How to Hike Safely with Your Dog
Any seasoned hiker who routinely hits the trail with a canine companion knows having their beloved dog along for the adventure elevates the experience. Enjoying the reward of stunning vistas during a long hike takes on an added measure of joy with your tail-wagging friend by your side. However, backcountry treks with your dog require an added measure of preparation and awareness. Read on for tips to follow before you hit the trailhead and during your hike so you and your furry best pal can make the most of your outing.
How to Prepare for a Hike with Your Dog
There are several steps to take well before you lace up your hiking boots and attach your dog’s leash. If possible, take a canine first-aid class. It’s unlikely you’ll need to utilize these skills, but you’ll be really glad to have them in an emergency. Also, make sure your dog’s vaccinations are current and he is treated routinely with a heartworm and flea/tick preventive before you expose him to the great outdoors.
Other important precautions and preparations:
What to Pack for Your Hike
You’ll need to fine-tune what you pack depending on the length of your hike and whether you're camping, but the following packing list is a good starting point for a day hike with you best pal:
How much food and water? Pack at least 50% more food than what your dog normally eats, and up to double his normal rations for a strenuous hike. Pack a quart of water for every three miles you plan to hike.
Leave No Trace Rules: Poop happens; you’ll need to deal with it—canine or otherwise—using the proper LNT practices for the trail you’re on. If you’re not packing it out, dig a hole in an inconspicuous space at least 200 feet (70 paces) from water sources, trails, and your campsite. The hole should be 6 to 8 inches deep (4 to 6 inches in a desert environment) and 4 to 6 inches in diameter. After burying the waste, refill the hole with the original dirt and cover and disguise it with natural materials.
Hiking with your Dog: Trail Safety and Etiquette
Without rules, anarchy reigns. It takes only a couple of dog-related incidents or expensive rescues to invite more dog restrictions on the trail. Observe a little wisdom and common sense to optimize your outing and keep everybody safe:
1:1 is the best dog-to-human ratio for a hike.
When the adventure ends, give your pooch a final bumper-to-bumper exam and remove any unsavory stowaways on her. Once home, follow up with a thorough shampoo to rid her coat of oils from poisonous plants she may have picked up on the hike.
Then start planning your next big adventure. There is infinite fun to be had on the trail; the more often you take your beloved companion hiking and backpacking with you, the more seasoned and acclimated she’ll become to outdoor adventure. Hike safely with your dog: you’ll rock her world.
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