Hiking With Your Dog

Hiking with Your Dog
Shireen Haynes

Summertime is a nice time to be outside and active. Our area offers many fabulous county parks and, within driving distance, some great state parks as well. Hiking is a wonderful activity that you can enjoy with your dog. Besides gaining the benefits of being physically active, the time together can help you bond with your dog.

Before you begin any strenuous activity, both you and your dog should be checked out by medical and veterinary professionals. Is your dog fit enough for hiking? Will your dog be able to keep up with you? One important question to ask yourself is, “Is your dog well-behaved enough?” You can encounter many different distractions on a hike, so will your dog respond to your commands?

The key to a successful hike is to be prepared. The trail and woods can provide a bonanza of sights and smells so it’s imperative to keep your dog leashed at all times. Not only is it a law in most parks, but it will keep your dog safe from run-ins with wild animals, other dogs and people. Depending on where you hike, you may also want to avoid mountain bike and horse trails as these can result in dangerous interactions for you and your dog.

Healthy dogs can carry 25% of their body weight so make sure you pack enough water to keep your dog hydrated and enough food to replace the calories they will burn. Be a good neighbor and make sure to clean up after your dog. You can either bag it or bury it, but cleaning up after your dog is a must. If your dog wears a pack, make sure it is fitted properly. A good fit will not be too tight and will not limit your dog’s movement.

Remember that as far as you go up, you must also come down. Know your dog’s limits. Older dogs may not be able to tolerate a long, strenuous hike. Many younger dogs will be so excited to be exploring that they may expend a lot of energy on the way up. Nothing can make a hike harder than having to carry your dog down a steep trail. Know your terrain and weather. Rocks and stones can irritate delicate paws so booties may be a good idea. Storms can roll in quickly so keep an eye out for changing weather and allow yourself enough time to get down to safety. After the hike, make sure to check your dog over for ticks, burrs and other irritants that could have an impact on its health. Be sure to check your dog’s paws for cuts too.

Hopefully these tips will help you have a successful and safe summer in the great outdoors with your dog. Happy hiking!