by Kim Salerno
Summer is finally here, so why not turn that daily walk into an interesting and fun hike? It’s no secret that exercise is a necessity for both you and your dog. We often forget that our dogs are pack animals and their origins are rooted in hunting, playing and roaming all day. If you are already in the habit of walking your four-legged friend, you know that it’s a special time for the two of you to bond as well as establish yourself as the leader of your domestic pack. Shake up your routine and kick your workout into high gear by taking your best friend for a hike. Follow these five tips for added safety and enjoyment when taking your pooch to the trails.
Know Your Limits.
Does your current exercise endeavor consist of walking around the block a couple times? Then you may want to rethink that 10-mile hike you’re mapping out. Not only do you need to be able to hike without difficulty, so does your furry companion. Start intensifying your walks by making them longer and include hills if possible so the two of you can build up your stamina. It’s also advisable to take your dog to the vet just to ensure that he will be able to accompany you comfortably when you’re ready to hike. Dogs are people pleasers and they never want to let on that they are injured or in pain, so they will endure it for as long as they can.
Once you’ve determined to go on that hike, whether it’s a long or a short trip, make sure you have the following items:
Proper ID tags. The tags must be legible and specify your dog’s name and your current contact information. It’s also a good idea to have a current photo with you just in case you get separated.
Collar and leash. Bring these just as you would when you’re going for your regular walks.
First Aid Kit. Human first aid kits can come in handy in the event of a cut or scrape (for either of you). Throw some tweezers in it for tick removal.
Vet’s phone number. In the event that something unexpected happens, keep your vet’s phone number with you so you can quickly find out how to best take care of your dog. You can never be too careful.
Sunscreen. You both need sunscreen and they make sunscreen specifically for dogs. Light-colored noses are very susceptible to sunburns and dogs can get skin cancer just like you.
Appropriate dress. For summer hikes, keep a cool, moist scarf or bandana that he can wear to take a bite out of the heat.
Bring Water and Food.
Just like you need to fuel up and hydrate for a workout, the same holds true for your canine companion. Bring plenty of water and a dish that he can drink from (they make collapsible bowls for traveling ease) and offer it often along the way. A good rule of thumb is to bring 8 ounces of water for every hour you plan to hike (and don’t forget to bring water for yourself!). It’s best to keep him from drinking the water in streams or other natural sources, as these could contain nasty bacteria that will make him sick. Bottles of water that are frozen are also great to pack in case the weather is hot and can offer immediate relief to your pooch.
Food should be given on rest breaks or during bouts of less intense activity to ensure that you don’t upset his tummy or cause bloating.
Be Aware of Your Surroundings.
Plan your hikes on trails that are used often and provide a clear path; now is not the time to forge a new one through the wilderness. In most cases, you’ll likely encounter the usual suspects of the wildlife world, such as squirrels and maybe a deer or two. Keep your eyes open for common canine offenders, including porcupines and skunks. These animals are not as easily scared off by your dog and may become agitated.
Familiarize yourself with what poison ivy and other unpleasant plants look like. Although your dog can’t get poison ivy, they can pass it on to you, so it’s best to keep them away from anything suspicious.
Mind Your Manners.
The same rules you follow on your routine walks apply to your hikes. Have a carry in, carry out mentality, which includes cleaning up after your dog on the trail. Using a leash will ensure that other hikers, other dogs, as well as the flora and fauna around you remain undisturbed. If you’re both on a more leisurely hike, let others moving at a faster pace pass you easily.
Hiking with your dog is a wonderful way to spend quality time together and enjoy the outdoors all while getting a great workout. You’re guaranteed to have a fun and safe hike just by taking a bit of extra time to plan and prepare. Happy hiking!
Kim Salerno is the president and founder of TripsWithPets.com. She founded the pet travel site in 2003 and is an expert in the field of pet travel. Her mission is to ensure that pets are welcome, happy, and safe in their travels.