Hiking is a wonderful activity to do with your dog, and they’ll love it just as much as you will. There’s a lot to think about, but as long as you take the time to pre-plan the trip, you’ll stay safe, and everyone involved will have fun. Whether your dog is a pet, or an official support animal, there’s no doubt that having them along on a holiday will help you enjoy it more. Having your best mate around helps to motivate you and stops feelings of isolation and loneliness.
We get so used to our dogs bounding around us, that we just assume they’re fit and healthy. They probably are, but long days hiking in the great outdoors can be just as hard on a dog, as it is on you. Start taking them for longer and longer walks from home. Build them up and get them in-shape.
Visit your local vet and have them check your dog over. The last thing you want on a hike is to find out they have painful joints, or an injury of some kind. Are all their vaccinations up-to-date?
Make sure dogs can go there. The American Hiking Society is a great resource to begin looking for hiking spots for dogs. What are the rules and regulations around dogs on this particular hike? What is the trail like? What equipment do you need? If the terrain is rough, you may need a dog hiking harness to help them over obstacles.
Are there places to put used dog poop bags, or will you need to carry them out of the trail?
Your dog must have some basic obedience, and be able to come to you when called. This is for their safety, as well as being good etiquette in a public space.
Plan each meal for you and your dog, and take more than you think you need. Hiking requires more fuel for you, and your dog. You’ll need plenty of bottled water, even if there’s water along the way.
The all-important fuel. Little snacks, often, will help keep everyone’s energy up.
Any of the following, depending on where you’re headed, and for how long. Harness, collar, leash, food and water bowl, poop bags, bedding, warm coat if it’s cold.
Apart from bandages, padding, cotton wool and ice-pack, include scissors and tweezers. You may need to trim your dog’s hair from a wound, and tweezers are good for pulling ticks off the skin.
Ticks are very common outdoors. They are in the vegetation, and when your dog goes past, the tick jumps on. These must be removed completely. It’s very easy to think they’ve been removed, but they can split and leave the head in the dog’s skin. Use your tweezers and make sure the whole thing comes away.
Grass seeds are dangerous to dogs. Once they are caught in the skin, they burrow in and cause inflammation and pain. Check your dog every day of the hike, and more often if you’re walking in long grasses.
Dehydration can occur if you don’t have enough water for you and your dog. You can never have enough.
Leave the trail as you found it. Take lots of pictures, and go home to plan your next hike!
Laura Horton, MSc. is founder of Hound101.com, a website which helps you to be your dog’s best friend. She is also a registered clinical health professional with many years’ experience in diagnostic imaging, teaching and health research.