I used to have a Rhodesian Ridgeback mixed pup named Johnny, and like all dog owners, I proclaim that he was the best dog in the world. He did have a few problems though. For one – he was a chronic humper, despite being neutered, and he was terrible off-leash.
Yes. He was the 75-pound dog that would chase all the other dogs on the trail and mount them – male, female, big, small. He didn’t care. And there was no number of treats that I could coerce him with. It was embarrassing to say the least….but just look how cute he was.
All joking aside, taking your number one mutt on the trail with you can add to both you and your furry companion’s life. But it’s important that you make sure that (unlike me) you have command over your dog and also take the proper steps to make sure your doggie stays safe and comfortable in all types of trail conditions.
In this post, guest contributor and German Shepard owner Chelsy Ranard, shares some essential safety tips for hiking with dogs.
Safety Tips for Hiking with Dogs
by Chelsy Ranard
Dogs are natural adventurers. They are athletic and inquisitive animals and get a lot out of exploring the world around them. For those dog owners that enjoy hiking, running, biking, backpacking, camping, snowshoeing, or any other dog-friendly activity, bringing your pup along can help strengthen your bond while keeping them active and healthy.
Before taking your dog out on your next adventure, here are a few factors to consider and some useful tips for hiking with dogs.
Temperature Control & Gear
Being mindful of the temperature is an important place to start when preparing to go hiking with dogs. Think about your own preparation for whatever activity you are doing and put that plan in action for your dog. For instance, do you need extra layers to stay warm? If so, then you might want to get an extra layer for your dog too. Ruffwear makes an insulated jacket that can help keep your pup comfortable on those snowy winter days. Also, keep in mind that not all dogs have the build (smaller, short-haired dogs) to withstand the cold.
For hot temperatures remember to bring extra water (and something for them to drink out of), be mindful of hot surfaces, know the signs of dehydration, and make sure there is a body of water or shade nearby on your adventure.
What type of footwear do you have? Hiking boots? Well the trail can be just as rough on your dog’s feet as yours, and pad injuries are one of the most common injuries for pets while they are spending time outdoors. If the trail is rocky, you can protect your dogs paws with a set of dog booties.
Bites & Stings
Bee stings, ticks, and mosquito bites are just a few of the common insect issues that you might run into hiking with dogs. Typically bee stings aren’t a serious issue unless your dog is allergic, but diseases transmitted by ticks can be deadly. It’s wise to have on hand a dog-specific insect repellant – like this all-natural repellant by Wondercide.
When you get home from hiking in areas where ticks are common, you should also do a thorough tick search. If you do find a tick, don’t just grab the tweezers and try to pull it out. With tweezer, it’s likely that you’ll rip the body in half leaving the dangerous tick head buried under your pets skin. Instead, you’ll need an inexpensive tick removal tool to effectively remove the entire insect. If you are dealing with chronic tick problems, you should consult with your vet for the best preventative measures.
Photo: Andre Charland
Be aware of snakes, rodents, and bigger animals as well. Keep your dog away from any areas that have snakes in order to eliminate this danger all together. If you do choose to hike with your dog in areas where rattlesnakes are common, you should consider doing rattlesnake avoidance training, so your dog knows how to behave during an encounter.
Many burrowing rodents, porcupines, and bats have long-lasting issues with dogs invading their space, so make sure your pups rabies vaccination is up to date, and they are in your sight at all times. Many curious dogs have been bitten, scratched, or attacked by animals that see your dog as a threat.
Before deciding to take your dog on an adventure, be realistic about the type of training your pup has or needs. For instance, it is not the best idea to take a small, clumsy puppy on a backpacking trip or an untrained dog mountain biking with you. Start small and let your dog build up to the level you are. Not many of us are able to snowshoe a couple miles immediately, so don’t expect that from your furry companion either. Teach them to stay on their lead while you bike around your neighborhood before you take them mountain biking; let them play in the snow in your backyard before you take them snowshoeing; and introduce rocky terrain before you take them backpacking.
Photo: Pasji horizont
Your pup will need to learn basic commands like come, sit, stay, leave it, and down. They should be leash trained and possibly be able to carry their own doggie backpack depending on the activity you are participating in.
Basic commands can possibly mean the difference between life and death for your dog if they are running after a larger animal, investigating a poisonous snake, or heading for a known treacherous area. Make sure your pet has updated contact information on their tag just in case and keep them on a leash if they are near a road or aren’t under your vocal command.
Knowing some basic animal first aid is very important if you are hiking with dogs. Especially for locations far away from medical attention, it may be necessary for you to give your pet some basic medical attention before you can get them to a vet. Ask your vet or research how to give your pet CPR, know the types of plants that are toxic to your animal in your region, and be prepared for any preexisting medical conditions that may become an issue such as low blood sugar for a diabetic pup or limping on a previously injured limb. It’s a great idea to keep some things in your first aid kit for your pet as well, such as cotton swabs, a tick/stinger remover, and peroxide.
Photo: Jenny van Twillert
Spending time outdoors helps your body and mind relax, focus, and feel healthy and fulfilled. These perks apply to your dog as well. To have a positive and safe experience hiking with your dog, be sure to practice these safety measures and you and your dog are sure to have a great time.
About the author: Chelsy is a writer from Montana who is now living in beautiful Boise, Idaho. She graduated with her journalism degree in 2012 from the University of Montana. She has spent time working in the Alaskan wilderness, is passionate about animal welfare, and loves taking her German Shepherd named Titan on outdoor adventures. Follow Chelsy on Twitter!
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