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The Essential Guide To Hiking With Your Dog

 Chris Cole 

As cool weather sets in, and the leaves turn colourful and delightful to crunch beneath feet and paws, it's the perfect time of year to enjoy outdoor adventures with your dog.Here's what you need to know to get started, because there's nothing worse than starting off on your hike only to realise you've forgotten something!

Where To Hike With Your Dog

Before you head out to the trails, make sure the park you choose is pet-friendly. Some national parks do not allow dogs on their main trails. Nature reserves may forbid dogs to protect endangered animals.Some trails allow dogs to be off-lead, but you don't have to allow your dog to run free. Even if your dog is well-trained, they can run into aggressive off-lead dogs, wild animals, poison ivy and other dangers if they are not close to you.Only let your dog off-lead if they are completely recall trained. That means they will immediately come back to you even if they are in pursuit of a rabbit, or greeting another dog.


Preparing For Your Hike

Before you start hiking, you need to protect your dog against fleas, ticks and mosquitoes. You may want to see you veterinarian for a heartworm preventative that protects against all internal parasites.Natural flea powder, made from diatomaceous earth, kills fleas, ticks and mosquitoes without the need for chemicals. You will have to apply it the day of your hike.Your dog should have tags engraved with your phone number and address. Not only can you be fined if your dog does not wear an ID tag, it could be difficult for your dog to be returned to you if they do not carry your contact information. It is not as important for your dog's name to be on the tag.You should also have your dog microchipped, or make sure their information is up-to-date if they already have one. A microchip is smaller than a grain of rice, and can be scanned to find your contact information if your dog loses their collar while lost. Microchipping is compulsory across the UK - you can be fined up to £500 if your dog is found without one.

What To Bring - Your Hiking Packing List

  • Reflective Dog Vest - In mild weather, a reflective vest keeps your dog visible in case they get lost, or if you're in an active hunting area.
  • Booties - Dogs have thick skin on their paw pads, but can still get cuts and scrapes, or burrs between their toes.
  • Lead - You can use your everyday 120 cm lead, or try a Retractable Flexi Lead to give your dog more freedom.
  • Harness - A comfortable harness is ideal for hiking, especially for dogs that tend to back out of collars. You can use a car harness to secure your dog while travelling, then simply clip it to a leash when you start your hike.
  • Portable Bowl - Use these Portable Bowls at home so they will be familiar to your dog when you take them out on the trail. Stop for frequent water breaks, even if your dog doesn't seem thirsty.
  • Snacks - High moisture snacks help keep your dog hydrated. Fruits and veggies like strawberries, apples and carrots are good choices. Grapes and raisins are poisonous to dogs. You can also bring small, bite sized treats like these Serrano Liver Flavor Snacks for training.
  • First Aid Kit - You may choose to carry a dog-safe wound disinfectant and bandages, especially if you'll be far from a vet. You can pack a first aid kit with items suitable for both people and dogs to save space. An extra lead and a tick removal tool are also good to have.

Hiking For Your Dog's Individual Needs

>Dogs of all sizes and ages can benefit from a day on the trails. You'll need to plan your day around your dog's exercise needs.Small dogs may have to take twice as many steps to cover the same ground as a larger dog. They also tend to have higher metabolisms, and some are prone to hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar. Start with easy trails to see what your small dog can handle, and bring treats to keep their blood sugar stable.Puppies may have boundless energy, but they should not be taken on long, challenging trails, especially those with steep inclines and obstacles. While a puppy is still growing, they have open growth plates at the ends of long bones that do not close until at least 12 months of age, up to 2 years for large and giant breeds. Growth plate injuries can keep the bones from growing normally, leading to limb shortening and disfigurement.Senior dogs, even those with arthritis, need low impact exercise to prolong their golden years. Keeping them lean and fit helps reduce strain on their joints. Cold weather can exacerbate arthritis symptoms, so you may not be able to take them hiking in the winter.

Making The Most Of Your Hike

A hike is a wonderful opportunity for your dog to be mentally engaged in their environment. They should be permitted to sniff, run, explore, and even take a dip in a marsh when it's safe to do so. This is not the time to get hung up on perfect heelwork. Encourage your dog to pay attention to you by making hiking fun. Praise your dog for staying close to you, whether they're on-lead or not. Make mini-games of hopping over fallen logs and retrieving sticks. Play a stop/go game, encouraging them to run with you and stop when you stop.Hiking with your dog is all about having fun and getting them tuckered out. Don't forget to take plenty of pictures!


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