There’s nothing quite like canine companionship while you’re winding through the woods. And for your furry friend, there’s nothing quite like the freedom of the open trail ahead.
Whether you’re an experienced hiker or a timid trail-walker, it’s important to think through your dog’s experience, capability, endurance, fatigue, and behavior.
As with any hiking excursion, preparation is critical. Check out some must-haves and watch-outs to make your hike is both enjoyable and safe for your dog:
First thing’s first: hydration. Dogs cool off and quench their thirst by drinking water. So packing water for your pup—and for yourself—is a must. Lots of companies make dog-friendly water bottles. Alternatively, pack some extra water for yourself and pour it into a collapsible dog bowl that packs up perfectly.
A dog pack is a backpack that a dog wears and is a versatile addition to any hike. It frees you up from carrying extra gear and it makes your pup so much more self-sufficient. Make sure you find a pack that fits your dog properly, and get him comfortable wearing it before your trip.
Measure the circumference of your dog’s chest to find the right size and make sure the straps are sturdy around his body. Remember, he’ll be happily huffing and puffing (and panting) along the trail, so you don’t want to confine his breathing or chest expansion. A good rule of thumb is that you should be able to fit two fingers underneath the pack when it’s on your dog.
Start by introducing the pack to your dog with treats and praise so he builds positive association. Let him wear it around the house for a bit, then try taking him outside on a walk while he’s wearing it. Gradually increase the weight to get him comfortable. It’s safe to put about 20-25% of your dog’s body weight in the pack—but always check with your vet first.
The irony about sunsets is that they happen every day, but somehow they creep up on us each time. So be prepared to be out past sundown, even if you only plan for a day hike. You’ll want to see your dog after dark. So grab a smart dog collar like the Wagz Freedom Collar that has a built-in safety light and comes with two removable batteries, so you effectively have a spare to pack with you, should you need one.
First Aid Kit
Accidents happen, both human and canine. Make sure to pack a first aid kit for both you and your pup. Include the basics, like: absorbent gauze pads, antiseptic wipes, and tweezers. You might want to also bring an extra phone power pack and cable in case you need to call for help.
Once you’ve built your first aid kit, you can even stuff it in her dog pack and she can be your medic when you’re in the mountains (sorry, St. Bernards—you’re not the only rescue dogs in town).
When hiking, the weather can shift suddenly regardless of how well you know the area. Make sure to check the weather before you head out and continue monitoring it during your trek. The Wagz Freedom Smart Dog Collar actually features ambient temperature sensors so that you’ll be able to tell if it’s dangerously hot or cold for your pooch to be safely hiking outdoors.
Booties might look silly, but they can protect your dog’s feet from hot surfaces, snow, sharp rocks, and thorns. Most dogs have paws that were built to withstand the elements. But some can benefit from booties if they have furry feet that easily collect ice, rocks, road salt, or other debris between their toes.
Many dogs will flat-out refuse to wear booties, so try them out at home first. It can be awkward for Arno to wear something that covers his feet—and kinda funny (Google it!)—and he may try to shake them off. Don’t get too attached to them though. Eventually dogs will lose these, so make sure to pack spares.
When you head out for a hike, always make sure to bring an extra towel. You’ll be happy you did, especially when your dog decides to jump in the river or roll around in the mud. Oh, and if you plan on camping, bring an extra towel to keep outside of the tent to wipe your dog’s paws before he enters.
Hiking with your hound off-leash all depends on how well-trained she is, and whether it’s allowed where you are. If you’ll be in an area with decent cell coverage, you might consider a GPS collar to track her on the off chance she gets away from you and out of your sight. Even better would be training her with a collar that includes GPS, like the Wagz Freedom Smart Dog Collar, so that by the time she’s ready to hike, she’s trained to stay nearby even when running free.
Wherever your hiking takes you and your dog, always give other hikers space, keep your dog close to you, and be aware of trail hazards at all times.