The holidays are sneaking up quickly, and on November 17th, get ready to hit the trails to get some exercise before all of the holiday sweets and treats are around! Bring your dog with you to join in on the activity and to keep you company on the trails.
Is My Dog Ready To Hike With Me?
There are many factors to consider before taking your dog on a hike with you. One important thing to think about is if your dog has good leash manners. While on a trail, you need to make sure that your dog will not pull you. There can be rocks and steep hills, and it is vital that your dog knows how to walk on a leash so that he or she will not accidentally pull you, causing a fall or a twisted ankle.
The next important thing that your dog needs to be able to do is to listen to your commands. Your pup should know the basic commands of “sit” and “stay.” If other dogs or hikers are on the trail, you need to be confident that if you tell your dog to sit or stay by your side, that he or she will do so. This is especially important in narrow areas or potentially dangerous parts of a trail where you need your dog to listen and do exactly as you say.
Lastly, make sure that your dog is well-behaved around other dogs. Dog-friendly trails are often frequented by other animals, so your dog needs to be friendly and non-aggressive. Even if another dog lunges at your dog or starts barking, you should be confident that your pup will not react or lunge back.
Choosing the Right Trail
So how do you choose the right trail when you go hiking? If you have determined that your pup has good manners, is good with other dogs, and behaves on a leash, then your dog is most likely ready for a hike. The first step is to find a trail where dogs are allowed. Use an app like AllTrails or do a quick Google Search to locate pet-friendly trails in your area.
Next, decide if you want to do a beginner, intermediate, or expert trail. When deciding, you must consider the athletic ability of your pet. If he or she has no problem running, jumping, and playing for a long time, your pet is probably able to do an intermediate or expert hike. If your dog is not very athletic and overall sedentary, we recommend starting out slow with a beginner trail. Always consult your veterinarian first to make sure that your dog is healthy and able to participate in physical exercise.
Consider the length of the trail. Can you hike 3 miles in and 3 miles out? Can your dog? While it is good to challenge yourself and to make fitness goals, it is best not to over-extend yourself or your dog, especially if you are a beginner.
What To Pack
You’ve picked your trail and determined the best place to go hiking with your dog. Now it’s time to pack a backpack with items for you and your pup in the case of an emergency. Below are a few items that we suggest you bring:
- Dog backpack
- Doggie waste bags
- Power bar
- First aid kit with band-aids, tweezers, & flea/tick protection
- Layers/jacket for you & your dog
- Dog shoes for snow & ice
- Cell phone & a list of emergency phone numbers
- Leash & collar
- Collapsible dog bowl
Snowshoeing/ Cross-Country Skiing
Snow on the ground? No problem. Take hiking a step further in the snow by snowshoeing or cross-country skiing. Your dog can even participate! Snowshoeing and skiing are other great ways to get fit and they can also give you a cool, new perspective on your favorite summer hiking trails.
If you take your dog along with you, it is important to keep your pet warm during the winter. Depending on your dog’s breed and amount of fur, you may need to get a coat for him or her to wear to protect them from the bitter cold. Additionally, you will need to protect your dog’s feet. A dog can easily get frostbite, especially when snow and ice begin to clump on the fur between a dog’s toes and on their paw pads. Protect your dog’s feet with dog boots, or trim the fur between the footpads and rub a balm on them. If your dog does not wear boots, be sure to check their feet often while on the trail.
Watch For Signs of Hypothermia or Exhaustion
Puppies and elderly dogs are at a higher risk for hypothermia, as they cannot always regulate their body temperatures well. Look out for shivering, slowed breathing, and dilated pupils. Hiking in the snow can take a lot of extra energy and requires your dog to expend more energy lifting his or her legs. If your pet is suffering from exhaustion, he or she may be panting or collapse and sink down in the snow. If either one of these situations occur, leave the trail immediately and get your pet to the veterinarian as soon as possible.
Hiking in the summer or winter can be a great form of exercise, and taking your pet with you can be fun for both you and your pet! Always be sure to consult your dog’s veterinarian before getting started, and make sure that you have the proper gear. You’ll be an expert before you know it!
Do you like to take your dog hiking with you? How do you keep your pet safe when you exercise together? Let us know in the comments!