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My happy place is on a trail in Lake Tahoe, California in search of alpine lakes with my dog Daisy running ahead, occasionally looking back to make sure I’m still behind her. Together, we have backpacked along the California coast, sweated through the scorching red arches of Utah, and explored the high deserts of Nevada. The feeling of freedom that we both encountered on those trails is incomparable.
Whether you’re trekking up a mountain or walking an urban trail, going on an 8-mile hike or just spending an hour on a path through the woods; there are certain things to remember in order to keep your dog healthy and happy. After miles of hiking together, Daisy and I have gotten it down to a science. Without further ado, here are five simple tips to remember next time you and your canine companion hit the trails.
There are dogs of all shapes, sizes, demeanors, ages and fitness-levels in the world—just a few of the factors that make our furry friends unique with their own quirky personalities, but also some key features that will determine what kind of hike your pup is capable of taking on.
Before you set out on a trail, make sure you know how far the trail is, if it’s a loop or you’ll need to backtrack, if there is a significant increase in elevation, and if there are any difficult passes such as rivers to cross or rocks to climb over.
Always be on the look out for signs of fatigue such as excessive panting, stumbling, or disorientation. When in doubt, cut the hike short.
As much as we dog lovers like to think the whole world adores our pets as much as we do and wants them to come everywhere with us, too; sadly, that just isn’t the case. So when seeking out a potential hiking trail for you and your pup, hop online and search for “pet-friendly trails” in your area or check to make sure the trail you have in mind allows dogs. Many national and state parks limit dogs’ access to select trails for conservation reasons, or sometimes don’t allow them at all, so it’s always best to find out the details before you arrive.
Keep in mind when hiking with dogs that most trails require pets to be on leads, and they enforce these regulations with fines. Though I would be lying if I said I never let Daisy run free in a leash-restricted area, it is important to realize these rules are also there to keep your pets safe in areas where wildlife or poison oak/ivy might run rampant.
When you throw a Cliff Bar and water bottle into your pack for the hike, don’t forget about your four-legged hiking buddy. Zuke’s Power Bones are a great high-protein snack for the trail or try PureBites Freeze Dried Trail Mix made with only three ingredients: pure beef liver, sweet potato, and green beans. Make sure to pack enough water for both of you and to bring along a collapsible bowl for easy storage.
It’s also smart to include a small first aid kit in your pack with tweezers for those horrid burrs and splinters that find their way into your pup’s pads and an ace bandage or gauze for wounds. On more than one occasion I’ve seen 50-pound dogs slung over their owner’s shoulders as they trek down the trail after a cut or splinter ruined the day.
If a dog poops in the woods, and no one is around to see it, did it really happen? The answer is yes. One of the glamorous jobs we have as pet owners is picking up after them even when it seems like they’re performing their “duties” in the most natural area possible. If you’re not keen on the idea of carrying around your dog’s poop bag for the duration of your hike, invest in a carrier that attaches the bag to your leash or equip your dog with a pack (Ruffwear or Outward Hound are great brands) to carry the bags in along with treats and water — just make sure the weight of the pack is evenly distributed.
Once you’ve returned from your hike, check your dog for ticks or any other creatures she may have picked up along the way. For some of us, this means bath time since someone (ahem…Daisy) is particularly fond of discovering dead and disgusting things to roll in, but for others it may just mean feeling around your pup’s belly, ears and any other skin folds or crevices for ticks. To remove a tick, use tweezers to grab it as close to the skin as possible. Make sure to clean the affected area afterwards.
After a day on the trails, your last task is to pour yourself a glass of wine, throw on a good movie, and curl up on the couch with your tuckered-out, contented pup. There is no better feeling than ending an adventurous day with a relaxing evening of cuddles with your best friend.
Claire Cudahy is the creator of Seek + Scout, an adventurous lifestyle blog for the discerning dog owner with a love of the outdoors and an eye for design. Claire and Daisy recently moved from Lake Tahoe, California to the boonies of northwestern Ontario, chronicling their journey along the way. They spend their weekends taking road trips, hiking, canoeing, backpacking, and swimming.
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