Hiking is an interest, a hobby, a pastime for millions of people. Hiking can be as simple as a walk in the woods, or as challenging as making it to the peak of a 14,000-foot mountain.
Some spend weekends hiking; some spend weeks hiking. For many, it’s in their genes, and their jeans.
For the most part, you make sure you’re prepared. You leave no store shelf unsearched in your hunt for the right gear. Your quest for the right stuff is as intense as your quest for the right trail. You buy hiking equipment such as hiking boots/shoes, backpacks for essentials used on the hike, and you even make sure to have the proper headgear; perhaps a Pierside hat, a ball cap or a sun hat.
Is Your Dog Prepared?
When it comes time to leave for the trailhead, you’re prepared. But have you thought of everything? Perhaps you have everything you need, but what about your four-legged companion? What about Spot, Gus, Maximus, Titan and all the other dogs that faithfully follow their owners? Did you get everything your dog needs for his part in your great adventure?
Now it may seem a silly question, but it needs to be asked: Do you have the right dog for hiking? Do you have a dog that enjoys the outdoors (perhaps more than you do), is obedient, strong and healthy, and can handle the ever changing conditions that may be present during the hike?
Believe it or not, some dogs do better on long, outdoor excursions than others. Obvious breeds, or perhaps not-so-obvious breeds that are suited for hiking include Bernese, Rhodesian Ridgebacks, Australian Shepherds and Labrador Retrievers, among others.
Other breeds can make good hiking companions, but these breeds have several things in common. One, they are high-energy dogs. Even if you’re not up for the hike, these dogs will be. And two, they are water, herding and working dogs. Third, these dogs are built for the outside. They have characteristics that make them a good fit for outdoor activities.
Is Your Dog in Shape?
OK, so now that the issue of dog breeds has been addressed, what else does Fido need? How about being in shape. While most hikers need to work their way up from simple trails to more difficult trails, so does your dog. Don’t expect Fido to be ready for a 15-mile hike his first time out. Start with simple trails.
Keep an eye on your pup; he’ll let you know when he needs a rest and when he’s done for the day. Don’t ignore your dog’s signs of:
So Fido’s ready and raring to go and you’re ready to set out. Are his shots, vaccinations and tags up-to-date? Make sure dogs are allowed before you even set out; don’t wait to show up at a national park before learning that dogs aren’t allowed (let it be known that fines for having a dog in forbidden areas can be very expensive).
Is your dog obedient? Dogs can be unpredictable in new situations and around other dogs or animals, such as squirrels, deer, mountain lions, skunks or rattlesnakes. How will Fido react? If your dog loses focus easily, perhaps keeping him on a leash is the best policy. Many county and state codes require that dogs be on a leash at all times to protect you, your dog and other people on the trail. This may sound crazy, but there are many people who don’t like dogs, or who are afraid of them.
Also, know the rules on handling and disposing of dog waste. Nobody likes to step in it. Knowing trail and park rules regarding dogs before you arrive will save you some headaches and keep your dog from being disappointed.
Make a List
Have you packed Fido’s gear? Do you know what your dog needs, or should have? A short list should include:
Packs for dogs are available so they can carry their share of the load. Like conditioning your dog for hiking, make sure you’ve taken the time to condition him for carrying a pack. You don’t want to overload your dog as it will only tire him out quicker, and perhaps make the adventure a short trip.
Check for Pests
There are millions of bugs and insects in the world, and chances are strong that one, or many, will find you and your dog. It’s always a good idea to check for ticks and other unwanted pests during and especially upon completing a hike with Fido. There are tick removal tools and sprays that can help, but a good pat down is the best way to check for bugs. Ticks can hide between the pads on your pup’s paws, so be sure to check them well.
There are thousands of hiking trails to enjoy with your dog. Help your dog enjoy the experience by making sure he has the necessary equipment for the adventure.