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Guide to safe summer hiking with your dog

Read this guide to ensure you have a safe hike with your canine companion.
Read this guide to ensure you have a safe hike with your canine companion.
Photo by 4Neus Foter CC BY 2.0

Hiking can be a great way to bond with your dog and stay in shape. Parks and trails are very stimulating for a dog and hiking is a great way to get back to nature together. But precautions must be taken so that your pooch does not hurt himself or any other wildlife you may encounter along the way.

Start with the basics. First thing is to determine that the dog is physically capable of taking the hike. If you have any worries or doubts about your pet consult your veterinarian. It is not recommended that you take a puppy under 18 months out for this type of activity. Secondly and most importantly be sure your pet is up to date on all vaccinations and medication to prevent fleas, ticks, ear mites, worms and all other parasites. Thirdly make sure your dog has proper identification- whether its tags or microchip- just in case the two of you get separated. It’s better to prepare for emergencies ahead of time and be aware of your surroundings at all times.

Read this guide to safe summer hiking with your beloved pet- plus see the checklist of what to bring on the hike.

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Embarking on the hike
Embarking on the hike Photo by Jenny & Jan Foter CC BY-NC 2.0

Embarking on the hike

Whenever you go anywhere with your dog you should always make sure you bring some food and a lot of water. A first aid kit it important as well- for both your safety and the safety of your dog. If the location is near a water source bring a towel to dry off and always make sure you dry your dog’s ears.

Always bring any medications the pooch may be taking as well as sunscreen for dogs sensitive to the sun. Some large or deep chested dogs are prone to bloat and shouldn’t exercise after a meal. Know your dog and watch its body language to determine what it needs.

Be sure to pick terrain that your dog can navigate easily. Sharp rocks, thorns, thistles, under brush or trails with too much of an incline may be tough on your dog. If it needs to cross water make sure the breed is a capable swimmer. Some breeds are unable to swim due to the way their bodies function. 

Exploring the habitat
Exploring the habitat Photo by Jesse Wagstaff Foter CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Exploring the habitat

Some new born wildlife, such as birds that have just left the nest, may be easily hurt by a dog. It is only natural for a dog to want to investigate a new, moving thing it finds in the woods. Part of learning and discovering the world for a canine includes smelling and ‘tasting.’ It may harm the animal without intending to do so.

On the contrary a larger, more dangerous animal may be forced to defend itself if it views the dog as a predator. For instance porcupine quills are released on contact and can be excruciatingly painful for dogs- especially if the dog is quilled in the face or tongue. This would result in an immediate trip to the veterinarian so it is important to try to have as much control as possible.

Because one never knows how an animal- domestic or wild- is going to react it is advised to use a leash when hiking with a dog. This will give the owner maximum control over any situation. Try using a shorter leash so it doesn’t get tied up in branches or shrubbery. Some pet parents even put bells on their pet’s collar to ward off any nearby predatory wildlife.

Extra precautions
Extra precautions Photo by TheGiantVermin Foter CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Extra precautions

It’s not just wildlife that can be a threat to your canine companion. There are many plants, flowers and wild fruits and vegetables that are toxic to dogs. Avoid mushrooms, grapes, milkweeds, oleander, nightshades, foxtails and azaleas. Those are just a few of the plants that can kill; there are many dangerous things a dog can potentially eat on a hike. A little research can pay off. Learn the plants in the area and search online for photos so you can properly identify them.

Make sure you know the area and never take your dog hiking in an area being used for hunting. Keep an eye out for hunting traps that can hurt both people and pets. Dress in bright colours while out in heavily wooded areas. You can save yourself- and your pet- a lot of trouble by being aware of your surroundings at all times. Watch where you walk, sit to rest and where you put your hands.

Don’t forget that you are not alone out there so always listen for oncoming cyclists or horseback riders that may spook your dog. Allow plenty of time for rests and drink breaks along the way. Be courteous and cautious on trails and always clean up after yourself and your dog!

When you get home be sure to check your dog closely for ticks, burrs and other nasty things that can stick to dogs. You may want to bath the animal or at least wash its paws. Then you both can get some much deserved rest and relaxation- a perfect way to end a long day in the wilderness.

What to bring on the hike
What to bring on the hike Photo by data1ore Foter CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

What to bring on the hike

-Pack to carry supplies; you can carry it or get one that your dog can carry
-Fresh, clean drinking water and a bowl to serve it
-First aid kit that also includes quick stop, tweezers for removing ticks, contact information for nearby emergency veterinary service
-Sunscreen for dogs with close cropped fur, light coloured nose or sensitivities to the sun
-Food, treats and other training tools
-Shorter leash and collar with identification
-Towel and other apparel that your dog may need
-Poop bags and something to keep them in until you can find a garbage can
-Maps, compass and other navigation tools