Truth be told, dogs make great trail buddies. If you’re itching to hike and see the great outdoors, consider taking your four-legged buddy with you! Hiking is a great way to bond with your pup while letting them get plenty of outdoor exercise. They’ll definitely thank you for taking them to see more of the world filled with new sights and smells. Before you go and hit the trails, here are some tips and advice to becoming an expert weekend trailblazer with your dog.
Finding a Trail
First and foremost, decide where you want to escape into the wilderness and from there, you should begin your research on finding dog-friendly trails. It’s important to note that the majority of National Parks in the U.S. don’t allow dogs on trails or in wilderness areas. This is for their own safety and protection as well as the protection and preservation of local plants and wildlife. However, sometimes National Parks have a few areas that are dog-friendly and these are typically roads, campgrounds, sidewalks, or bike paths (occasionally there may be some trails!). With many National Forest (state or local), dogs are often allowed on the trail systems, but leashes are mandatory.
A great resource to research on whether a trail is dog-friendly or not is AllTrails.Com! They provide guides to the outdoor with maps, park information, and hike difficulty. When you decide on a trail and see that dogs are allowed, do a simple Google search to make sure the trail is absolutely accessible for dogs.
Preparing for Trailblazing
Is your pup ready to hit the outdoor and put on miles? If they are still puppies (less than 6 months), it’s best to wait until they grow more and build up a stronger immune system. As always, just ask your vet. The most important thing to ask is: is your dog physically ready? If you’re planning on your very first hike with your pup, then definitely find a trail that’s easy and work your way up to strenuous as your dog get stronger.
When you’re in the outdoors, it’s important to maintain control of your dog at all times and follow proper trail etiquette.
This means that if you see hikers, horses, bikes, or other dog owners, step off the trail and yield to their right of way. While on these trails, it’s important to keep your dog calm. Hiking with your dog is a great way to work on obedience training, so use every opportunity you can as a learning experience.
And with every trail you and your dog take, make sure that you leave no trace. Always pack extra poop bags!
Hound Hiking Essentials
Now that you have decided where to hike and have a pup that’s pumped to go, consider a few things to pack for your hound. You can get them a backpack so that they can carry their own load; if you do buy them a backpack, make sure that the amount of weight isn’t too taxing on their body and that there is an even weight distribution when packing the dog backpack.
1. Pre-Hike Essentials:
- Organic Flea/Tea Spray Repellent: As a preventative, spraying your dog with organic flea/tick spray can warrant off any unwanted pest that could latch onto your dog while you’re on the trail. A few spritz on their underbelly and chest should do the trick.
- Paw Wax/Dog Shoes: Your pups’ paws are sensitive and in order to prevent potential injuries while hiking on rough terrains, either apply paw wax or put on dog shoes. This is on your discretion based on the hike and the terrain that you’re hiking on. Always check the weather and prepare accordingly. It doesn’t hurt to have both options with you.
- Harness: Collars aren’t always reliable and anything can happen on the trail, i.e. your dog can slip out of their collar and run off. A harness with a back and front clip is great gear to have when hiking. If your dog tends to be overly excited and pull a lot, the front clip will help maintain some control. A harness is definitely the way to go for hiking adventures.
- Gears for Weather: Depending on the weather and the nature of your hike, prepare your pup with gears that are appropriate for where you’re going. If your dog tends to overheat, a cooling vest is a great investment and will help them tremendously while hiking. On the other hand, if your dog tends to get cold easily, a jacket or a breathable sweater will help keep them warm.
2. First Aid Kit
- Hot Spot Spray: Get a hot spot spray in case your dog develops some hot spot on the trail. Find the spray that has a numbing effect on application. Typically these have to be prescribed by a veterinarian, but they’re more effective at stopping a hot spot from escalating.
- Antibiotic Ointment: This is handy when your pup gets a small cut or a scratch from the trail. Having antibiotic ointment on hand will help prevent any infection and relieve pain.
- Hydrogen Peroxide: Always good to have in case your dog ingests something toxic and you need to induce vomiting. Consult with your vet beforehand on the proper way to induce vomiting. Be familiar with the proper instruction on how to induce vomiting before you go and actually do it.
- Medical Records/Emergency Number: This information should be saved on your phone, but it’s always good to have a physical copy packed for emergencies.
3. Food and Water
- Water and Collapsible Bowl: Bring at least 1 liter of water for your dog while hiking and be sure to take water breaks every now and then on the trail. When you bring water, remember to also bring a portable water bowl so your dog can drink water with ease.
- Food & Treat Pouch: Just like humans enjoy a yummy trail mix snack while hiking, dogs enjoy mid-exercise snacks too! When you’re packing your own food for a hike, include some freeze-dried treats for your dog as well. They make for good reward when your dog is behaving well while on the hike. And if you need to fuel your body, chances are that your dog needs some fuel as well.
4. Post-Hike Essentials
- Paw Cream: After a long day of hitting the trails, treat your dog to a nice paw massage with paw cream. Find paw creams that have shea butter and essential oils in them, they’re especially soothing for your dog’s tired paws.
- Grooming Wipes: It is more than likely that your dog might have picked up dirt while hiking so make sure that you give your dog a thorough wipe down afterwards. When you wipe, cover all the nooks and cranny of their body (belly, legs, tail, face, paws). Wiping them down is also a good opportunity to inspect their body for anything out of the ordinary.
And there you have it: a quick guide on how you can start hiking with your four-legged best friend! With every hike you take, you’ll become more of a trail expert and so will your dog.
About the author: Kim is a dog lover and avid outdoor explorer. She lives in Northern California with her corgi, Cooper, and when they’re not traveling, they enjoy a good urban hike within their eclectic city.
Find her on Instagram: @littlecooperbear