Imagine you and your best bud, Spot, walking in the woods one fall afternoon, enjoying the breathtaking view of multicolored trees dotting vast mountain ranges, and a cool breeze brushing against your skin, welcoming a crisp yet earthy scent of pine.
And because fall has cooler weather, you can go further with your buddy without the risk of him overheating. But before you get all excited to hike with your dog, read these tips to make sure this becomes an epic trail hike worth sharing:
…and if he can keep up with you. Not all dogs are capable of rigorous activities such as hiking. Before you even plan on going for a hike, talk to your veterinarian to ensure your dog is fit to go for one. Also, ask for tips on how to prepare and condition your dog’s endurance before the big day.
2. Choose a dog-friendly hiking trail
Once you know that your dog is fit to hike, search online or get recommendations on dog-friendly trails in your area. There are lots in the US, especially since the National Trail System has over 60,000 miles of scenic and historic trails you can explore.
3. Equip your dog with a harness leash and a collar with a name tag
Most US national parks and trails, even dog-friendly ones, require dogs to be kept on a leash (about six feet long or less). Make sure to research beforehand and obey leash laws to keep your pet safe when fall hiking.
Dogs, like children, may easily get scratches or wounds when playing outdoors. Aside from your own first aid kit, bring a small one that’s designed especially for dogs so you can treat wounds quickly and avoid the risk of infections.
5. Prepare enough food and water
Fall hiking with dogs takes a lot of energy for them, so add an extra cup of dry food for every 20 pounds of your dog’s weight, aside from your usual serving amount. Likewise, with the cool and fresh fall weather, large dogs can drink about 0.5 to 1 ounce of water per pound of its weight. Small dogs that weigh 20 pounds or less may drink 1.5 ounces per pound.
Nutrient-dense, protein-rich dog food such as Addiction Foods’ raw dehydrated food can help keep your dog’s energy levels at its peak during a hike. These also come in light-weight packaging, which makes it easier to bring on a hike.
Aside from obeying leash laws and respecting the environment including wildlife, it’s important that you know how to keep your dog under control. Learn how to keep him calm and friendly around people. If your dog tends to get excited when surrounded by people or other dogs, it’s best to choose a trail where you’re less likely to encounter fellow hikers.
7. Pick up after your pooch
A dog’s poop is known to contain bacteria that can harm or disrupt wildlife and their habitat. Always keep a bag with you to collect and carry your dog’s poop. If you prefer not to carry it around, bring a small shovel and bury it at least 8 inches deep in the ground and about 20 feet away from campsites, walkways, and sources of water.
8. Watch out for signs of exhaustion
Always observe your buddy as you hike and let him set the pace. Take notice of signs that he’s getting tired, like lying down or panting. Let him rest and drink water before continuing your hike.
Dogs are naturally curious creatures and may sniff or accidentally munch on random things they find on the trail like potentially dangerous or poisonous mushrooms, plants, or fruits. Stop him immediately if you see him looking or sniffing at anything that looks suspicious.
10. Give your dog an overall physical check right after the hike
Unlike you, your dog won’t settle with just sight-seeing and walking on the trail. He would love to graze on bushes and lie down on grass or dirt. Check your dog for any cuts or ticks as soon as you get back home to prevent injuries and allergies. If you see a problem, bring him immediately to your vet.
Hiking with your dog can be a valuable bonding experience worth remembering. Your dog can be the best hiking companion if you know how to keep him safe and well-behaved. Take him with you and watch him put a smile on other people’s faces while bringing you closer than ever to nature.