Hiking with your dog has its ups and downs (so to speak). They sure do like to mark — where the heck does all that pee come from anyway? Your dog, if it’s fit to hike, will absolutely love exploring new territory.
If you’re ready to start hiking with your pooch, I’ve got a few tips to help you get started. One I didn’t cover: make sure you can bring your dog on the trail with you. The AllTrails App is a fairly good resource about what trails do and don’t allow dogs — because some trails just don’t (not that that stops some people).
I’m linking up with My First 5K and More, Running With Attitude, Runs with Pugs, Zenaida and Run Laugh Eat Pie for Fit Five Friday. Today I’m sharing 5 tips to get started with hiking with your dog/s.
1: Consider your dog’s age/fitness level
Bandit is just about 13. Lola was doing easy hikes until the last week of her life — at 15. Both have/had slight heart murmurs (which never was a big problem with Lola, thankfully). Lola had a lot of arthritis, and Bandit has some.
You may want to consult with your vet to see what sort of hikes your dog can conquer. It can depend based on age, type, weight, and current level of activity. Your dog wants to be with you, his pack, and he won’t necessarily know when to cry uncle — so you need to know what your dog can tackle.
2: Make sure to bring water for your dog
Bandit is an odd dog. He really does not like to drink water when he’s out and about. I bring a bowl for him and filtered water, because he’s just picky about his water. Lola never met water she didn’t love, LOL.
I also bring a small water bottle that fits into a pocket and give one to Mr. Judy, too, for short hikes. For longer hikes I’ll wear a hydration vest. Bandit still will only take a few sips — often when we’re done. So we have to be careful he doesn’t get dehydrated or overheated.
3: Double up on Flea/Tick preventative
In addition to his regular Tick treatment, we also use a powder that can be worked into his coat the morning of a hike. It’s just an added precaution. Plus we check him for ticks afterwards. Lyme is rampant in this area, and Lola had a pretty severe case at one point. With almost no symptoms.
4: Consider the weather
I once tragically heard of a dog dying from heat stroke. His owners hadn’t hiked that far and the dog was young, but it was one of the times it suddenly got hot and the dog hadn’t had time to acclimate to it.
Many hikes are a lot shadier than a normal walk. They are often cooler due to elevation, too. You may want to leave your dog at home if it’s forecast to be over 85F; we have hiked with the dogs in those temps — you just have to go early, make sure you have more water than you think you need, and keep an eye on your dog/s.
Notice whether they’re excessively panting, have pale or bright red gums, and also notice if their tail is hanging down. Be careful and be on the lookout for signs of heat stroke/exhaustion in dogs:
- Excessive panting/drooling
- Dry, hot nose
- Pale or bright red gums
- Unable to produce urine
- Diarrhea or stool with blood in it
If you think you’re dog may be experiencing heat stroke:
- Pour cool (not cold) water over your dog (cold water could send them into shock and possibly stop their heart)
- Get them into shade
- Get them to a vet as soon as possible
5: Try a hands free leash
I have a hands free leash for Bandit from when I used to run with him. I finally decided to try it on a hike. What a game changer! Sometimes on steeper hikes, it could be hard to hang onto his leash and safely hike myself.
On our most recent hike (see Bandit below), there was one section that was quite steep, downhill, and muddy. I let Mr. Judy get about halfway down that, then unclipped Bandit and handed the leash off to Mr. Judy — who gave me his hiking pole. It was a very slippery patch with nothing to hold onto to, so this worked great.
There are grips on the leash, so you can still hold onto your dog (unlike a retractable leash where you can only reel your dog in). Even better you can detach the leash — this allows me to sometimes hand Bandit over to Mr. Judy so I can easily get a little exploring in on my own (especially handy when you’re on a rock or getting close to an edge).
It also helped a lot when we stopped for lunch after our hike
Hiking with your dog/s can be fun for the whole family, but don’t expect to be setting any speed records with all the sniffing and marking. It’s definitely easier with one dog, although we did quite a bit of hiking with two dogs.
Yes, little dogs can hike too. Chester, Lola, and Bandit all love/d to hike. More than once people were surprised that we were tackling a hike that was a bit more on the moderate than easy side with our little dogs.
Funny story: on one of our last hikes I wanted to sit on one of the boulders. I thought it was a bit too high for Bandit, but no sooner had turned to ask Mr. Judy’s opinion than Bandit had jumped up on top.
Then I thought he probably shouldn’t jump down (down is always harder than up on joints), but he already had. He then proceeded to jump on and off a few more times. He was having a really good time! Little dogs can surprise you with their agility, but you do have to keep an eye out for them.
Have you ever hiked with your dog/s?
Is there any doggy hiking gear you’d recommend?
Do you have an animal that is weird about their water?