Hikers With Paws
Going on a hike with your canine companion is always a great way to spend the day. Exploring the outdoors while exercising will definitely put you and your dog in a fantastic mood. Plus, you’ll forge an even stronger bond with each other. And nature’s peace and quiet allows a distraction-free space, perfect for being present in the moment.
A sensory-rich hike with countless sights, sounds, and smells will keep your loyal companion active and engaged. Spending time with a dog that has burnt off some energy is also much more enjoyable.
That said, you should make sure hiking suits your dog, or you risk overwhelming it. In this article, we’ll discuss how different features affect your dog’s compatibility with hiking. We’ll also offer some dog hiking gear tips and general advice to make your dog hiking experience a positive one.
Note: The tips in this article only apply to one-day hikes. For longer tours, including those with overnight stays, we won’t cover everything here.
Is My Dog Suited to Hiking?
To withstand certain routes, your dog must be fit enough. While you can boost your pup’s stamina with practice, you shouldn’t overexert them, or they might get hurt! If you’re not sure how much activity your dog is suited for, ask your vet. They’ll give you a few tips on what to look for.
For example, if you have a dog with a flat nose, they likely have difficulty breathing and may have w\other respiratory issues. In this case, you need to be extra careful regarding your dog’s exercise levels.
Longer hikes can be challenging for small dogs. Keeping up with a person whose legs and lungs are much bigger will be more problematic for them than bigger dogs. Nonetheless, some smaller dogs can handle a lot of exercise. Conversely, some larger dogs with a lot of energy can still have difficulties hiking, since they often have issues with their joints.
Puppies are not suited for long hikes. There’s too much physical and mental stimulation. Of course, be cautious with elderly dogs too.
If you’re still unsure where your dog falls on the spectrum, use common sense and experience to judge your dog’s limits, then consult a vet for their opinion ─ just to be safe.
The Right Gear for Hiking With Your Dog
For a simple one-day hike, you don’t really need special dog gear. Simply pack everything you’d bring when taking them for a walk. This includes leashes (short and long), their collar, a dog harness, poop bags, and treats. You’ll also need water and a bowl for your dog to drink from. Foldable bowls are a great choice since they’re so compact.
Leashes and collars can get dirty pretty quickly on a hike, especially longer leashes that drag on the ground. We recommend looking for brands that have waterproof harnesses and leashes since they’re easier to clean.
If you want to let your dog walk on a long leash, don’t use a retractable one, as it might painfully tangle up your dog. This can be especially dangerous if it happens while meeting other dogs. Another potential hazard of retractable leashes is scaring your dog if the handle falls loudly. This could cause them to run off and end up in a harmful situation (unfortunately, we’re speaking from experience here).
Something worth considering: a dog harness with storage (they look like a little like a doggy backpack). This’ll allow your dog to help carry some supplies. However, don’t place anything too heavy in the harness. It’s worth consulting your vet about how much additional weight your canine can bear.
While your dog can help haul some supplies, do not have them carry their own food. This could put your dog in a dangerous situation if the food’s smell attracts off-leash dogs or other wild animals.
We also recommend taking a hand towel to dry your pup with, in case it rains or if they go for a swim. You might want to bring a blanket, too, in case your dog needs to rest.
Staying Healthy While Hiking
Of course, you can’t forget about your canine’s health. Below are some necessary supplies and information to ensure your dog stays in good condition throughout the hike.
Let’s start with the obvious: always bring a first aid kit, just in case something happens to you or your canine.
Unfortunately, you can’t avoid ticks while out in nature. Therefore, it’s important to pack a tick-removal tool in case some attach to your dog’s skin. We also recommend having a flee comb, since ticks usually crawl on your dog for a while before they bite. This lets you preemptively comb your dog, before any ticks latch on.
Gastritis is a risk to consider when hiking with your dog. It can occur when a dog is very active before or after eating. To prevent this, alway give your dog a long rest period between eating and exercise. Important rule: do not feed your dog while hiking.
It’s also a good idea to rub a paw balm onto your dog’s paws before you start hiking for some extra protection, especially for long and rough trails.
Other Tips and Commands for Hiking With Your Dog
Since hikes occur in natural areas, it’s not uncommon to encounter other animals. Therefore, it’s best to keep your dog on a leash, especially if they have a natural hunting instinct. Even if your dog doesn’t harm the wildlife, you should keep them close to prevent any unnecessary stress. Additionally, you should only let your four-legged friend loose if they reliably listen and obey your commands in areas where leashes aren’t required. It’s important to practice for potential encounters ahead of time so they behave more calmly when they occur in the wild.
Making the leash as long as possible to let your dog sniff and run around means your dog will lose a lot of energy quickly. This could make the remainder of the hike more challenging for both of you. Therefore, you should keep your dog relatively close to you for most of the hike and take plenty of breaks.
Before you go on a strenuous hike with your dog, try going on a smaller walk around your neighbourhood. This is a great way to test your dog’s stamina and train them a little before you tackle a more difficult route. You should also know the finer details and conditions of a route before taking your dog there.
Your dog should be well trained and physically fit if you want to tackle more strenuous routes with narrow pathways and steep slopes, or if you get caught up in challenging weather. If you’re a beginner, you should avoid such treacherous conditions.
Important Commands for Hiking With Your Dog
A firm grasp of basic commands will make hiking with your dog much easier. Besides “heel”, “come”, “sit”, “lay down” and “stay”, your dog should be comfortable sleeping outside. Dogs usually sleep a lot, so let them nap while you take your breaks. Some dogs instinctively do this, but others will have to be taught.
As you can see, hiking with your dog is definitely manageable. It only requires some basic preparation for everything to go smoothly. If your dog has the right amount of strength to hike by your side, all that’s left is the necessary equipment.
If you follow our tips above, expect a great day out with your favorite furry friend! Hiking with your dog deepens your connection through meaningful shared experiences in nature.
If you’re hiking as part of a holiday with your canine companion, here’s another article about travelling with a dog.