The Joy of Hiking with Your Dog

As any dog lover will tell you, taking your canine best friend on a hike with you is twice as much fun as going alone, and your dog will be thrilled too. Although certain breeds don’t do well “roughing it”, most dogs should be fine going out into nature for a long walk. Keep in mind that if your pet is elderly or obese, you should set reasonable limits on how much hiking you expect them to do and what terrain is most appropriate. Ask your veterinarian if your dog is ready to increase his activity level if you’re unsure.

Choosing a great trail in your area to hike is easy if you check out the vast number of websites oriented toward outdoor activities. It’s important, though, to look for notations on whether your dog can come along – many national parks do not welcome them in all areas. Avoid ruining your plans by checking ahead on their policies. There are a great variety of hiking experiences, and park rules should give pet owners an idea of what is available – some have dog parks, dog beaches or running trails where it is acceptable to allow your dog off-leash.

Outfit your best friend properly when heading out for that hike. Make sure tags with your name and phone number are firmly attached to their collar. For long trips, your dog can wear a pack to help carry supplies. A first aid kit, plastic bags to clean up after your pet’s droppings, water and treats are good items to bring along. Keep your vet’s phone number with you when you head out.

Avoid taking your dog on a hike on excessively hot days as they can become victims of heat exhaustion. Take note of how much your dog is panting, and don’t overdo it. Your dog should be drinking a liberal amount of water during the hike – not from streams or puddles, which can harbor pollution and nasty bacteria which can make them sick. Sufficient clean water should be brought along with you. Use your squirt water bottle to give them a drink, or bring along a nylon collapsible water bowl if you like.

Dogs naturally love to investigate smells, pick up sticks and jump over streams. Water loving breeds such as Labrador and Golden Retrievers, Newfoundlands, and Poodles are perfect companions for hikes in watery areas and may spend as much time jumping in as hiking. Mountain trails are fun to hike as well, and as long as the terrain isn’t too rocky or challenging, should make a good day trip for you. Pace yourself on those mountain climbs, and bring sunscreen along with you. Make sure you know the trail, are aware of the altitude (which can wear you out), and stay in well-traveled areas.

Want to go camping with your dog? Again, check the rules at camping grounds where you plan to travel, as many do not allow dogs to stay there. National forests tend to be more open to allowing your pet than state parks, and private camping grounds are usually a good bet, but call ahead. Be considerate of other campers and keep your dog on a leash when walking.

Common courtesy when hiking means that everyone gets to enjoy the great outdoors. Although most people enjoy dogs, there are some who are fearful or just don’t want to receive a wet kiss from your pet. Keep your dog closely leashed when in groups, and be mindful of other dogs nearby, as some may be aggressive or territorial. Stay on marked trails, don’t allow your dog to chase wildlife, and keep out of environmentally sensitive areas.

If you see hikers coming toward you, step off the trail to allow them to pass. Your dog may want to jump forward to greet them, but make sure other people are open to the idea. Chances are, though, that your dog will make many friends along the hiking trail, and not suffer from lack of attention or petting.