Is your dog looking at you with those pleading 'puppy dog' eyes? If so, he's probably been dreaming of taking his human on a great hike now that the weather has cooled down. Enjoying the brisk weather, crunching through leaves, barking at industrious squirrels, maybe even romping in freshly fallen high altitude snow... How can you say no to taking your four-legged hiking partner out on a favorite trail at this time of year? Or at any time, for that matter!
Before you hit that trail, make sure you have everything you'll need to keep your pup safe and comfortable in the great outdoors. As dog lovers ourselves, we've compiled a hiking checklist for exactly that purpose.
The Well-Dressed Pet
Always check the weather forecast and the latest trail conditions before heading out. Will your short-haired pup need an insulated jacket to keep him warm enough? Your long-haired dog may need a cooling vest if you're hiking in the summer heat.
What about boots if there's a chance of slippery or abrasive trails? Prepare ahead of time, so you can help ensure your pooch stays comfortable throughout the hike and that you both arrive safely back home afterward!
A stylish bandana will immediately identify your dog as a beloved pet rather than a potentially dangerous stray. It can also act as an emergency bandage if needed. A reflective collar, tag, leash, jacket, or boots will ensure your pup doesn't disappear from sight on the trail or in a darkened parking lot if you're getting back late.
Use a Great Leash and Collar or Harness
Things happen along outdoor trails and you'll want to have complete control of your dog when they do. Unfriendly dogs, teasing squirrels, tempting rabbits... There is a number of things that could cause a normally well-behaved dog to forget his training for a split second. Unfortunately, the results of that momentary lapse could be devastating.
A vicious dog fight, falling off a cliff in pursuit of prey, or getting lost in the wilderness are just three possible outcomes of a lack of proper control on the trail. A sturdy collar or harness can help prevent these tragedies from happening. Add a well-designed leash that gives you hands-free control of your dog for even more security.
Make Sure Your Dog Has His ID
All dogs should be microchipped before they hit the trail. Make sure your pet's microchip is registered with an online service and that you keep your contact information up-to-date.
Since the person who finds your lost dog is unlikely to have a microchip scanner handy, your dog's collar should also sport an ID tag with your pet's name and your phone number. Having both a microchip and an engraved tag should help your lost pet find his way home sooner, no matter who finds him.
Tip: Attach the tag with a split ring (the double ring used on most keychains) instead of an S-hook. It's more secure, so the tag is less likely to get lost just when your pet needs it most.
Avoid Outdoor Unpleasantness
Nothing can ruin a hike faster than running across a sick or rabid animal or blundering into a parasite-infested brush or tall grass. Make sure your pet is up-to-date on all his vaccinations. He should also be on an effective parasite control regimen before you hit the trail. After all, you want to return with pleasant memories of your day on the trail. Not a host of ticks, fleas, heartworms, or other nasty hitchhikers!
Puddles, ponds, lakes, and slow-moving streams are often home to a whole host of bacteria, parasites, and deadly blue-green algae. Not a good place to get a drink! Instead, carry plenty of fresh water for your pet and you both. For each hour of hiking, plan on taking a minimum of 8 ounces of water for your dog.
For warm-weather hikes, freezing plastic water bottles that are 3/4 full the night before will ensure your pup has plenty of cool water to drink as the ice melts. Just remember to take some unfrozen bottles along so your dog has water to drink at the start of your hike.
Treat Your Hard-Hiking Pal Well
Bring along plenty of yummy, high-energy snacks such as dog jerky. They're great for reinforcement, such as when your good dog ignores wildlife. They'll also give your dog the energy he needs for a long hike.
"Leave No Trace" Applies to Dogs, Too
Bring several doggie doo bags or a small folding shovel or trowel to take care of any deposits your pet leaves on (or near) the trail. Hikers coming after you will appreciate your thoughtfulness. Besides, cleaning up after your dog is almost certainly the law along any defined trail.
Load 'er Up!
If your dog is wearing a backpack, she can carry her own collapsible bowl and a portion of her water supply. A doggie pack is also a handy place to stash treats, food, and doggie doo bags.
A doggie backpack (like those from Ruffwear) gives your pal an important job to do along the trail. And we all know how much most dogs love having a job to do!
Prepare for Emergencies
It's a good idea to carry a first-aid kit designed especially for dogs. At a minimum, it should include round-tip scissors for trimming the hair away from wounds, a dog-safe wound disinfectant, gauze pads and/or rolls, bandages (Coban is a good choice), and a soft nylon muzzle.
Yes, we know your dog loves you and would never normally bite. However, nothing is normal for an injured dog that is in pain and possibly in shock. Your dog may not even recognize you and is likely to lash out in fear at what's happening to him. A muzzle will protect both of you from possible further injury.
Wire cutters are handy for any stray fish hooks your pet may encounter (cut the hook's shank and remove it in two pieces to avoid the barbs). Tweezers let you remove foreign objects like thorns, bee stingers, or ticks. A styptic pencil will stop a broken nail from bleeding, while a pair of small wool socks will cushion and protect a sore foot. An old towel is handy for drying off your wet dog so he doesn't get chilled.
Don't forget the canine sunscreen for dogs with pink noses or eyelids, white ears, a thin coat, or sensitive skin. It's especially important during the summer, at high altitudes, or when hiking in the snow.
Get More Great Tips for Hiking with Your Dog
You might say we're experts when it comes to active dogs. So send us a woof if you'd like to know more about hiking, running, or just being active with your dog. He'll thank you for it on his next hike!