Taking your dog on a hike with you can be an enjoyable experience, provided you have the right hiking gear to accommodate the both of you. Taking your best friend along shouldn’t bog you down with extra gear but you will need to consider where you are going and how long you plan to hike in order to ensure you have what you need for a safe trip.
Whether hiking for an afternoon or taking an overnight trek, you should make sure to stock your backpack with the following items to help Fido, Lassie or whom ever you take with you have as much fun as you do.
• Adequate water for both you and your dog. If you know that there will be water sources along the route, carry a water bottle with you that you can refill if needed. If you are unsure about water availability, pack 1-2 quarts of water for your dog for a day hike plus enough for yourself. Collapsible dog bowls are good for dogs that may not drink from a stream or from a water bottle.
• A leash. Most trail ways require that your dog be on a leash or harness while hiking. A leash will also help keep order should there be a lot of dogs on the trail with you.
• First aid kit items. Most pet injuries while hiking occur on the pads of their feet. The pads can easily be cut on sticks, stones and roots in the ground. You should stop hiking intermittently to check your dogs paw pads for cuts or blisters. Have the appropriate bandages and disinfectants with you in case this happens.
• Proper ID tags for your pet. The dog tags should include information on your pet’s vaccination as well as your home address and phone number. Make sure the rabies tag that you received from your veterinarian is attached to your dog’s collar.
• Clean-Up Items. Zip-lock bags are great for hiking trips to reduce the odor of the feces while on your hike. Be sure to pick up all your dog’s feces while hiking using paper towels or your bag and dispose of it in a garbage container. Also carry a towel to clean off your dog should he or she get into dirt or water. • Snacks or Treats. Your dog will get tired just as you will. Make sure to pack a few treats to keep him energized until you get back home. However, you don’t want to over-feed your dog while hiking or they may get sick. Treats can also be helpful in getting your dog’s attention should they run off unexpectedly.
Above all, make sure your dog is up to the challenge of an afternoon hike. Make sure they are healthy and well-nourished before setting out on the hike. Older dogs should be treated to a trail way with a level terrain and with little to no incline. Small dogs should be taken on well groomed trails that won’t have a lot of low hanging brush or leaves that may cause eye or skin irritation.
Pay attention to the signs your dog may give while on a hike that there is something wrong. If they avoid the sunshine or lay underneath leaves they may be dehydrated and need to stop for a long drink of water. If their stride becomes labored or if they favor one paw over another, they may have gotten a sliver or cut on their pad. Your dog will tell you what they need while outdoors so long as you listen.
~Ben Anton, 2008