Man’s best friend: How to hike with your dog

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Man’s best friend doesn’t have to just play in the backyard. Hiking with your furry friend can be enjoyable, and a lot easier than you think. However, certain trails and areas may be an enjoyable workout for you, but they could be significantly more dangerous and harmful to your dog. Doing a bit of research and planning before taking your pal on your next hike will make the experience much better for both of you.

Here’s how to hike with your dog.

Know the area

When choosing where to hike with your dog, look for a place that will be gentle on your dog’s paws. Trails that are littered with leaves and dirt will be more paw-friendly than paths that have lots of sharp rocks. Cutting open a paw will create huge setbacks for your adventure, not to mention will they be painful for your little guy. Also, try to avoid steep inclines or drop offs, since it might be harder for your dog to navigate those areas. Trails that have lots of horse¬†and mountain bike traffic might not be the best option either to avoid unnecessary accidents. Check out this website to find suitable trails around you.

One other important thing to note when you hike with your dog: know your dog. If your dog is in good shape and physically can hike with you, make sure he or she is well behaved at the same time. Just because your dog can sit, heel and stay doesn’t mean he or she will do well on a trail with you. Make sure your dog is willing and able to stick with you instead of chasing squirrels. Most hiking trails are very narrow at some points, so it’s also important to make sure that your dog is totally socialized with other people and animals. If another dog passes and yours tends to be aggressive, it could be a recipe for disaster.

Pack up

When packing up your bag for the hike, don’t forget to check and make sure your dog’s collar or harness is secure and comfortable. You should be able to fit two fingers under the harness easily. If you can’t, it’s too tight and probably chafing your buddy.

Make sure to pack enough food and water for your four-legged friend. Who wants to be hungry while on a hike? Your dog sure doesn’t. One or two servings of food should be plenty, depending on the duration of your hike and the temperature. You could even bring a ball or toy (whatever he/she loves the most) to play with when resting or even while walking.

Include some first aid items for both you and your dog. Pack some liquid bandages and cloths with antiseptic just in case your pup gets injured on the hike. To avoid this altogether, putting booties on your dog will protect his or her sensitive paws from heat, rough terrain and anything else that could cause harm.

Keep your dog healthy

Don’t forget that your dog needs to stay hydrated too. Each time you stop to take a drink of water (about every 15-30 minutes), give your dog a swig too. Whether you set out a bowl full of water or just pour some into his mouth, it’s really important to make sure your dog drinks plenty of water when you hike with your dog.

Try not to surprise your dog with a super long and difficult hike. Chances are, if your usual walks consist of one lap around the block, your dog is going to struggle a bit with an advanced level hike. Build up the length and difficulty over time, just as you would if you were training yourself. Overworking your dog is never good, so try to keep hikes to under an hour when first beginning.

Hiking etiquette

One of the most important thing to remember when you hike with your dog is to clean up after your dog. Bring plastic bags to pick up any business your dog had to take care of, or bury it somewhere away from the trail and water sources.

In addition, keep your dog near you and in your sight at all times. Even if you know he or she will come back, letting your dog run free for too long could bother others. Your dog is probably just trying to be friendly and cute, but you never know how other people or their pets might react. Play it safe and keep your pet close.

Lauren is a part-time editorial and graphic contributor at 301 Digital Media who has a strange obsession with cats and a love for Drake that will never be reciprocated. Follow her on Instagram: @lpetermeyer

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