November 9, 2021
Taking A Hike: How To Keep Your Dog Safe While On The Trail
Hiking is the perfect way to give your dog a full day of exercise while exploring new surroundings and new smells. Whether it’s a casual mile in the woods, a day-long journey scaling a high-altitude peak, or anywhere in between, there are some safety precautions you should be taking to keep both you and your dog safe.
Know Before You Go
Before you walk out your door, jump in your car, and cruise to your next outdoor adventure, you’ll want to make sure that your destination is dog-friendly. Getting excited for a hike, reaching your trailhead, and seeing a sign that says “NO DOGS” can put a wrench in your hiking excursion.
There are reasons for this, though. Many public lands have restrictions due to efforts to protect wildlife habitats, watersheds, state regulations, or land preservation, so it’s important to check ahead of time. Hiking apps like AllTrails and dog-friendly blogs like BringFido are excellent ways to find dog-friendly trails and check regulations.
What To Bring
Hiking with dogs can be a rewarding experience, but you want to be prepared. Before you head out the door make sure your dog’s ID tags are secure and their microchip information is up-to-date. You’ll also want to encourage them to drink water before you leave to help them hydrate.
Here’s a checklist of items you’ll need for your adventure:
- Seat cover or blanket to cover your back seat
- A towel in case of inclement weather
- A collapsible bowl and plenty of water for both of you, especially if it’s a hot day
- Waste bags
- Sun protection
- A travel first aid kit (band-aids, gauze, bandage tape, alcohol pads, antibiotic ointment)
- Dog booties and a jacket if your dog needs them!
- Tick repellent
- Dog wipes
- Your leash and harness!
Make Sure Your Dog Can Handle It
Before you decide on the length or intensity of your walk, make sure your dog can handle it. Your dog’s fitness level can vary, but it mostly depends on age, weight, breed, and pre-existing conditions. Generally, smaller dogs and brachycephalic breeds (i.e., dogs with flat faces and short noses) do better with short hikes, whereas more athletic breeds in good shape usually have no problem with longer trips up the mountain. You can also build up your dog’s fitness level just like you would your own. If you are unsure of your dog’s activity level, it’s best to ask your vet’s opinion of how much exercise your dog should be getting before heading out on the trail.
If you notice signs of overheating or overexertion while on your hike, such as excessive panting or drooling, shortness of breath, changes in gum color, stumbling, vomiting, or elevated body temperature, stop and get your dog some water. You’ll want to get them in an air-conditioned setting as possible. If your pup doesn’t seem to get better after a short period, give your vet a call and ask about additional steps.
Each time you head out into the wilderness, you run the chance of bumping into wildlife. This could be a squirrel, birds, deer, or something a bit more dangerous. While most wildlife actively avoids humans, it’s best to be prepared and respectful of their environment when you’re in it. Make sure you stay on the trail and don’t wear headphones, you want to be aware of your surroundings at all times. If you plan on letting your dog off-leash, make sure they are staying within sight and consider bear bells on your dog’s collars to give animals time to avoid you.
While with large animals such as moose, elk, and bison, your best bet is to turn and run, smaller hunters such as coyotes, wolves, and bobcats should be faced head-on, making your body as big as possible. Here’s a step-by-step guide for what to do during encounters with potentially dangerous wildlife.
The first thing you’ll want to do after a walk is check your dog for ticks. These annoying, tiny bugs are typically an unavoidable nuisance on the trail, so you’ll want to know how to identify and remove them. If a tick is allowed to call your pup’s coat home for too long, it can transmit potentially dangerous diseases, so it’s best to ensure your dog is tick-free.
Before your dog gets in your car, you can use fresh water or dog wipes to clean dirt off of their paws. You can also use a clean wipe or cloth to wipe out your pup’s ears, as dirt can easily get trapped and lead to infection.
Your dog will be tired post-walk, so make sure you don’t add any additional extraneous activities to your daily itinerary. If you notice your dog limping or extra-sore, make sure to keep an eye on them in the event they have an injury and consider a shorter hike next time around.
Dogs are fantastic hiking partners who never complain about which trail you take, the music you listen to on the way, or which snack you brought along. Hitting the trail is a great way to bond with your dog and provides an excellent exercise for both of you. If you prepare and take proper safety precautions, you can ensure a beautiful, rewarding day in the great outdoors.