Dogs love the wilderness, and if your dog spends too much time cooped up in a small apartment or a way too small backyard, taking time to get them out onto the trail as often as possible is something that every dog owner should attempt to do. Whether you are planning an intense weeklong backpacking trip with your dog or simply going for an hour stroll through your local state park hiking trails, there are a few essential things you need to know to make sure that your hiking trip with your dog goes smoothly and memorably. Below, we offer the top six dog hiking tips to make sure that both you and your best friend have the time of your lives.
Do the Pre-Hike Checklist
Before you head out for the trail, you need to think about several things first. If your dog is still young or if he or she is coming off some sort of illness, it might be a good idea to check with your vet before heading out for an intense 15-mile day hike. Also, you will want to check the maps to see what type of hike you are getting in to. An easy stroll through flat meadows with plenty of streams and rivers to drink from is a lot less stressful than a strenuous hike through arid mountains where water of any type is a rarity.
By making sure to pick a trail that is at the right level for both you and your dog, you can assure that neither of you will end up exhausted and too tired to move the next day.
Invest in a Doggie Backpack
Carrying around several gallons of water for you and your dog might seem like a good idea from the outset. However, after a couple hours on the trail, your shoulders and back might begin to think otherwise. Instead of carrying the load for both of you, consider buying a dog backpack so that your pup can pull his or her own weight.
Make sure to learn how to fit the backpack to your dog so that it won´t cause any uncomfortable rubbing while on the trail, and don´t “overpack” your dog just so that you can feel a little less light on the trail. For a great review of the best dog backpacks out there, check out this dog backpack guide from Live Once Live Wild.
Bring More than a Pup Tent
If you are planning on camping for a night or two while on the trail with your dog, you might want to consider upgrading from your small two-person pup tent. While both you and your dog will most likely fit inside a small pup tent, it is no fun trying to fight for head space with a dog that might still be wet from an afternoon romp in the river. The little extra space in a 3 to 4-person tent can go a long way while not adding much weight to your pack.
Plan Ahead for Water
Imagine the following: You have been on a trail for 6 hours and, if you are reading the trail map correctly, you´ve still got at least 3 hours to go. You only brought one water bottle with you thinking that there would be plenty of rivers along the way for your dog to rehydrate. However, every river crossing you´ve come to has had nothing but dry boulders and dusty leaves. You only have one swig of water left and while your throat is burning, your dog´s tongue is hanging close to the ground. Who do you give the last drink to?
To avoid this unfortunate situation, make sure to plan ahead and bring the necessary amount of water. Read trail guides for information on the seasonal availability of water where you are planning to hike.
Bring a Snake Emergency Kit if Necessary
While most dogs will have an innate understanding to not bother a coiled-up rattlesnake that is waiting in the path, sometimes accidents do happen or an overzealous and curious young pup might not know any better. If you are hiking in an area where poisonous snakes are a common occurrence, you might very well want to invest in a simple snake bite emergency kit for both you and your dog.
Take a Cooling Collar
As most dog owners know, dogs don´t sweat and it can be difficult for a dog to dissipate heat, especially when the temperature is high and water is scarce. One simple way to help your dog cool down while on the trail is with the help of a cooling collar. Simply dip the collar into water, wrap or tie it around your dog´s neck, and you should notice your pup cooling down to a more normal temperature.
Be Prepared to Best Enjoy
Hiking with your dog should be a fun time that yields memorable moments of companionship. When done haphazardly and without the proper preparation, however, hiking trips with your dog can become a headache. To avoid any mishaps and to most thoroughly enjoy your time in the great outdoors with your faithful companion, follow these top tips for hiking with your dog.