Safety Tips for Hiking with Your Dog
The majority of dogs these days spend most of their time cooped up inside while their owners are at work. While it may seem relaxing to simply sleep all day inside, your dog gets every bit as stressed being confined inside all day as you do being trapped at work.
Dogs are naturally drawn to the outdoors and many breeds need more than just a short walk around the block or small fenced-in backyard to get fresh air. Taking your dog hiking in the real outdoors provides them with much needed exercise which is essential for weight control and general health. Spending regular time outdoors will also help prevent your dog from experiencing chronic anxiety and possibly developing behavioral problems. Of course, getting some fresh air yourself will do your own health a bit of good so long as you get comfortable good memory foam shoes for your walks with your dog.
If you’re looking to give your dog the outdoor stimulation they crave, there are of course a few important safety tips to consider. We have put together a list of our top safety guidelines you should follow to ensure your outdoor adventures with your dog are successful, whether you simply want to take them to the local beach or wish to take them on a weekend camping/hiking trip in the wilderness.
Be Aware of Your Dog’s Health & Fitness Level
Before you start planning outdoor adventures with your dog, it’s important to make sure they are healthy and fit to do so. Young puppies and elderly dogs may not be able to endure arduous hikes and some may not yet be well-trained enough to follow commands which is crucial when taking them into natural settings. Consider your dog’s mental health as well and whether you need to deal with any behavioral issues they may have to ensure they will not endanger themselves or others.
A great place to gather health advice and nutrition information geared specifically for dogs is to check this out. You will learn common health problems that affect dogs and how to treat them to get your dog fit enough to enjoy the outdoors with you.
Some dog breeds are obviously better suited for hiking than others and you should never push the limits of your dog. Some breeds struggle in extreme hot or cold conditions and others may not be able to navigate difficult terrain. Talk with your vet to get their input on what your dog’s limits are.
If your dog has never hiked with you before, it’s important to ease them into the experience, gradually building up the distance and intensity of your hikes. If your dog has tender feet, consider purchasing them specially designed dog booties to help them cope with rough terrain or cold snowy conditions. You may also want to invest in a dog jacket or sweater when the weather is cold.
Packing Enough Food and Water
It’s important for both humans and dogs to have plenty of water and food for hiking. Hiking often requires a great deal of energy and dehydration can set in real quick in certain conditions. It can be more difficult for your dog to lower their body temperature in very hot conditions, mainly due to the fact they have a coat of fur and don’t sweat in the same manner as humans do. While dogs can sweat on certain areas of their body, sweating plays a small role in cooling them down. This is why your dog resorts to panting. Keep an eye on your dog while hiking and realize that they may be struggling even if you feel quite comfortable.
Be sure to carry fresh water for your dog and a portable dog bowl for them to easily drink out of. Dangerous pathogens can live in natural water sources such as lakes and streams. These may include leptospirosis, coccidia, or giardia which can make your dog quite sick. Be especially careful about letting them drink from stagnant natural water sources. You may even want to think about adding electrolytes to your dog’s water using brands like Pedialyte. Be sure to ask your vet what the safe dosage is for your dog’s size and breed.
Keep your dogs energy up by packing dog treats for them. Dry food works best and more specifically treats or dog food that is high in protein and fat will give them the much needed calories they will burn from hiking. Don’t be afraid to place a specially designed backpack meant for dogs on your dog. Many dog breeds, assuming they are healthy, can carry around 25% of their body weight, so letting them carry their own food is a possibility. Dry dog food will of course be lighter and is another reason to opt for dry food over wet food.
Follow Leash Laws
It’s vital to adhere to all leash laws and refrain from hiking with your dog in areas that specifically prohibit dogs. Most national parks prohibit dogs as they can negatively impact the environment and it puts native wildlife at risk. Failing to follow dog restrictions can result in fines.
Keeping your dog on a leash will help you avoid dangerous interactions with other dogs and wildlife. You need to also remember that some people have a fear of dogs and won’t be comfortable with your dog running up to them. Some people are also of course quite allergic to dogs and need to avoid them. You should always yield to other hikers and properly teach your dog to heel beside you, especially when using shared trails where mountain bikers or horseback riders may be present.
Many hiking areas including beaches and natural parks will have designated off-leash areas where you can let your dog run free. Some may be seasonal so you will need to read signs carefully. To ensure your dog’s safety and the safety of others, be sure to teach your dog voice commands so you can control them when they are unleashed. If you have several dogs, you may want to think about taking your dogs for separate hikes since it is often much more difficult to manage multiple dogs.
Clean up After your Dog
Whenever you hike with your dog, it’s also important to clean up after them. Picking up the business your dog leaves behind on the trails will not only save other hikers from inadvertently walking through it but will also help protect the local environment. Dog feces can contain harmful bacteria than can be detrimental to local wildlife and the overall ecosystem.
Unless you are certain there will be dog waste/bag stations along the trail, make sure to pack your own collection bags with you and maybe think about packing some rubber gloves if you’re squeamish about picking up after your dog and to avoid getting sick yourself.
Always dispose of your dog’s feces in trash bins if available, otherwise you can bury it at least 8 inches so long as it’s well away from campsites and other public areas. This will prevent it from affecting both people and wild animals that commonly communicate through scent marking.
Dealing with Insects and Dangerous Wildlife
It’s safe to say that bringing your pet into nature will expose them to a number of potential natural dangers. You should be aware of the local wildlife in your area and make sure that your dog is up to date with their vaccinations and treatments for fleas, ticks, and worms. They make pet-safe insect repellent that can ward off disease carrying insects like mosquitoes.
There may also be poisonous animals on the trail such as snakes or scorpions and you must remember that your dog will not understand they are poisonous. Your dog’s curiosity often gets the better of them and they can get into some real trouble. Encounters with porcupines, coyotes, and bears can all be quite serious and encounters with skunks can be just as tragic for you as you will have to deal with the smell and spend a great deal of time bathing your dog.
There are snake aversion training classes for dogs available in many areas or you may wish to simply place a bell on your dog’s collar which will alert bears and other wildlife of your dog’s presence so they can flee well before your dog reaches them. Pack a dog first-aid kit and know basic dog first aid so you will be able to better deal with injuries and emergencies such as snakebites.
In addition to avoiding wild animals, you also want to make sure your dog doesn’t get into any poisonous plants. Things like berries and mushrooms can be deadly to dogs if they consume them and your dog may even be able to transfer oils from poisonous plants such as poison ivy onto you if they run through it. You should also be aware of other dangers such as broken glass, dangerous holes or cliff edges, and possibly even wildlife snares or leg traps in certain wilderness areas. These are all more reasons why it’s best to keep your dog on a leash while hiking.
Give your Dog a Check-Up after Each Hike
Be sure to give your dog a thorough check-up after each outing. Just because you did not encounter any dangers yourself while hiking doesn’t mean your dog hasn’t, especially if they were let off their leash. Even if your dog was leashed, you must remember that they are much closer to the ground and can more easily encounter things you can’t.
Always make sure to give your dog breaks while out hiking and make sure your dog gets enough rest in-between hikes. Inspect them for ticks and other insects when you get back and give them a thorough bath if they have been through dense brush. Check their coats for cactus spines, burrs, thorns, and bites they may have received on the trails. Tend to any cuts or broken toe nails and visit a vet if you notice anything unusual that seems to be causing your dog distress.
Giving your dog a thorough check-up after every hike will not only keep them healthy but will also avoid them carrying anything harmful into your home which could potentially be harmful to you and your family’s health.