Crisp cold air, sunny skies, and the color of leaves during the changing season: adventure is calling! With so many phenomenal state and national parks across the country, who wouldn’t want to enjoy the great outdoors? For many of us, going on a weekend hike isn’t complete without our trusted canine comrades.
Dogs make wonderful companions, but before you let Rover tag along, there are a few important things to consider. Whether you’re celebrating National take a Hike Day (November 17th) or looking to take your dog on an outdoor adventure, this guide will help you get started on knowing the dangers and what you need to keep your dog safe.
Consider if your pup is a good candidate for hiking the trails. You might want Rover to tag along, but will he really enjoy it? Before setting foot outside, be sure that he’s wearing a proper collar with an identification tag. Your canine companion must also have current vaccinations, and ensure that he’s protected against ticks, fleas, and parasites.
Knowing the ABC’s of pet first aid isn’t just vital to better pet parenting, it can also mean the difference between a simple cut or a serious infection on the trail. Your first aid kit should contain heavy-duty bandages, gauze, antiseptic, antibiotic ointment, tweezers, and styptic swabs. You can purchase a canine first aid kit at most pet shops or outdoor retailers at a great price.
Dogs that are very old or young may not only have the strength and stamina for the trip, and overdoing it could also leave their immune systems vulnerable. Any dog with health issues, that is unable to endure temperature or that isn’t physically fit might not have the endurance to handle a day of hiking. So it is important to get your veterinarian to give Rover a thorough check up before making any plans.
Bring your pet to the vet for vaccinations and deworming to protect them from dangerous outdoor activities. The most important vaccines to get are 5-in-1, which protects your pup against infectious canine hepatitis, distemper, adenovirus type 1 and 2, parvovirus, and parainfluenza. Deworming guards your pup against hookworms and roundworms found outside.
Outdoor dogs should have regular deworming checkups every three months. Otherwise, they will be at risk of potentially life-threatening conditions that include parasite resistance, diarrhea, colic, respiratory disease, rapid weight loss, decreased daily performance and loss of body condition.
Brachycephalic breeds, known as short-muzzled dogs like boxers, pugs, and Boston terriers have less endurance and do not do well in high heat. Their short muzzles might make it more dangerous as these breeds are at higher risks of heat intolerance and stroke. However, that doesn’t mean they can’t tag along during the shorter rounds.
Breeds that become overexcited in natural surroundings, like sight and scent hounds or those with naturally high prey instincts, must be conditioned out of these behaviors before setting out on hikes. Some pets can be trained and will learn to obey whistles and orders, but these dogs are more likely to sprint away from their owners and ignore commands.
Know the trails before you go. Before you jump in the car and head to your next adventure, make sure your canine companion is going to be made welcome. Some routes have strict rules regarding pets, for example, there are a number of National Park trails where dogs are not allowed.
Other locations require canines to be kept on a leash. Do your research to save both you and your furry pal the stress of no place to pitch a tent before nightfall.
Always check the local weather to ensure the safety of you and your pet. Dogs are highly sensitive, and are prone to overheating or hyperthermia when left in extreme temperatures. If the weather is too hot outside for you, this means it will be unbearable for your furry companions. If it’s above 85 degrees, the weather will be deemed too hot to spend an entire day outside.
Any climate higher than 85 degrees should be reconsidered, unless you’re visiting the local lakes, taking a dip in the pool, or heading to the beach. During the warm spring and summer seasons, start your hike early in the morning or later in the evenings.
Except for their toes, dogs are not able to sweat and this means they can easily overheat. Check their paws for any signs of burns as the hot ground can hurt their pads. Ever walked barefoot on a hot pavement? Then you know what it’s like.
To really understand what kit is required, you will need to consider the level of activity planned for the trip. The basic needs include high-calorie food items, water, and key travel gear.
A harness is generally more comfortable than a collar and leash. Although it requires a secure fit for best use, some leashes offer length conversions from handheld to waist-attached mode, while a harness provides additional control for dangerous situations like passing a cliff edge or facing timid animals nearby, for example.
Expandable water bowls are the perfect way to keep your dog hydrated without taking up too much space in your bag. Just like you, dogs need to stay hydrated to keep up with the pace and maintain good health. It is never a good idea to offer untreated water to pets as it may contain harmful organisms and chemicals.
Small dogs will drink an average of 1 oz. per pound daily, while a large-sized dog might consume 1.5 oz. of water per pound. Using a lightweight dish works well for owners, as some train their dogs to drink straight from the bottle. Choose whichever option works best for you and your dog.
Waste bags are essential items for every responsible pet owner. As such, it is a fundamental rule to pick up your dog’s treasures anywhere and everywhere you go. Instead of packing one large waste bag, opt for at least 10 smaller bags for a comfortable process.
Dogs enjoy the freedom of running “barefoot,” but outdoor terrains can do more harm than good to their precious paws. Keep an extra pair of booties in case their current pair rips. This helps provide more protection from snow, thorns, and sharp rocks. If you notice that the booties chafe, add liner socks to keep paws safe and comfortable.
Unless you’re certain that your trails will be away from street traffic and other dangerous roads, having a safety light will give your furry partner added visibility during the twilight hours. You can also purchase doggie coats, collars, harnesses, and leashes with a reflective trim.
If your pet requires certain daily medications, don’t forget to pack them. In addition, pups with light-colored noses, thin coats, and skin are more susceptible to sunburn. Try to keep your pet out of the harsh sunlight and consult your vet for a pet-friendly sunblock.
No matter how much dogs love the same foods we eat, they have a different physiology than that of humans. Just like humans, water is vital to Rover’s essential bodily functions, such as digestion, blood circulation, and toxin excretion. The human body is made up of 60% water, while for canines, it is 80%. With that in mind, it is important to ensure that water is on hand at all times.
Prevent the onset of dehydration by offering access to water and monitor for warning signs like dry nose and mouth, loss of appetite, sunken eyes, and low energy. Other symptoms may be hard to identify, which is why owners must examine their pets from time to time. Be sure to give your canine a water break every hour or so.
As more people embrace the outdoors in the company of their dogs, this also means more pressure on the local wildlife habitat, the environment, and other trail users. Not all pet owners acknowledge the importance of a well-behaved dog on the trails. However, an obedient canine promotes positive experiences for all parties. After all, it is your job to keep your pet under control at all times.
The advantages of training your dog are numerous. A pet that walks politely on a loose leash and stays on command makes for pleasurable company, reduces the risk of stressful situations. Conditioning your dog to relieve himself on command is also a valuable habit on the trail as it will provide a routine elimination in designated areas. Reward your companion with enthusiastic praise, a belly rub, and a treat.
From heartworms and heatstroke to poisonous plants and parasites, dogs face many dangers in the great outdoors. They are eager to “inspect” the territory with their mouth and nose, which is inevitably going to lead to trouble from time to time. That is why you should always keep them in sight, especially when you’re far from home.
Allow your dog to explore and discover new environments and smells, but also set a limit to his freedom to keep him from harm. As a responsible pet owner, anticipate your pet’s natural responses and behavioral cues. If you’re not confident as to how your dog will react to new surroundings, it’s better to build your trip durations up, starting from 2-3 hours rather than an entire day on the first try.
Outdoor adventures can be the most enjoyable activities for pets as the change of scenery is both relaxing and refreshing. There are plenty of new things to discover – from tiny creepy crawlies, foreign smells, and unlimited branches to grab. However, new adventures also come with unpredictable outcomes. For every trip, pet owners must come prepared with the right skills, knowledge, tools, and mindset to handle any situation, come what may.
Check if the location you’re planning to visit is pet-friendly and where the nearest veterinary clinics are nearby. Getting a full picture of your daily plan will help you stay prepared for any possible scenario and issues that you might encounter.
There’s nothing quite like the bond shared between you and your furry companion who loves the outdoors as much as you do. After you’ve made all the preparations, followed the right training, and packed the necessary gear, let go and enjoy the great joys of Mother Nature. Allow your dog to run around and explore, swim to their heart’s content, and sit by the fire as you both watch the stairs unveil after a long day’s hike.