This is one of the greatest experiences for human and dog alike, as you set out together, just like your ancestors did when dogs were first domesticated and came along on the hunt. It’s a great bonding exercise, and it’s a way for you to establish yourself as the leader of the pack (even if that pack consists of just one dog). The problem: a lot of national and state parks don’t allow dogs. The good news: there are plenty of other open spaces around the country where the two of you can leave the car behind, take to the trail and explore your world.
Before you take a hike, there are a few precautions you should take:
- Attach license, ID (with your cell phone number) and rabies tag to your dog’s collar.
- Make sure your dog’s vaccinations are up to date.
- Trim his nails.
- Get your dog in shape for serious hiking. You do this the same way you get yourself in shape: starting out with small hikes and gradually increasing the distance.
- Don’t feed your dog right before the hike; feed him afterwards.
- Make sure that dogs are actually permitted on the trails you’re planning to hike.
- Always keep your dog on a leash. Don’t allow him to chase wildlife, other dogs, or other hikers. Remember, you’re responsible for any damage your dog does.
- Bring plenty of drinking water and a bowl. Lots of water helps your dog stay energetic–and keeps him from becoming dehydrated.
- Don’t hike in the heat of the day. Hike in the early morning or in the evening to avoid overheating.
- Carry a first aid kit. Hiking can cause cut and scraps from rocks, sticks, thorns, ice etc.
- Don’t let your dog walk on hot surfaces.
- Watch out for poison ivy.
- If you’re a responsible dog owner (and of course you are!) you’ll clean up after your dog; bring along some Ziploc bags.
After the hike, check your dog (and yourself) for ticks. Ask your vet about whether your dog should be vaccinated against Lyme disease.