Make sure it's a dog friendly trail - call ahead if you have to, sometimes dogs are allowed only on certain trails. Check the terrain, sharp rocks, steep drops, and surfaces that get very hot can hurt your dog's feet.
Build up to longer hikes - dogs need endurance training too!
Bring a first aid kit -
Pack bandages, liquid bandage, and an antiseptic (like iodine) for wounds or split/cut paws, depending on your travel also bring along a snake bite/sting kit tweezers usually come in these kits and they work great for removing stingers as well as splinters. Benadryl is also a good thing to have handy in case of a sting (talk to your vet first and know proper dosage before your trip). And pliers... I've heard several scary stories about pups coming into close contact with a porcupine, if you can't get to the veterinarian fast these nasty barbs can work their way deeper into your dog - it's up to you to pull them out! I know it doesn't sound pleasant but it could save your dog's life!
Bring lots of water -
Your dog will drink more/less depending on his breed, your particular dog, and the ambient temperature outside. Don't just trust the water you may find, your dog can contract parasites just like you if he drinks bad water. We had a run in with giardia - both of our pups got it on separate occasions. When you stop for a drink - offer one to your pup this should be about every 15-30 min depending on temperature and terrain.
|Dante is a big water drinker!|
Sunscreen as needed! Poor Dante needs to have the tip of his nose covered or he gets burned. White dogs can be particularly sensitive to the sun. Be careful!
Bring your leash (no flexi-leashes please) and obey the rules of the trail -
Bring your leash and an extra leash/collar set just in case you run into problems. Sometims things break and you can't always forsee that. Collars break, buckles break, things snap. Personally I like to use carabiners (I always bring a couple!) they are great if you have to rig something at the last moment. This is particularly important for long distance/overnight hikes.
Flexi leads? Just not a good idea. If you drop the handle and your dog takes off, he now has a monster chasing him and he may run further and longer trying to escape it. Even if you dog isn't a runner these leashes are prone to breaking and many an injury has been caused to both canine and humans who use them.
Another note about leashes: Though you may be confident that your dog will come back their are animals in nature that can distract your pup! It's also a courtesy to other hikers who may have dogs that may or may not be friendly, or horseback riders.
You also don't want him tangling with a poisonous snake, porcupine, skunk, or finding himself prey to cougars or a group of roaming coyotes - or whatever other creature is in your area. In certain places I have my dogs wear bells so critters/people know we're coming. It's also important that your pup be polite to others: no barking.
Know your area -
I live in prime cougar territory, although I've never personally seen one. One thing that I am conscious of is that I am on their turf and most likely they've seen me. Be aware that dogs attract cougars - they crash through the brush just like a prey animal would. If a cougar is injured or your dog is small, then you pup may look like a nice snack. Also your dog may spot and decide to go after the cougar - this can go two ways: the cougar takes off and may run up a tree, or your dog corners said cougar which would be a fatal mistake.
Dog Packs -
If you choose to use a pack: make sure it properly fits and isn't loaded too heavy. A general rule of thumb is 1 pound per 10 pounds of dog. For example, if your dog is 60 pounds then 6 pounds would probably be ok.
However keep in mind your dogs general health and age, young and senior dogs should not carry heavy packs.
Neither should a dog that is overweight or not conditioned to carrying a pack. Adjust your dog's pack so that it is snug but won't chafe (you should be able to fit 2 fingers under the straps). Bring water, a dog bowl (we like collapsible ones), treats, poo bags, and snacks for your dog if its a long hike. He can also help carry things for you! For Proper Pack Fitting & Doggy Pack Guidelines click HERE. Groundbird Gear Dog Pack Review - HERE
|We love Dante's new Groundbird Gear Dog Pack!|
Bag it (or double bag it!), and keep it away from water sources. You brought it in - you take it out. One good technique is to bag it and then zip it up in a ziploc bag (no stink in your pack!).
Be Current with your Flea, Tick, and Heartworm Meds -
Heartworm is passed to your dog through mosquitoes so it also doesn't hurt to use a home mosquito prevention spray (never use DEET on your dogs!). After your hike thoroughly check your dog for any ticks he may have picked up. Ticks and other parasites can carry nasty diseases.
Monitor his Feet -
Depending on your distance and particular terrain you want to watch your dogs feet for cuts, rips, and general wear. Depending on the terrain dog boots may be necessary if you want your pup to join you. He may not like the boots at first - make sure you have him practice wearing them and slowly increase the time, associate the boots with fun things and treats and he'll eventually learn to adjust.
Ruffwear Grip Trex Boots Review - HERE
|Practice lots and use positive association. Boots = Fun!|
Dogs get shot during hunting season by idiots who don't look before they shoot, this goes for humans too! I'm not against hunting, in fact I come from a family of hunters. Responsible hunters always clearly identify their target before shooting but unfortunately their are some yahoo's out their who give good hunters a bad name. Wear bright colors like red or blaze orange, I have a special bright orange bandanna that I put on my dogs if we're going on a hike in the mountains or forest.
|He's handsome in orange!|
If you have any good tips to add to the list let me know!
Backpacker - Take your dog hiking
REI - Hiking or Backpacking with Your Dog
Best Hikes with Dogs: Oregon by Ellen Morris Bishop. Mountaineers Books