Bringing a dog hiking with you? Dogs need a date with nature as much as you do so next time you’re headed out to trail, consider bringing man’s best friend along. Never done it before? Here are a few quick ideas to keep in mind:
- Know your limits. Many parks allow dogs on a leash, but not all parks follow this protocol. In fact, quite a few U.S. National Parks don’t permit dogs on the trail – with or without a leash. So be sure to do your research before heading out to a new trail. A simple Google search should tell you whether dogs are permitted in the park.
- Do a fitness test. Yes, just like humans, dogs need to be in a certain physical fitness to go the distance. Ease your four-legged friend into hiking by starting out with shorter, easier distances and then work your way up to the 10-miler.
- Find a Fido. Don’t have a dog of your own? Borrow a neighbor’s for the day and take them with you. The neighbor will love the extra attention their pup gets and you’ll have a trail companion to keep up your pace.
- Hydrate. Be sure to bring lots of water for them to drink. Dogs are resilient beings, but because they can regulate their body temperature so well through panting, they often will push themselves beyond their capabilities. So you must be the one to remind them to slow down and drink when hiking. We hike with a camping bowl for her – it folds up flat and small when in the bag, and then works great as a water bowl when the dog becomes parched.
- Watch what they drink. Not all water is good water. Just like you probably wouldn’t drink from a puddle or pond without purifying, don’t let your pet. Water in lakes and rivers can be ridden with parasites that could make your dog very sick. And if you’re lucky enough to hike near the ocean, salt water will certainly turn their stomach. To prevent too much unwanted water consumption, put out fresh water in a bowl before the near water sources and keep offering fresh, clean water throughout the hike.
- Do you need to scoop the poop? Yes! If your pet poops, you don’t necessarily need to bag it and trash it, but you do need to scoop it up and bury it at least 200 feet from the trail. Some parks post restrictions and will ask that you bag and trash so be on the look out for those policies upon entrance to the park.
- Have fun! There are plenty of new smells to follow and squirrels to hunt so let them do their thing. Keep your dog on a leash, but why not give that longer leash a go? And, if you’re dog is a never-ending ball of energy like ours, bring their favorite squeaky toy or ball and throw, throw, throw.