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Springtime means warmer weather, blooming flowers and hiking season. Hiking is a great activity to do with your dog, and it becomes more popular as temperatures start rising and the sun comes out. Not only will you and your pup be able to decompress by immersing yourselves in nature and escaping the hustle and bustle of everyday life, but you'll also get some good exercise. It's important, however, to be prepared and safe on your hikes, so here are some tips for you and your pup:
Anytime you are taking your dog on an adventure like a hike, you'll want to double check a few things. Make sure that their ID tags and microchipping are up-to-date and that their collar fits properly, in case you and your dog get separated. You'll also want to make sure that they are up-to-date on vaccines and flea and tick prevention, in case they get bitten.
It's pertinent that you prepare for your hike, but what people don't realize is that this includes several different forms of preparation. The more obvious form involves packing the right supplies, starting with the basics like water, snacks and plenty of baggies to clean up after your pup. But less obvious forms of preparation include making sure your dog is conditioned for hiking as well as familiarizing yourself with the trail you're embarking upon.
One very important supply to bring along is a leash, preferably a sturdy one that's comfortable for you to hold. Many hiking trails have leash laws that you'll need to abide by, so you won't have much of a choice. But using a leash is helpful in keeping your pup safe, laws or no laws. Your dog's leash will keep him or her by your side, which is especially important when coming across other dogs or wild animals.
One of the most important things to do when hiking with your dog is to protect their paws. Dog paws are sensitive and can easily be injured when hiking. For example, as temperatures rise and the days become sunnier, the ground can get very hot and burn your dog's paws. Or your dog may cut their paws on sharp objects and debris along the trails.
To protect your pup's paws, look for hiking booties or paw pad treatments that moisturize and protect them from heat. The former is more protective, but not all dogs are comfortable in booties, which is where the latter comes into play.
Pro Tip: For dog booties, make sure you get the right fit as your dog's comfort is most important. Booties that are too small may cause wounds and those that are too large may fall off, trip your dog or cause other injury. Also, give your dog time to get used to their booties before going on long hikes.
Keeping your pup hydrated is extremely important for any kind of physical exercise, especially hiking. Hiking often involves warmer weather and longer excursions away from society, so it's extra important to bring water along. It's better to be safe than sorry, even if that means lugging extra water bottles around. Also make sure to bring something for your dog to drink out of, like a collapsible bowl.
Pro Tip: Dogs can get dehydrated before you do, so keep an eye on your pup's energy level and panting as that can indicate when they need water.
Along the same lines as hydration, it's also a good idea to bring some snacks for your pup (and for yourself!). Bring along some treats and food for your dog to help keep his or her energy levels up - just like humans need calories to stay energized, so do dogs.
Pro Tip: Instead of feeding your dog a large meal before going hiking, feed them a portion of their meal and supplement with treats or kibble throughout the hike.
It may be a good idea to bring a first aid kit for your dog because you never know what will happen or what you'll stumble upon while hiking. Pet first aid kits often include supplies that can help cuts, burns, bites and beyond.
Pushing your dog to his limits when hiking can be dangerous, so it's best to make sure you choose a trail that fits your pup's conditioning. For beginners, try sticking to shorter hikes that keep you close to the car. Then work your way up to more difficult hikes as your dog's conditioning improves. In addition, it's always a good idea to avoid hiking during the hottest part of the day.
Pro Tip: Watch for signs of overexertion, which include excessive panting, weakness, drooling and red gums.
Because you're in nature, you'll want to respect your surroundings and leave little to no trace that you and your pup were there. While it may seem like common sense, not everyone realizes that you're a guest on the trail. Avoid littering by keeping all garbage on you until you find a trash can. This includes poop bags. If you don't want to carry around several bags of poop, you can opt to bury the waste. But either way, you'll need to respect the trails rules and regulations.
It's always a good idea to do a post-hike check. During hikes, it's likely your dog will run through brush and plants, which means they can pick things up on the trail. Look for injuries, bites, ticks or other bugs, burrs and spikes from plants. It's especially important to look for ticks as they can carry lyme disease, which can be serious. A post-hike bath is also a good way check for any of the aforementioned things, with the added bonus of cleaning any dirt and grime on your pup.
Pro Tip: If you find a tick on your pup, carefully remove it and place in a sealed bag (or take a clear picture of it) to take to your vet so they can identify it.