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13 Tips for Dog Friendly Hiking

Here are our dog friendly hiking tips that we want to pass on.

1 – Make sure your dog is in good physical condition

Begin with long walks in your neighborhood before you start short hikes in the woods. Work up from there. Believe it or not, Ty matches Buster’s pace – but only because we built up his endurance.

2 – Check the dog regulations in the area you’ll be hiking

Know whether dogs are allowed and if they must be leashed. We’ve even seen some rules specify the length of the leash. Depending on the terrain and/or the number of cars parked at the trail head, we may use shorter or longer leads on Ty and Buster. We rarely allow our dogs to hike off leash.

3 – Prepare your dog for the weather and terrain

Spring and summer hiking means sun and bugs. Bring sun screen and insect repellant formulated for dogs. Breeds with thin coats may require an outer layer if you’re hiking in wet or cold conditions. Doggie booties may be necessary if you’ll be hiking over rocks or terrain with cacti or nettles. In snowy conditions, booties can prevent ice from forming between the toes … not the Frosty Paw your dog was looking for!

4 – Carry plenty of water for your dog

We (should) all know that dogs don’t sweat. That makes them prone to heat stroke in warmer temps. I used to be a competitive runner, and the rule was: Drink before you get thirsty. The same applies to your dog. And I would strongly discourage you from allowing your dog to drink from streams or lake shores as the water may contain gnarly parasites.

5 – Leaves of 3, let it be

Dogs are susceptible to plant-based toxins just as people are. If you can’t recognize poison ivy (or oak or sumac), you are not ready for hiking.

6 – They call it wildlife for a reason

Your dog can hear, smell, and sense things before you can. If your dog starts barking, he may be warning you of a bear, coyote, or snake in the vicinity. We just finished a hike where bear spray and dog bells would have been smart to carry. Keep your dog in sight and be alert!

7 – Carry a small first aid kit

Notice I didn’t say a pet first aid kit. Generally, a human first aid kit will do since you are both likely to suffer the same type of cuts, bruises, and abrasions. Oh, and know what’s in your kit and how to use it. When someone is howling in pain, then is not the time to search the kit or read the directions.

8 – Your dog should have proper identification

In case your dog runs off or gets lost, make sure his ID tag is properly secured to a collar that won’t slip off. The tag should have your cell phone number and any other information that someone might need if they find your dog. Here’s what we put on Ty and Buster’s tags.

9 – Watch out if it’s hunting season

Take extra precaution when hiking during any hunting season. Bright or reflective dog clothing will help her stand out in the natural environment. You might want to wear something similar as well!

10 – Your dog can share the load

Let your dog get used to carrying a pack by starting with short walks. Most dogs can safely carry up to a third of their weight. Do not overload! Adjust the pack contents and straps as needed to balance the weight. Buster wears a pack from Ruff Wear to haul the boys’ water and a light collapsible bowl.

11 – Someone should know you and your dog went for a hike

S**t happens! Let a relative, friend, neighbor, or park ranger know where you’re going and when you expect to be back. A small, printed note card with this information and relevant contact numbers could save a lot of heartache.

12 – No one should know you and your dog went hiking

All trash and poop should be bagged, carried out, and properly disposed of. Don’t leave any evidence that you and your dog were on the trail.

13 – When you get home, check for ticks

Ticks can cause sever medical problems such as Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever – both of which can be contracted by humans. Talk to your vet about an appropriate tick prevention program and be sure to examine your dog, especially after hiking in wooded areas where ticks are common. You may want to consider a product like Pet Armour before you go on your hike.