Climb new heights with your best friend.
In a world where the Rona has left us with cabin fever, hiking has become an exciting escape outside of our socially-distanced, sanitised bubbles. If you love to hike with your mates, I bet you’ve felt a pang of guilt if you leave your dog at home. They would love the new experience in the great wide world.
But I hear you. Hiking can be stressful enough with your friend who always wears the wrong shoes or that one friend with terrible taste in trekking tunes (we all have one).
Wouldn’t bringing your doggo along just add to that stress?
Well, it doesn’t have to! As Sharon Elber – Professional Trainer at Gentle Dog Trainers says, “Preparation is key. Having an enjoyable hike with your dog starts with the right gear and an understanding of your dog’s physical limits”.
We’ve come up with 5 key tips for having an awesome hike with your pup.
You may be used to freestyling when it comes to your hikes, but when trekking with your dog, you have to prepare. Better yet, overprepare. Wandering down side tracks and following a vague sense of direction is not ideal when your pooch is involved.
I’m talking about exact routes and time estimates, scheduled breaks and weather planning. You may be cool sweating in the summer sun but your dog won’t be so happy. Older, frailer dogs also need more breaks and support along the way.
If you are trekking with a group, plan out the route together so everyone has a great time.
Get The Right Gear
It’s tempting to just let your dog run wild. They are in nature after all, as they are meant to be. You can all just go at your own pace and enjoy the climb.
But having your dog off-leash depends on a few things. One, if dogs are even allowed off-leash where you are hiking. Some trails specifically ask you to have your dog on-leash for the whole trek to protect wildlife and nature.
The second thing to consider is how stubborn your dog is. If your dog never comes to you when you call their name or willfully ignores you on normal walks, guess what they’re going to be like on hikes! Yes, exactly – 10x worse.
Hikes are exciting; so many new sights and smells. If your dog’s recall game is terrible in the best of times, good luck getting their attention when a rabbit runs past or if a particular side track sidetracks them. If you are nodding your head right now, dear reader, you’ll need a strong leash for the whole journey.
Even if your dog is an obedient angel, bring a leash with you anyway. You may need to take control in more dangerous situations, or if there are a ton of people around.
Harnesses are generally better for hiking than collars. They are more comfortable and you can attach a leash to them quickly.
You also need loads of water. Enough water for you, your mates, and your dog. To make things even easier, get a portable water bowl to carry in your backpack.
Poop bags and sanitiser wipes are also essential but we’ll come back to potty habits later (foreshadowing).
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Do you remember your first hike? Even if you are a monster in the gym, I bet your first time still left you feeling winded. Your dog is no different. They may be young and fit but every first time hiker needs to get used to long trails.
We recommend starting with baby-hikes for the first couple of times just to see if your dog can keep up. As they gain strength and stamina, you can attack the longer trails together.
Know The Rules Of The Trail
We have to talk about hiking etiquette. I know – yawn – but it has to be said. As we mentioned, some hiking trails force you to keep your dog on a leash the whole way. If you choose to use those routes, respect those rules; it’s only fair.
Hiking trails also have to be left the way you found them, which means:
- No trash
- No food
- No dog poop
Be a good citizen and scoop that poop!
Keep An Eye On Your Dog
This is probably the most important tip of them all. Your dog is like your baby; treat them like the unruly toddler that they are. Even if you are in a group of mates, your dog is your responsibility so make sure you have them in sight at all times in case they want to wander off.
Being extra attentive means you can pick up on stress cues too. Are they panting excessively? Do they keep stopping to rest? Are they sweaty? Being a little overprotective will ultimately ensure you’re all having a great time – your pup included.
From one hiker to another, I promise you hiking with your dog is awesome when you know how. You make new memories together and shake up your routine. I hope these tips encourage you to take on more adventures with your pooch!