If you like the outdoors, then some of the best times you can have with your dogs is by wandering around on roads and trails. Curious, full of wonder and excitement, dogs are sometimes the best companions. They’re not self-sufficient, however, so you need to keep some things in mind when it comes to hiking, backpacking canine style, and some hazards to watch out for on the trail.
First of all, have your veterinarian check your dog to ensure she’s healthy enough for these demanding excursions! Dogs should be conditioned (every day walks will do) before taking them out for a hike.
To me there is no more relaxing activity in the world than hiking in nature. Hiking, however, is a strenuous activity and not without risks, so if you’re going to take a hike with your dog, you need to follow a few guidelines:
* The first priority is to determine if your dog is healthy enough to hit the trail. If you’re not sure, go to your vet. Ask the vet to check your dog’s heart, blood, and respiration. If all is well and your dog is game, take him on a short hike near your home. Does he run out of energy? You need to do some conditioning: Jogging, tennis-ball fetch, and swimming are great ways to get your dog in shape.
* Aside from conditioning his heart, you need to toughen up those toes. But watch those pads! If your dog is out of shape, his pads will wear quickly and might even bleed.
* Before you go out on the trail, make sure your dog’s ID tags, rabies inoculation, and license are up-to-date. For extra precaution, you can have your veterinarian embed a microchip in your dog’s shoulders that can be used to track him if he is ever lost or stolen.
* Respect all trail restrictions. If an area is blocked off, don’t go there. If the trail requires all dogs to be on leash, comply. Even if it doesn’t, leash your dog if he won’t stay with you. And always have a pooper-scooper of some sort to pick up after your dog if he goes to the bathroom on a trail other people will be using.
*When You Arrive At Your Hiking Site
You may get to an area and find a “No Dogs Allowed” sign. Quite a disappointment, but it’s there for a reason. Sometimes the reason is that other dog owners didn’t follow the rules and ruined it for everybody. We don’t make the rules, but we should follow them.
Most dog-friendly parks will allow dogs that are under voice control to hike off leash.
If you have a puppy, introduce him to short trail hikes after he’s had all his inoculations. Keep him on a 10-foot leash and call him back to you for a treat every few minutes. Also, introduce the command “Wait” to mean “stop in your tracks.”