Hitting the trail and celebrating nature’s beauty is the perfect activity in any weather. However, before you and your pup experience the great outdoors and go for a hike, take the following measures to stay safe and secure.
Be Honest About Your Dog’s Fitness Level
Your dog may love to be outside, but that doesn’t mean they’re fit for hiking. Even dogs that have been hiking for years may not be up to it due to age, illness, or injury. Before you grab the leash, be honest with yourself about your dog’s physical abilities. Are they slowing down with age? Have they been favoring one paw over the others?
Do a mini health check before you leave to make sure your pup is in tip-top shape and ready for any adventure you go on.
Choose Your Trail Wisely
Before you leave, research the trail and area to make sure you know what you’re in for, even if you’ve hiked there in the past. Check the trail’s rules and features online and ensure that dogs are allowed. That isn’t something you want to find out after you’ve already arrived with your pup.
If possible, print out a map of the area and highlight the more challenging parts of the trail in advance. Make sure the whole trail is safe and easy for your dog, and that you have all the supplies you need based on the difficulty level. Things like creeks and cliffs may be problematic when hiking with your dog, so knowing in advance or finding an alternate route will help keep you safe.
Don’t forget to check the weather before you depart. If you expect to be on the trail for long periods, bring clothing and supplies for the weather as it changes throughout the day. If a storm or dipping temperatures are expected, consider changing plans or packing extra supplies to brave the elements.
Know Your Local Flora and Fauna
Each region of the country has unique natural challenges provided by its dangerous plants and animals. When on a trail, your pet’s scent may draw interested wildlife, or vice versa, so know what predators are in the area and have a plan should you encounter them. If your dog is easily excited by other animals, keep them leashed even in off-leash areas, so they don’t chase the wildlife and potentially get lost.
Poisonous plants and mushrooms are equally dangerous for curious pooches. If your dog sees life through their nose, they may want to investigate the plants around them. Some toxic plants transmit their poisons through touch, and others when they are eaten. Either way, if your dog is inquisitive, keep a close eye on them to ensure they aren’t sniffing or eating things they shouldn’t.
Make a Packing List
Now that you’ve done all your research, make a list of items to pack before you go.
Don’t forget these hiking essentials for your dog:
- An extra collar and leash with ID tags
- Bug repellent (make sure it’s pet friendly)
- Food, water, and their bowls
- GPS Collar
- Pet first-aid kit
- Poop bags
Your research may indicate that you need some other items unique to your trail, including bear repellent, dog boots, and a tick-removal tool.
While not technically a safety measure, keeping pet-friendly trails pet friendly is important.
If poorly behaved pets fill trails, park services may decide to ban them all together. So, make sure your pet is obedient and good with other animals and people before you take them to public places.
Similarly, understand that not everyone on the trail will love dogs as much as you do, so keep your dog on a leash in populated areas so others can enjoy their hike too. Making sure other people and dogs on the trails are safe is just as important as protecting yourself and your own dog, so make sure your pet is vaccinated and up to date on their registrations.
With a little preparation and training, you and your pup are set for a fun day outdoors. Take your time on the trails while your dog gets used to hiking, and start with short, simple hikes until they are comfortable with bigger challenges. Ultimately, your pup will be your best hiking partner if you prepare properly.
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