Grab some fresh air and maintain fitness by taking your four-footed pal hiking. Fall is a fantastic time of year for hiking as the temperatures become moderate and the leaves turn color. Not only does hiking in nature boost your memory, but it also makes you happy and reduces stress, according to this link. Before you hit the trail, check out the below tips.
Bring these basics in a small backpack or waist pouch:
- Dogs treats. Use the treats to get your dog’s attention when you politely walk your dog by another hiker and to reward your dog for other desirable behaviors on the trail, such as not pulling. If you are still working on having your dog walking politely on leash, see this blog for loose leash walking tips.
- Water for you and your dog (and a dog bowl). Even if it’s not overly hot, bring water.
- Charged mobile phone and a baggie for your phone in case it rains.
- Poop bags. Be a responsible dog owner and help ensure that dogs are still welcome on that trail.
- Map of the trail or a (digital) picture of the map on your smart phone.
- Extra layers of clothing. Weather may abruptly change. In addition, a hike with changes in elevation may impact what you need to bring.
- Snacks for you (especially for longer hikes).
- Dog towels to wipe your pup’s feet when you return to the car.
Consider bringing some useful first aid items, such as:
- Gauze pads and adhesive wrap.
- Allergy pills. Does your canine try to eat wasps? Years ago I had a black lab who loves to try to chomp anything that flew nearby- stinger or not! Having allergy pills on hand for bee stings or insect bites may be a good idea. Benadryl or Zyrtec are brands of antihistamines that dogs and humans can take – ask your vet for dosage advice or view this link for suggested dosages.
- Band-Aids - for you - in case you get pesky blisters. You should, of course, wear your comfortable hiking or athletic shoes.
- Sunscreen. It’s not just for humans! Dogs may need sunscreen, too, especially if you are hiking in a non-shaded area. See this article for more information about sunscreen for your hound.
Now that you know what to bring, also consider these tips for you and your canine:
- Start slowly with shorter hikes and then build up to longer hikes with your dog to prevent injuries for both of you.
- Ensure your dog is up to date on flea and tick and heartworm medications.
- Keep your dog on leash. If your dog is off leash, you run the risk of getting a ticket (and paying a fee!), losing your dog or having your dog get injured out of sight (by a “pot hole,” a snake, a sharp rock, etc.).
- Ask other dog owners before letting your dog run up to their dogs; some dogs do not appreciate meeting new dogs, especially when restricted by a leash. You want to ensure that your dog doesn’t end up with an unfriendly greeting.
- Check yourself and your dog for ticks after the hike.
- Use care when determining if your dog should wear a doggie backpack for longer hikes. Check with your veterinarian about the correct weight, if any, that your dog should be carrying. REI also offers advice on “Fitting and loading dog packs” here.
Don’t forget these general safety tips:
- Tell someone where you’re going and when you should be back home.
- Wear bright colors, such as orange or red. Be seen by other hikers sooner than later so you can make room to pass each other as needed. Bright colors may also aid others in finding you if you get lost or injured. And don’t forget your dog’s outfit - you could purchase an orange collar or dog vest.
- Park your vehicle somewhere visible so it is obvious to rangers and park staff if you’re not back to your vehicle at a reasonable time. This strategy may also help deter a vehicle break-in.
Enjoy your hike!