How to Responsibly Hike With Your Dog: 5 Tips for Safety and Trail Etiquette
Contributed by Mecca R. Dennehy. Mecca works at a dog rescue and when she’s not at the kennel, she’s out exploring with her two rescue pups, Finn and Ruby. She has logged hundreds of miles on the trail with her pups.
Yes, there is such a thing as trail etiquette, even deep in the woods. This is doubly true if you bring your adventure pup with you. If you plan on hiking with your dog, be sure you know the fundamental rules of the trail. Whether you’re prepping for your first hike with your dog or you just need a refresher, the tips in this article will get you ready to hit the trail with your dog responsibly.
Tip 1: Know Before You Go
While many hiking trails allow dogs, some places like National Parks do not. Before you pack the car and head out, check in with a reliable resource on whether dogs are allowed. Park websites, ranger stations and apps like All Trails are good places to verify if a trail is dog-friendly.
Tip 2: Stay Leashed Up
Always have your dog leashed up when on trail. Hikers, young children, and other dogs may not want to say hello to your adventure buddy, so keeping them close by is the best way to avoid any unwanted meet-and-greets. You might also be sharing the trail with people who have severe pet allergies and cannot come in contact with dogs. Wildlife is another reason to keep your dog on leash. You wouldn’t want your dog to try saying hello to a cougar or dart off into the bushes after a bunny.
Tip 3: Be Prepared
Poop bags and water are a must, but also keep in mind first aid, weather conditions, and food. If your dog eats something they shouldn’t, for example, having hydrogen peroxide can save their life. If you plan on being near water, having a towel is handy. If you’re hiking in the winter, bringing a jacket and booties for your dog will help them stay warm. When dogs exercise more, they need to eat more! So bringing extra treats or a small lunch can help them get through long hikes. Before each hike, consider all the above circumstances and pack accordingly. Catch our next blog post for an extensive packing list on what to bring when you hike with your dog!
Tip 4: Know When To Stop
Some dogs are great at communicating when they’ve reached their limit—they’ll usually just stop and lay down. But others are too excited or don’t notice they’ve passed their limit until they begin to overheat, which is dangerous. Give your dog, and yourself, frequent breaks to catch your breath and cool off. If your dog is starting to lag and is panting or drooling, it may be time to head back or find a place to rest for a while. It’s best not to hike with your dog at the hottest time of the day. Stick to the cooler mornings or evenings whenever possible. If you do plan on hiking during the middle of the day, be extra cautious with your dog and take lots of breaks to cool-off. Dipping them in a river or lake (or even just bringing some extra water to pour over their belly and back) will help them stay cool.
Tip 5: Post-Hike Check
Once you’ve gotten back to the trailhead, make sure to give your dog a once-over for any ticks that could be hiding in their fur. Other things to check for are cuts, burrs, or any injuries they could have picked up along the trail. If you find a tick, gently remove it with tweezers or a tick remover, put it in a plastic bag and throw it away. A nice post-hike bath is always a good idea to not only get your dog clean but also remove any pollen or oils that could cause irritations. I mean, what’s more rewarding than a nice, bubbly, warm bath after a long hike? Well, for dogs, maybe a lot of things. But it will still feel nice for them to be clean after a long day in the outdoors!
Hikes, like most things in life, are better with dogs. With these tips in mind you’ll be safely and confidently exploring new trails and wild places with your furry friends. May the many miles you cover with your companion treat you both well!
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