Learn The Basics of Hiking With Your Dog
Hiking is an easy activity to do with your dog – all you really need is a place to walk, a leash, and a good pair of athletic shoes. It is important to choose the right place to walk. Some trails demand more preparation, athletic ability, equipment and training to make it more enjoyable for you and your dog.
Pick a trail, pace, and distance that works for both you and your dog. The best trails always have some body of water or scenic destination. Dogs love to sniff and explore so give your dog a chance to do this on the trail. Always keep an eye out on your dog and make sure he has good recall! Trails are shared and sometimes narrow so it’s best if your dog knows basic obedience and is well socialized with other dogs and humans (including runners and bikers). If your dog needs work on recall and socialization, it’s best to keep your dog on leash at all times.
Breeds Best Suited for Hiking
Your dog will let you know if he likes hiking! These breeds, however, are known for being able to keep up on long hikes: Bernese Mountain Dog, Rhodesian Ridgeback, Australian Shepherd, Alaskan Malamute, Siberian Husky, Vizsla, Labrador Retriever, Portuguese Water Dog, Border Collie, Chesapeake, German Shorthaired Pointer, Jack Russell Terrier. The best dog for hiking is one who is obedient, able to follow basic commands and has a good temperament.
The best thing you can do as a dog owner is to be prepared when going outside with your dog. If you want to go hiking with your dog, or even participate in most outdoor activities, you should start by visiting your vet for an okay regarding health, physical ability, and required vaccinations. Your dog should be healthy and at least a year old. Dogs by this age are stronger and have better developed muscles, joints, and bones necessary for longer walks on a variety of terrain. Vaccinations can include those for fleas, ticks, rabies, heartworm, bordatella (“kennel cough”), standard DHLPP (distemper, canine hepatitis, two strains of leptospirosis, parainfluenza, and parvovirus). Depending on where you will be hiking, there are also snake vaccines available. Your vet will know the ones your dog will need. It is also a good idea to have an updated copy of your dog’s vaccination history in case there is ever a time when you encounter a situation where you need to prove to others that your dog has been vaccinated.
The main reason for dog identification is in case your dog gets lost. Your dog probably already has a collar with an identification tag labeled with your name and a way to contact you. However, this should not be the only source of identification for your dog since collars can be broken and ID tags lost. Keep an eye on the condition of your dog’s collar and ID tag. Repair and replace as needed. Other ways to ID your dog include licensing and microchipping your dog. You should keep your license and microchip information updated. It is also a good idea to keep a current picture of your dog on you – which you probably have on your phone already : ) – in case you lose your dog on the trail and need to ask for help from other hikers.
One of the key factors in hiking successfully with your dog is how obedient your dog is. People enjoy hiking with their dog when they are able to enjoy their surroundings without having to constantly stop to see where their dog has gone or what their dog has gotten into. There will be others on the same trail as you who do not like dogs or are scared by them. There might be situations when it is important for you to calmly call your dog and hold him by the collar. Dogs need to be non-reactive and able to remain calm when approaching or being approached by other people and animals. Work on communicating with your dog and mastering basic commands such as stay, come, and leave it. You can start by working with your dog in the backyard, or any enclosed area free of distractions. If you choose to start with a dog park, make sure the dog park is not too crowded. If you would rather get some help by a professional you can simply sign up for basic obedience classes.
Trail & Leash Etiquette
If you plan to hike in a park or public space, you should always check the regulations regarding dogs. When hiking, the general rule is to always keep your dog on a leash – even if your dog is obedient. Other hikers, bikers, children, or other animals may feel more at ease if your dog is leashed. You never know how others may react to an dog off-leash, even if your dog is the perfect angel. Dogs should always be kept on leash in slippery terrain or trails with a steep overlook. It’s good etiquette to announce your approach and call your dog to you when others are nearby or when heading towards a more populated area, such as a trailhead or parking lot. Above all, use common sense. You are ultimately responsible for your dog’s safety.
It is generally good etiquette to let those without dogs to pass first while your dog sits and waits behind you. If you see an unleashed dog, put your dog on leash and walk past in a friendly manner with our without a brief introduction. If a dog is unattended, walk by very casually with your dog on leash and ignore the other dog. If the other dog charges up to you, block your dog and give the other dog a firm “no” or “stay” command. This usually stops most dogs but you may also choose to use dog spray instead. Above all, stay safe on the trails and have fun!
Go on an Adventure!
Now that you know some of the basics to hiking with your dog, find a trail in your area or simply start by walking around the neighborhood. Slowly increase the length of the hike and the difficulty of the terrain to challenge yourself and your dog. Above all, enjoy the outing and don’t forget to stay hydrated and check your dog’s paws periodically.
Going out into wet weather? Look also at our list additional first aid items to prevent and treat blisters, read: Tips for Hiking In The Rain: Staying Dry to Paw / Foot Care.
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