Dogs love to go with you when you walk, so why not let them come along on your hike? For starters, it's great exercise for both of you. A hike is more strenuous than your typical stroll through the neighborhood, so remember some basic safety and health tips for your canine companion. You want your dog to have fun, while staying safe and sound along the trail!
A trustworthy, trained dog that responds consistently to your commands might enjoy being unleashed during your hike. The dog should obey your return commands, even in unusual situations and in the excitement of encounters with fascinating new critters and other pets. Be sure that dogs are allowed off-leash in the area you're hiking. And no matter what regulations allow, do have a leash available to use.
If a leash is in order, leave the extending lead at home. Those are more suited to wide-open spaces. On hikes through any wooded area, extending leashes will catch and tangle, so you'll be making repeated stops to unsnarl them. Leash or not, your pet should be wearing ID. If you become separated, a collar and ID tags with contact info will increase the likelihood that your pet will be found and returned to you.
Both you and your pet need to stay well-hydrated during the hike, so carry enough water for two. Pets should never be allowed to drink from puddles, ponds, lakes, rivers and streams -- those are a breeding ground for toxins and parasites that can cause serious illness. Dogs can get dehydrated quickly and need to drink often. Packing a collapsible bowl and fresh water is critical. No matter how well-conditioned your dog is, he's wearing a fur coat and heats up faster than you. Stop frequently for water and rest -- in the shade whenever possible.
A dog cannot communicate physical distress until the situation is serious. It's up to you to pay attention. If your dog is looking for shade or plopping down at every opportunity, stop immediately and move to the shade. Give as much water as your dog wants.
It's also helpful to allow the dog to cool her pads now and then. If there's water along the trail, let her wade. This will help prevent heat stress and make the experience more enjoyable. It's all about location! Do some research and find a hiking trail that's suitable for your pet. Dogs are no more naturally athletic than humans, so conditioning is important. Rocky patches and changes in elevation might be too strenuous. Ease your pet in with shorter and easier hikes as endurance is built.
The Humane Society offers safety courses in many cities. Most towns with nearby hiking and wilderness areas have safety courses that last a few hours and provide valuable information. Taking a class can prepare you to handle situations you and your pet may encounter along the trail.
Discover popular outdoor adventures where you live with our Outdoor Activities Guide. From hiking trails to balloon rides, we've got you covered. What are you waiting for? Mother Nature awaits!
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