Being outdoors with our pups can be great exercise and therapeutic as well. Many trainers recommend that dogs go hiking so they can smell new smells, explore nature and gain confidence by attempting to traverse a new terrain.
That said, most city dwellers do not get the chance to practice their hiking skills too often. So whether you are new to hiking with your pup or just a bit rusty we have some tips for you!
Test your stamina (and your pup's too)
If you and your pup are not used to a regular fitness routine, start slow and build up both your strength before taking on a mountain. Consistently go for walks. Get used to carrying a backpack containing water, food and various gear. Alternate between street and off-road paths. As you both get more comfortable, slowly increase the distance, time and pace. Be sure to check with your vet for any needed vaccinations, hip problems and general aging issues.
Now that you’re ready to start planning the actual hike, take time to scout locations. Some parks don’t allow dogs at all. Additionally, don’t forget to check the weather. Whether you’re veteran trailblazers or rogue wanderers, never go hiking when the skies are hazardous. It’s also important to take note of the temperature conditions your dog is used to. If your pup enjoys cool morning walks, that’s probably their preferred mode of hiking as well.
Don’t forget the accessories! Make sure to purchase the right hiking gear for you and your pup.
A doggy backpack can be a good way for them to carry their own necessities. Backpacks are also a great way for them to differentiate between hikes and regular walks. When it comes to making your selection, fit is the most important consideration. Find a lightweight bag that won’t chafe or irritate your dog. Like their humans, dogs also need good hiking footwear. Your dog’s paw pads are sensitive and if the ground you’ll be hiking on is especially rocky, have some booties ready.
You can never be too cautious concerning your dog’s safety. Always make sure you have enough water for both you and your pup and that includes backup. Bring a water purifier along because “just in case,” feels better than “what if?” Same goes for a doggy first-aid kit, which you can make by adding some dog essentials to your human alternative. Pet.com has an excellent checklist of items.
Learn proper trail etiquette
Once you know that your dog is ready to hit the trails, make sure that they’re also properly trained to interact with other people, animals and nature. If you’re pup’s not a fan of the leash when on regular walks, they probably aren’t ready for a hiking excursion, where sights, sounds and smells are far more intense. Your dog should still be able to respond to basic commands like, sit, heel, stay, etc. Furthermore, they should be able to drop any objects they pick up.
While you are on the trail, take the proper hiking courtesies into account. The same rules apply for when you take your dog on a regular walk. If your pup is offleash, make sure they’re within close distance of you. Give other hikers their space and stay on the trail. And, of course, pick up after your dog.
After the hike
When you’re back in the comfort of civilization, always check your dog for ticks or any other injuries (especially paw pads). It also can’t hurt to give them a warm bath with some dog-friendly shampoo. They’ll likely be pretty tired after the big adventure so have extra food and water ready and don’t hesitate to lay on the cuddles.