able to get him to a veterinary clinic. Follow these tips on packing a pet first aid kit. Healing Balm. Don’t forget to pack this wellness item in your First Aid Kit. Our Certified USDA Organic Healing Balm is perfect to have on hand to soothe aches and stiffness as well as treat minor cuts and wounds. Our balm contains all-natural organic ingredients including willow bark extract for inflammation and stiffness and neem oil to treat minor wounds and cuts. Our balm is made from food-grade ingredients and is safe if your dog licks it. This Organic Healing Balm is fast acting and calming, relieving your dog of pain and leaving them feeling relaxed. Making it a ‘must have’ out on the trail. Paw Protection. The terrain can be rough on your furry friend’s paws, so protecting those pads is key. Some like to toughen up their pet’s paws and others like to go with dog booties. If you choose dog booties, be sure to bring an extra pair, it’s pretty common for dog’s to lose their booties out on the trail. You also want to allow time for your dog to adjust to the booties, if they have never worn them before - some dog’s are not big fans of the booties. If you choose to toughen up those pads we suggest bringing along our Certified Organic Paw Rescue. This moisturizer will help heal and soothe your pet’s pad from damage caused by the rough terrain. Even when you are trying to toughen up your pet’s paws it’s so important to keep them healthy, cracked pads could lead to infections. Our paw rescue will aid in healing scratches, sores and wounds on the pads. Flea and Tick Repellent. The best protection against Lyme disease is prevention. Spraying your dog with a flea and tick repellent that can kill a tick will help ensure your pet’s protection. Our Pura Naturals Pet™ Flea and Tick Spray is an effective way to protect your pet from pests on the trail naturally. This non-toxic, gentle spray is made with peppermint oil, cedar oil, rosemary oil, cove oil and cinnamon oil. This perfect blend of natural oils work wonderfully together to ward off pests and kill fleas and ticks. Pet Wipes. Our individually wrapped natural Pura Wipes are the perfect solution for quick clean ups when you are out on the trail. We know part of the fun is getting dirty, so let them get dirty and have their fun, but best to clean them off afterwards. Sunscreen for Dogs. Too much sun can be bad for dogs, too. The tips of their ears, nose and underbelly are particularly susceptible to sun exposure and lead to sunburn. Consult your veterinarian on what type of sunscreen is best for your dog. Dog Rain Jacket. Depending on the season, or location, it’s possible to run into rain, especially as you ascend a trail to higher elevation. A dog rain jacket could really come in handy in keeping your dog warm should showers rain down on you.
Dangers to Watch Out for on The Trail...
Dogs are susceptible to most of the same dangers as us.. More concerning, though, is that your dog won’t recognize many of them, nor be able to explain to you when something is going wrong. So be extra vigilant of the following:
What’s Fido Eating?
Keep an eye out for anything your dog ingests. Mushrooms, cattails, dog poop, pinecones, random socks—the list of things dogs can eat on a trail goes on and on. And some of it can be very dangerous—even deadly. If you see your dog chewing on something, make sure you figure out what it is, and if it seems dangerous, take some of it with you to show your vet. This is especially important with plants and mushrooms. You can avoid a lot of these incidents by keeping your dog on leash, but if you go off-leash make sure you keep an eye on them so you know what they’re smelling and eating.
You don’t want your dog messing with the snakes, especially snakes that are poisonous. Before you go out on the trail you should do some research on what type of snakes you may encounter. You can learn more about snake bites and what to do if you’re dog has been bitten here. If you live anywhere in the Western United States and frequent the trails with your dog, rattlesnake aversion training should be something you seriously consider for your dog. The clinics generally last less than an hour, and they could save your dog’s life. Aversion training can range from $75 to $300 depending on the method (most use shock training, others use more natural methods), and should be repeated every few years.
It’s a Jungle Out There!
Out in the wilderness there are all sorts of animals, big and small, some your dog may be interested in and some that might be interested in your dog. Best to do your research about the wildlife before you go and keep your dog on the leash to be safe.
How’s the Water?
Dogs are susceptible to most of the same waterborne pathogens as humans. Your furry friend not only can contract a waterborne illness from drinking contaminated water, but they may also pass along viruses or bacteria from running, splashing and playing in contaminated water. Do not let your dog drink any water other than the fresh water you packed, be mindful of signs posted indicating if a river or stream is not suitable for swimming and if your dog does jump into some suspicious water be sure to clean him off promptly.
Come in the Water is Fine!
If the water is safe for swimming be sure to practice water safety. If your dog can’t swim, pack a dog PFD. Don’t let even a good swimmer try to cross a whitewater section of a creek: Lift and carry your dog instead. Learn more about water safety with your dog here. We hope these tips were helpful. Enjoy the great outdoors with you and your furry friend and if you would like to add any tips or just share some hiking pictures, feel free to share in the comments below!