Hiking with your best friend is a great opportunity for outdoor activity and bonding with your dog. But, if you’re not careful, you could end up making the journey a bit less than enjoyable for your four-legged friend. As someone who hikes with my dog every chance I get (park rules permitting), I’ve learned that a little preparedness and a few standby items will help you and your hound enjoy hiking adventures for years to come.
8 Tips for Hiking with Your Hound:
- Tread Carefully: Check your dog’s paws before you go and during the hike, especially if you notice limping or excessive self-care on one particular paw. Look for word areas, irritated or red spots, or any thorns or spikes that may have gotten lodged in the mix. Imagine walking around with a rock in your shoe for the whole hike?
- Plan for Weather: Some dogs are built for it, some aren’t. If you have a dog that needs boots, sweaters, or other clothing to stay warm or dry, be sure to check the forecast and pack accordingly. A shivering, wet dog does not make for a happy hike.
- Bring a separate water bottle for your dog (don’t forget the water bowl): Just like you, your dog needs water after and during exercise. Unless you are planning to share, packing a bottle or bladder specifically for your dog will help you make sure your dog stays hydrated during your outing.
- Bring food/snacks for your dog: Just like you, they will get hungry after exercise. Having a mid hike boost for their appetite will give them energy and keep them happy in case you decide to go the extra mile.
- Be aware of your dog’s limits: if your pet is dragging behind, limping, or resisting going any further, that may be his or her way of saying enough is enough. Depending on your dog and how often you take him or her for extended walks, you may need to adjust your duration to fit your dog’s needs.
- Clean up after your dog: This isn’t really a tip as much as it is a common courtesy. You can’t catch every poop in the woods, but those that you see, especially those close to or on the trail, should be picked up and disposed of in proper receptacles whenever possible.
- Follow leash rules: I know, I know. All your pup wants is to run free without restraint. And some parks are ok with this. But others have leash rules for a reason; other dogs may not be as friendly to your pup, nor as well trained when it comes to off-leash behavior. It’s best to keep your pup on leash when required by park rules to avoid issues with other park visitors, hikers, or even park rangers.
- Bring a towel for the car ride home: Thank me later, but your trip wouldn’t be complete without a little mess. Dogs love to explore without worry about what muddy puddle they’ve jumped in or what bush they went through. Having something to cover up your car for the ride home will keep your spirits high without having a huge mess to clean up at the end of your adventure.
Bonus: Get your dog a backpack so that he or she can carry weight of the additional water and food, as well as handy items for everyone. I waited until my dog’s first backpacking trip to get him a pack, and I wish I had gotten it sooner. He loves having a pack of his own, and I love not having to worry about packing in or out food, water, and gear that he can carry. I typically recommend waterproof items as I never know what kind of adventure he will find himself on. A first aid kit, a flashlight (in a baggie if needed), and a lighter or matches are also great additions to accompany the food and water your pup will enjoy.
At the end of the day, consider your best friend’s hike in the same way you plan yours; you’ll need food, water, gear, and some knowledge of what to expect and what your limits are. If you stick to these tips, you should gain anew hiking buddy who will hopefully love the trail as much as you do.