Take a Hike… With Your Dog!

Walks around your neighborhood can become so ho-hum for your dog. Workouts at the gym can be so boring for you. So, why not step out in style by going on an adventurous hike with your canine pal?

I regularly take short, doggy vacations with our dogs, Kona and Emma that include daily hikes lasting from one to several hours. Each hike gives Kona and Emma the opportunity to explore new sights, sounds and smells that give them a good workout while providing enrichment. Let me share some tips to ensure your hike is safe and successful:

First, verify your dog is healthy. Have your veterinarian assess your dog’s fitness and range of motion during semi-annal veterinary exams. Remind yourself that dogs age faster than we do. Your loyal, gray-muzzled dog cannot cover as much ground as he did in his younger years. 

Second, know your dog. Does your dog really like hiking trips as much as you do or does he prefer to be a couch lounger? 

Ensure your dog obeys your vocal cues. Practice his recall capabilities in enclosed areas like your fenced backyard. Training your dog to come on cue can help him avoid dangerous situations on a hike, such as a strong river current, chasing after a wild animal and coming into contact with poison ivy. 

Avoid “weekend warrior” syndrome in you and your dog. Dogs who laze around during the week and are asked to engage in vigorous exercise only on weekends are at increased risk for injuries to their joints and muscles. So, gradually expand the duration, distance and elevations of your hikes.

Schedule mini breaks on long hikes. Both of you will benefit by drinking water in the shade and taking the time to pause and enjoy the scenery every 40 minutes to 1 hour.

Gear Up in Advance

Hiking with your dog requires a bit of planning. Here is my recommended checklist:

* Plenty of spare poop bags (Be kind to Mother Earth and do not leave your dog’s poop in the woods.)
* Healthy dog treats in a treat pouch and trail mix for you
* Harness (check out Ruffwear’s Front Range harness at What A Great Dog’s retail shop)
* 6-foot leash and perhaps an extra long line or a hands-free leash that attaches around your waist
* Fresh water in canisters for both of you that can attach to your belt or fit in your backpack.
* Lightweight, collapsible water bowl or bring a Highwave AutoDogMug that you squeeze to fill water in a bowl for your dog to drink
* Mini pet first aid kit for day-long hikes
* Fully charged cell phone and an ID wristband with emergency contact info.
* Trail map, especially for hikes in new locations
* Keep an extra leash and collar with your dog’s identification tags, a bath towel, pet-safe moistened wipes, a favorite toy and bedding in your vehicle. 

Looking for new hiking places? Check out AllTrails.com and click on the dog icon on the home page.

— Arden Moore is the founder of Pet First Aid 4U, best-selling author of host of the Oh Behave Show on Pet Life Radio. www.ardenmoore.com.