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Dogs are natural adventurers and hiking with a dog can be a great way to strengthen your bond with them while keeping them active and healthy.
While taking your dog on the trail with you can add to both you and your furry companion’s life, it’s also important that you make sure that you do it safely and responsibly. Maintaining good command over your dog and taking the proper steps to make sure your best friend stays safe and comfortable in all types of trail conditions is essential.
In this post, guest contributor and German Shepard owner Chelsy Ranard shares some essential safety tips for hiking with dogs so that you can both stay safe and make the most out of your day on the trail.
Before taking your dog out on your next adventure, here are a few factors to consider when hiking with a dog and some useful tips on how to keep them safe.
How to get your dog ready for hiking
Wait until your dog has basic training
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 on a popular hike. Start small and let your dog build up to the level you are. Not many of us are able to hike 10 miles off the couch, so don’t expect that from your furry companion either.
Before taking them on a hike, 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 they are participating in.
Basic commands and training may mean the difference between life and death for your dog. You can’t have them running after a larger animal, investigating a poisonous snake, or heading for a known treacherous area.
Keep dog tags & licenses up-to-date
Make sure your dog is licensed and has up-to-date contact information on their tags in case you get separated from them. Most states require dogs over 4 months old to be licensed annually and this can be done through the mail or online.
Make sure vaccines are current
Before you go hiking with your dog, it’s essential they have all of their vaccines up-to-date, especially rabies, which is fatal if they are not vaccinated.
Know the trail regulations
Before heading out on a hike with your pup, it’s your responsibility to know the trail regulations including whether or not dogs are even allowed on the trail, if they need to be on a leash at all times, or whether voice control is sufficient.
Essential Hiking Gear For Dogs
Before hitting the trail with your pup, here are a few essential pieces of dog gear:
Even if you are hiking on a trail that allows dogs off-leash, it’s important to bring one anyway. You never know whether you’ll meet an aggressive dog or even a hiker who is scared of them. The Ruffwear Roamer Dog Leash is a great choice if you plan on keeping your dog on-leash because it’s made with stretchy webbing so they have extended range to explore. It can also be worn around the waist.
Any small, lightweight bowl will work for a dog bowl, but if you’re looking for one that folds up small and can be kept in your pack, the Ruffwear Quencher Dog Bowl is a great choice. It even has reflective trim, so you can easily find it when you’re packing up camp early in the morning to make the summit.
Dog harness & pack
A dog harness like the foam-padded Ruffwear Front Range Dog Harness is great to use when taking dogs on a hike. It has two attachment points: one on the back and one at the chest to resist pulling. It also comes with a small ID pocket and reflective trim for late-in-the-day outings.
If you plan on doing longer day hikes or overnight adventures with your pup, consider using a dog harness fitted with bags so they can carry their own food and water. The Ruffwear Approach Dog Pack is great for 1-2 night outings or if you want something a bit smaller, check out the Front Range Dog Day Pack.
What type of footwear do you have? Hiking boots? Well, the trail can be just as rough on your dog’s feet, too, and pad injuries are one of the most common injuries for pets that spend a lot of time outdoors. If you hike on rocky or rugged trails, you can protect your dog’s paws with a set of dog booties.
Safety Considerations When Hiking With A Dog
Being mindful of the temperature is an important consideration when choosing when – or when not – to go hiking with a dog. Think about your own preparation for your hike and put that plan into 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 or insulation to withstand the cold. Smaller, short-haired dogs tend to get colder than larger, long-haired dogs.
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 heat exhaustion and dehydration, and make sure there is a body of water or shade nearby on your adventure.
Bites & Stings
Bee stings, ticks, and mosquito bites are just a few of the common insect issues that you might run into when hiking with a dog. Typically, bee stings aren’t a serious issue unless your dog is allergic but diseases transmitted by ticks can be deadly. If you’re in an area known to have a lot of ticks, it’s wise to carry 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 do a thorough tick search. If you do find a tick on your dog, 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 pet’s 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.
Snakes and larger animals
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 altogether. 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 pup’s 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.
First Aid When Hiking With a Dog
Knowing some basic animal first aid is important if you are hiking with dogs. It may be necessary for you to give your pet some basic medical attention before you can get them to a vet, especially if you are far away from medical attention.
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 also a great idea to keep some things in your first aid kit for your pet such as cotton swabs, a tick/stinger remover, and hydrogen peroxide. Or you can carry a dog-specific first aid kit which includes a muzzle, a tick removal tool, and bandages that won’t stick to fur.
Spending time outdoors helps your body and mind relax, focus, and feel healthy and fulfilled and these perks apply to your dog as well. To have a positive and safe experience hiking with a dog, be sure to practice these safety measures and you and your dog are sure to have a great time!
What are your tips for hiking with a dog? Got any stories from the trail? Leave a comment below!