November 17 is National Take a Hike Day, a day to get outside and experience all the beauty that nature has to offer. But while hiking alone or with a friend can be fun, there's no better hiking companion than your dog.
Hiking is a great enrichment activity for your dog, offering new sights and smells they haven't interacted with before. Hikes are also a great way to bond with your furry best friend and get some much-needed exercise for you both.
Read on to learn how to prepare and pack for your next hiking adventure, as well as a few tips to make the hike as safe and fun as possible.
Before You Hike with Your Dog
Hiking is a strenuous activity that can lead both you and your dog through unknown territory. To make sure you're both safe and prepared, there are a few things you should do before you hit the trail.
Research Dog-Friendly Trails
Not every hiking trail will allow dogs, so it's important to do your research ahead of time. Check online for dog-friendly trails in your area, and call ahead to confirm with the park that your dog is allowed.
Many trails will also have leash and vaccination requirements, so check with the trail you're interested in ahead of time so you can bring the necessary equipment and paperwork.
Practice Your Dog's Recall
Regardless of whether the hiking trail you use has a leash requirement, you'll want to practice your dog's recall beforehand. It's also a good idea to practice other basic obedience commands to make sure they're reliable.
There are many unknowns on hiking trails, from other people and dogs to wildlife and dangerous cliff slides. In all of these situations, your dog having a reliable recall is an important safety precaution that could save their life.
Check with Your Vet
Hiking isn't right for every dog. Depending on your pup's age, breed, and health condition, hiking can be too strenuous for them. Always check with your vet before starting any new physical exercise to make sure your dog is up for it.
You'll also want to double-check that your dog is up to date on their vaccines and get any required paperwork for them, in case the trail requires it.
What to Pack for a Hike with Your Dog
Depending on your chosen trail, hiking with your dog can take hours. You'll want to pack all of the essentials that you'll need while you're gone, including equipment, food, and emergency supplies.
Here are a few key items to pack for your next hike with your pup:
- Collar and ID tags
- Harness and leash
- Collapsible bowl
- High-protein treats
- Pet waste bags
- Dog first aid kit
- Small flashlight
- A waterproof jacket and booties for your dog
- A towel
5 Tips for Hiking with Your Dog
Ready to hit the trails with your furry best friend? Use these tips to make the most of your hike and keep both you and your dog safe.
1. Pick Up Your Dog's Poop
While you're hiking, it's inevitable that your pup will need to go potty. Make sure you always have pet waste bags at the ready to pick up your dog's poop.
It may seem like leaving your dog's waste in the woods is natural, especially if you're hiking on a more remote trail, but your dog's poop can actually have a huge impact on the local wildlife and water supply.
Many hikers follow the Leave No Trace principles, a way to explore the outdoors more sustainably. One of the 7 principles of Leave No Trace is to dispose of waste properly – and that includes your dog's waste.
National Parks also enforce the B.A.R.K principle to help keep the parks and the people who explore them safe. B.A.R.K stands for:
- Bag your pet's waste
- Always leash your pet
- Respect wildlife
- Know where you can go
Leaving your dog's waste also poses a safety risk, as it can attract dangerous wildlife, like bears, to your location.
2. Make Sure Your Dog Has Identification
Even if your dog is leashed, having proper identification is important. Accidents happen, and your dog could escape from you at any time. If that occurs, having a collar with an ID tag can help other people on the trail locate you and reunite you with your pup.
Before you head out on the trail, make sure that the information on your ID tag is current. A microchip is also a great backup option to help identify your pup. Verify with your microchip company that your personal information is also up to date.
3. Take Regular Breaks
While hiking is a fun way to get out and see nature, it's also a form of physical exercise. As with all physical activity, you'll want to take regular breaks to give your dog time to rest and allow their heart rate to return to normal.
Monitor your dog's reaction to the hike at all times. If their breathing and heart rate take a while to return to normal during your breaks, this could be a sign that you're overdoing the exercise.
4. Watch for Wildlife
While some dog-friendly hiking trails are paved and curated for people and pets to explore, many trails are made through the wilderness. It’s likely that during your hike, you'll come across wildlife, many of which can be dangerous to your dog.
Stay alert to your surroundings at all times, and – if possible – keep your dog on a leash for better control, in case you need to redirect them.
Wild plants can also pose a threat, as many can be toxic if consumed by your dog. Keep a close eye on your dog to make sure they don't attempt to eat any plants around them. If your dog struggles with eating off the ground, consider using a basket muzzle on the trail.
5. Keep Your Dog Hydrated
As with all physical activity, keeping your dog hydrated is important, especially if you're hiking in warm weather. Come prepared with bottled water, and give your dog the opportunity to drink during every break.
Pour a little water at a time into your dog's bowl. If they try to drink it to quickly, they could throw it up. Pouring a little water at a time helps your dog to pace themselves.
Watch for signs that your dog is dehydrated, like excessive panting or a dry nose. If they ever appear lethargic, seek medical attention immediately.
How Will You Celebrate National Take a Hike Day?
Hiking is a great bonding activity for you and your dog. Not only do you both get a chance to explore nature together, but hikes are also fantastic opportunities to practice your communication skills and reinforce training. So, this National Take a Hike Day, why not make your furry best friend your new favorite hiking companion?
Another way to celebrate is getting a pet insurance quote for your active dog. Bumps and bruises can happen during a day on the trail, and coverage offered by AKC Pet Insurance (underwritten by Independence American Insurance Company) can help you prepare for the unexpected. Click here for a quote.