Summer is here, at least in terms of the weather outside! If sunshine and chirping birds are your signal that it’s time to enjoy the outdoors with your dog, you’ll want to take a look at this handy checklist for hiking with dogs.
Hitting the trails means fun for everyone, especially our four-legged pals who get to sniff and see things outside their usual walking routes. It also means introducing new dangers and hazards, though. No one likes running out of water on a long hike, including dogs, and you’ll want your whole family protected from biting pests like fleas and ticks and the nasty diseases they carry.
Be sure to check off this list before you reach the trailhead:
Pick a dog-friendly trail –Most US National Parks actually don’t allow dogs on the trails, so you may be in for a sad surprise if you get there before checking. The National Park Service and Hike With Your Dog websites list the rules for various parks around the country.
Prep for the pack – Most healthy, active dogs that aren’t yet senior dogs can carry 1/4th of their body weight for a hike. This varies by breed and by your dog’s own medical history, so check with your vet if you’re unsure. Wearing a pack isn’t naturally comfortable for most dogs, so get your pal used to wearing it while at home or on a few short walks before going for a long trail hike.
Clean-up bags – No one likes finding dog doo on a trail. Keep the paths pleasant for the next person and bring poop bags.
Flea and tick protection – Biting pests can carry diseases like tapeworm and Lyme disease, and fleas and ticks will be out in scores this summer. Be sure to protect your dog with a spot on or oral flea and tick treatment, and spray your own clothes with a bug repellent.
Sun protection – Dogs with pale noses or shaved areas can get sunburns, which can even result in tumors. Yikes! Protect your dog with a pet sunscreen on any exposed skin—like their lower belly where the hair is thin if they like to lay on their backs in the sun. No need to spray them all over; that would just make them sticky.
First aid kit – Be prepared for minor cuts and scrapes with a pet first aid kit. Some gauze, medical tape, and disinfectant will likely be enough.
Water – Dogs should take a drink about as often as you do on a hike, around every 15-30 minutes, depending on how hard you’re working. Bring plenty of water for your dog, and don’t let them lap up from streams or lakes, which could have infectious bugs.
Food – If you’re on a short hike, your dog will probably be fine with their normal daily rations at home before and/or after your hike. If you’ll be out for a night or two, bring as much food as they’ll need for those days, plus a bit more. Working harder may boost your dog’s appetite.
Vests, coats, and boots – Boots can be a great idea in any weather, since they’ll protect your dog’s paw pads from rocks and hot or cold ground. In colder weather, a vest or coat may be useful, but keep an eye on your pup. If they start panting a lot due to an active hike, they may be too hot in their apparel.
Always check yourself and your pets for ticks when coming home from a hike. Use a fine comb on your dog’s fur, checking especially at the neck, ears, and paws for bites. If you have to remove a tick, do so slowly and smoothly with tweezers or a tick removal kit. If possible, save the tick in a jar or bag and take it to the vet – it can be tested to see if it may have transmitted a disease.
Remember to be courteous on the trails to other hikers and dogs, and enjoy the trails!