It’s a great time to hit the trails with your dog! The temperatures are manageable, wildflowers are in bloom, and the world is alive with new scents and sounds. But, before you hit the trail this year, remember these 7 rules when hiking with dogs to ensure a safe and fun excursion for you, your dog, and any wildlife you may encounter.
1. Make sure vaccinations are current.
Just because you think your dogs are healthy doesn’t mean they can’t pass on disease to wildlife. Before planning a hike with your dog, schedule a veterinary check-up and make sure your pets are up-to-date on vaccinations. There are dozens of communicable diseases that your pets could be carrying in addition to diseases that wildlife could carry and transfer to your pets.
2. Don’t let your dogs harass wildlife.
Don’t be responsible for having dogs outlawed on the hiking trail by letting your dog be irresponsible. Your dogs should never be allowed to chase or harass wildlife. This means keeping them leashed and under control at all times, not only for the safety of wildlife, but for your dog’s safety, too. If you’re planning to set up camp or picnic near a lake or stream, you may want to consider a stake you can drive into the ground to keep your dogs leashed while keeping your hands free.
3. Keep pets leashed.
If you haven’t picked up a reliable leash, make sure you do it before you head out on the trail. There are plenty of great leashes to choose from, including those designed specifically for hiking. For hiking with dogs, it’s best to avoid retractable leashes in favor of sturdier fixed-length leads. Consider picking up a hands-free leash so you have plenty of flexibility while you’re hiking. You’ll also want to look for specially designed heavy-duty clips that provide extra security on steep trails.
4. Don’t drink the water.
Don’t let your dogs drink from unknown sources of water. Bacteria and microorganisms that can cause serious injury to your dogs thrive in water, especially stagnant or unmoving water. Bring along your own water and a lightweight, collapsible water bowl, or have your dog carry his own with a specially designed water backpack. And, remember to bring more water than you think you’ll need in the event of unplanned delays on the trail.
5. Take along a first aid kit.
Don’t forget to tuck a specialty canine first-aid kit into your pack before heading out to the trail. A pet first aid kit will include the basics, but you may want to add a few extras. Benadryl can help reduce inflammation from allergies or bee stings, and a therapeutic grade of lavender oil can help relieve pain from bug bites. In addition to first aid supplies, pack a light snack or treats, too. Turbopup bars are lightweight, compact meal-replacement bars designed to provide complete nutrition to dogs on outings and are perfect for the hiking trail.
6. Outfit your dog.
If you’re expecting some inclement weather, you’ll want to make sure your pets are as snug and protected from the elements as you are. A lightweight, waterproof dog coat is a great option for dogs while hiking.
7. Keep it clean.
If you pack it in, you need to pack it out – and, yes, that includes dog poop. Waste from dogs can wreak havoc on wildlife and throw off the natural order of the forest. Don’t put wildlife at risk. Eco-friendly dog poop bags give you an easy way to pack out pet waste until you can deposit in a legitimate waste can.
Keep our forests clean and your pets safe when you take them out on the trail. In most cases, dogs are allowed to join their owners on hikes, but check your local state and national forest guidelines before you get there. Many state parks do not allow animals because so many people have abused guidelines. Working together, we can earn back those rights!
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