Should you take your dog on a hike?
That really depends. Where do you want to walk? Are dogs allowed on those trails? Do you have absolute control of your dog off lead, or do you plan to keep him on lead? Is he healthy enough to hike with you? Are you going with other hikers and their dogs, or just you two? These questions are important considerations when deciding when and where to take your dog hiking with you.
Dogs love the outdoors. They notice everything, not only with their eyes, but with their whole bodies. Watch Fido, and you’ll see him sniff, move his ears, cock his head, wag his tail, raise his hackles, paw at things, maybe even dig. And if he finds something really, really stinky, watch out! Chances are, he’ll want to roll in it.
Walking with your dog makes you much more aware of your environment, and so it should be. You’ll need to keep your eyes out for hazards that might affect not only you, but your dog as well. Don’t let him drink from puddles, ponds, or streams, because he can get leptospirosis or giardia. Both of these bacterial infections can make your four-legged buddy extremely sick. In many states, a dog in a pasture with livestock can legally be shot, just for being there, so keep Fido close at all times.
Not everyone appreciates dogs, and you must be sure that your dog has good manners before exposing the world to him. Don’t let him approach anyone uninvited.
Preparing for Your Hike
Be sure your dog is wearing a sturdy collar with a proper license. Today it is easy to have your dog microchipped, and many veterinarians and shelters have scanners to read them. This will facilitate getting Fido back to you if he should get lost.
You never know what you might run into on trails. Other dogs and animals are possible, so be sure your buddy is current on all his vaccines. Even if your state does not require rabies vaccine, if you are going to hike with him, it’s a good idea to vaccinate against rabies anyway.
Watch for poison ivy, poison oak, poison sumac, etc. If you’re not sure what they look like, find out before you go. If in doubt, keep him out!
Especially in areas where there is a lot of undergrowth or high grass and weeds, your dog may pick up ticks and fleas. Ticks can carry Lyme disease, so if that’s a risk in your area, consider vaccinating Fido against it.
- Keep your dog close
- Clean up after him
- Bring plenty of clean water and a bowl
- Bring a spray bottle of water
- Be aware of trailside hazards
- Bring along a first aid kit, and check paws often
- Don’t let your dog run around loose
- Don’t let Fido enter private property (even through wire fences)
- Don’t let him drink any water but what you bring for him
- Don’t let your dog approach strangers
- Don’t let your dog bark excessively
- Don’t let him eat anything off the ground