Many of us get stuck in a routine of taking our dogs for the same neighborhood walk each day where they smell the same smells, hear the usual dogs barking at them from the other side of a fence and have their regular spots that they like to mark. Just as we as humans like variety and can get bored of doing the same thing repeatedly, so do dogs. So why not take your dog with you to explore a new trail in your area?
Hiking with your dog is not only a fun new adventure you get to enjoy together, but it also helps you build a stronger bond and learn even more about one another. Hiking is a great way to get some physical and mental exercise with your pup, let them experience new sights and smells and even socialize your dog as you pass other hikers and their dogs.
So the next time you have a free day and the weather is right, get outside with your dog! Here are a few things you should know before you go:
1. Hike when the weather is cool.
Some of us may not be morning people by nature, but generally the best time to get out and explore with your pup is early in the morning. This is when the trails and parking lots are less crowded and the sun has not yet begun to shine down its strongest rays. Look at the weather forecast beforehand. If the weather man predicts that it will be 85 degrees halfway through your hike, think about starting earlier. Or try and choose a hike where there will be plenty of shade or there is water for your dog to cool off in if needed. *Side note: We rarely hike during the summer months and usually choose a different activity like going to the beach if it’s going to be over 80 degrees.
Since dogs are not able to perspire as humans do, they pant to try and keep cool. Dogs can overheat more quickly than we do, so it’s important to provide them with lots of water and take rest breaks as needed. Dogs’ paws can also be affected when it’s hot out. A good way to determine whether the ground is too hot for your dog’s paws is to put a hand or foot on the ground yourself, and if you cannot hold it there for at least 3 seconds, it’s too hot to walk or hike.
Please do your dog a favor and stay home if you are not sure if it will be too hot. Dogs can very easily suffer from heat stroke and it’s just not worth it.
2. Bring plenty of water
It’s better to be over-prepared than under-prepared when it comes to water and staying hydrated. You can fill up a Camelback for easy access during your hike or you can always bring a water bottle (or 2 or 3 or 4!) and a water bowl to fill for Fido. Cosmo prefers to have his water served to him from a Camelback nozzle :). Make sure and take a few water breaks during your hike: for you and your pup!
3. Pick up after your dog
I know this seems self-explanatory, but you’d be surprised how many piles of poop I see lying in the middle of trails. It is SO easy to simply pick up your dog’s waste and properly dispose of it. Many trails have trashcans along the way where you can ditch the doo, but for those that don’t, just double bag it with scented bags and attach it to your pack until you find somewhere to throw it away. Please do this to be considerate of others as well as the wildlife and habitat that you are entering when you hike. And carry plenty of poop bags!
4. ALWAYS obey leash laws
Yes, it’s fun to let your dog run wild and free, but a hiking trail is not the place to let Fido loose. Most trails require that you keep your dog leashed at all times, usually with no longer than a 6 ft. lead. Leashing laws are not in place to be mean or to keep your dog from having fun, but rather to be respectful of other hikers and their dogs and to keep your dog safe. Some dogs, like Cosmo, do not like to be approached by off-leash dogs, so please be courteous. (And PLEASE for everyone’s sake, do not use a flexi-leash. How often do those work properly, anyways?)
If there is a trail that does allow dogs to be off leash, please make sure your dog has impeccable recall (I mean 100% of the time) and will come back to you when called. Imagine if you were to see a snake and need to keep your dog from going near it? What if a mountain biker is quickly approaching and you need to make sure your dog is out of the way? Be aware and respectful of others using the trail.
That being said, if something should happen and your dog gets separated from you, make sure it is wearing a collar with a dog tag that has your name and phone number!
5. Bring treats or food for your pup
Hiking burns a lot of calories and everyone needs to refuel at some point, right? Bring some treats or dog food for your pup to enjoy when you take a break. This way you can make sure your dog has enough energy and fuel to make it through the whole hike.
We absolutely love Real Pet Food dog treats and bring them with us on every hike! They are single ingredient treats delivered monthly and your dog is guaranteed to love them. They are made right near us in Escondido, CA . Check them out and if you decide to try them, let them know Cosmo sent you 😉
6. Know your dog’s fitness level
If you usually take your pup for a daily mile or two flat walk around the neighborhood, then try to start with a shorter, flatter hike first. Get your dog used to the new terrain and environment before trying something longer and harder. Some dogs have a ton of energy and can make it for a 15-mile hike, while others prefer a nice 5-mile stroll, and both are okay! Get to know how much your dog can handle. If you want to try a longer hike with more of an incline, do it on a cooler day.
We’ve learned that Cosmo can totally hang for the long 12-mile hikes, but sometimes needs to take a nap at the summit or along the way. When he stops and we can’t get him to come along with us, we let him rest until he’s ready to go again! He is also not much of a rock climber, so on some of our Sedona red rock hikes, we make sure he is wearing his Ruffwear harness and give him a lift when he needs it. The more you hike, the more you learn what your dog needs and can handle.
7. Carry something to protect yourself and your dog
When we think about hiking with our dog, we usually focus on how fun it will be, the beautiful views we’ll get to see and how accomplished we’ll feel afterwards. We don’t usually think about situations where we might need to defend ourselves. Unfortunately, things happen. Why not be prepared for the unexpected and and ease your mind a bit?
Three things that I carry on every hike are:
- Gel pepper spray (this type prevents the spray from blowing back into your own face)
- A taser
- A trekking pole or hiking stick
You never know when an aggressive off-leash dog, another wild animal or even a shady person may come at you and your dog. Trust me, it’s happened to me and it’s not fun. So do yourself a favor and bring something with you just in case you need to use it to get out of sticky situation. You’ll be glad you did!
That being said…..
8. Bring some form of first aid kit
You never know when your dog might step on something sharp, get stung by a bee, etc. So why not keep a first aid kit in your hiking pack, just in case? We received this doggy first aid kit as a Christmas gift and although we have not had to use it yet, we feel reassured knowing we have it with us.
Here’s what’s inside:
- Gauze (rolls and pads)
- Patch adhesive
- First aid tape
- Cold pack
- Saline solution
- Antiseptic wipes
- Emergency blanket
9. Check your dog for ticks and foxtails after your hike
Sometimes being out in nature means that our pups may bring home some unwanted new friends. So, I always recommend checking your dog for ticks or hidden foxtails during or after your hike. Some common places you should look are in between paw pads, in and around ears, the groin area, eyelids, and under the chin.
It is common that our first instinct when we find a tick is to pull it out however possible and as quickly as possible. However, this may not be the best approach, as many times the head stays lodged in your pup or you only get half of it out. I recommend getting tick twisters from Amazon for $6 (pictured below). They are super effective at removing ticks safely! As for a foxtail, if you feel that it is easily removable, use tweezers to pull it out. If not, leave it to come out on its own. If it hasn’t come out after a few days or is bothering your dog, you may need to make a trip to the vet.
Fun Fact: Dogs are less likely to attract unwanted pests if they stay on trail. Foxtails and ticks are both usually found off-trail in overgrown, grassy areas–yet another reason to keep your dog on a leash 😉
And last but certainly not least…
10. HAVE FUN and take some pictures!
I hope this post has helped you feel more prepared to take your dog on some cool adventures! If you hike with your dog I would love to see some pictures of all the fun you have. Post them in the comments below 🙂 And if you have any more questions you’d like answered, please ask!
HAPPY TRAILS ❤