Factors to Consider If Your Dog Can Hike

Can a Dog Hike

Published: July 15, 2021

Hiking with dogs is one of most backpackers’ and dog parents’ favorite outdoor activities. Most campers say that hiking is an ideal way to bond with your fur buddy. Getting some exercise while enjoying the majestic natural world is fun, and hiking with your best furry friend by your side will elevate your hiking experience.

But before heading out hiking with your dog, make sure you’re prepared and you understand everything you need to consider if you’re taking your favorite pet with you. Like what, you may ask?

Make sure they are capable to go hiking and are in the right shape. Know your dog and their language — what would make them growl? How would they deal with other people or animals? What would be their reaction to various situations? It’s important as well that their vaccinations are up-to-date.

In this article, we will be discussing several topics, like the most common potential dangers for your dogs, and factors to consider when going on a hike with them, along with a small tip to prepare you and get you through this. Let’s get into details.

Factors to consider if your dog can hike

A hiker and a dog are likely meant to be great trail buddies. It increases bonding, training, social interactions, mental stimulation, fitness, and it improves your dog’s behavior. So, if you’re planning to hike with your best furry friend, here are some factors you must pay attention to.

  • Make sure your dog is capable of hiking

Is my pet too young for hiking? Are they fit? Can they take the ground that is jagged, rough, or slippery? What are the terrains and weather conditions? Will it be extremely hot, and will there be enough shade to rest? For all of these reasons, you may question whether your dog can get through it and be capable of partaking in such an activity.

Dogs lack strength and stamina for long hikes. So, it’s important to first recognize whether your dog is capable of hiking. Even if your dogs do their best to keep up with you, they possibly risk their health or safety. So, think about what you’re asking your pet to do.

Also, check their behavior, readiness for a long hike, fitness, age, and breed (if this activity is suitable for them).

  • Vaccinations and license

Your dog’s vaccinations must be up-to-date, as dogs may encounter non-vaccinated animals while hiking, even if you stay close to them at all times.

Dog licenses should also be current. Consult your vet about your plans, including where you will be hiking, as some dogs carry additional health risks and may require additional precautions.

  • Make sure that dogs are allowed

Always check the regulations for the campground where you’re planning to hike. It’s important to know whether dogs are allowed. Some national forests and local parks don’t allow dogs on their trails, for example. In such cases, obey rules and any restrictions for some areas that are off-limits.

  • Know your dog

The first things you should consider if you’re planning to take your fur buddy with you are whether your dog can make it through the trail and how ready and prepared they are. Dogs that are not properly trained and don’t follow commands can be a danger to other hikers, wildlife, or themselves.

Also check your dog’s breed, age, and level of fitness. Some dogs are sensitive to heat, like bulldogs, and dogs like pugs have trouble breathing in warm temperatures.

Whatever the breed of your dog, they need time to adapt to the heat. So, if it’s your first time on the trail with a dog, go on a day trek and work your way up toward longer hikes.

  • To leash or not to leash?

You get to decide whether your dog could be a leashed hiker or not, but we recommend that you leash them. Not leashing your dog is one important factor to consider, as some other hikers may not feel uncomfortable when they meet you two on the trail.

It also prevents your dog from chasing wildlife and reduces the damages to the habitat that occur when dogs run off the trail. By leashing them, you can also refrain them from going out of bounds or falling into a hole.

  • Physical demands

Hiking requires a lot of physical demands, such as exploring, walking, and running.

So, if you’re going on a hike with your dog, visit a veterinarian to evaluate the general health of your pup.

It’s important to know their readiness, age, and level of fitness before taking them on the trail.

  • Dog’s needs on the trail

Plan for your dogs’ needs as well as your own when hiking. For instance, carry enough food, water, and essential items that will keep your pup comfortable, safe, energized, and hydrated.

Always have these essential items in your pack:

  • Water and water bowl
  • Dog food or snacks
  • Towel
  • Poop bags
  • Extra leash
  • First aid kit items

 

Pre-treat your dog with heartworm preventative medication as well as insecticides to prevent tick infestation and flea.

  • Dog’s water consumption

If you’re planning to go on a hike, pack enough water for you and your dog. Check your dog’s size, water intake, and fitness, as well as the humidity and temperature. They must be hydrated, but make sure not to let them drink untreated water if you run out of bottled water.

Most common dangers and threats to your dogs while hiking

Dangers are prone when hiking with a dog, and possible insecurity/threats that can harm your pet include dehydration, sunburns, heat exhaustion, water contamination, and risks from wild plants and animals. So, you better be ready and prepared for every possible danger your dog may encounter along the way.

Let’s discuss these, one by one.

  • Dehydration

Dogs can suffer from dehydration, just like humans. About 80 percent of a dog’s body is composed of water, which means staying hydrated is important for your fur buddy. They can become lethargic or may collapse if they are not hydrated.

So, while hitting the trails with them, make sure to take frequent water breaks. And if your dog seems tired after a long hike, get that water bowl out right away, as slowing down is one of the first signs of dehydration in dogs.

  • Beware of contaminated water

Many of us let our dogs drink water straight from a stream while on a hike, but most backpackers know they shouldn’t drink natural water without filtering it first. Just like for humans, contaminated water isn’t safe to drink for your pets.

Untreated water from rivers, lakes, or any water ground may carry parasites, bacteria, viruses, harmful chemicals, and any deadly contaminants that may lead to giardia, abdominal cramps, severe diarrhea, fever, or can put your dog down for days.

  • Sunburns

Sunburns are a common occurrence for pets when overexposed to ultraviolet light coming from the sun. Just like humans, dogs are sensitive to sunlight, specifically those who have thin and short fur. If they get too hot, their life is in danger.

Besides sunburns, a hot pavement could burn dogs’ paw pads. Moreover, sunburns can cause acute pain and lead to long-term health risks. Therefore, it’s important to carry a lot of water and pet sunscreens.

  • Heatstroke and exhaustion

Overheating can be life-threatening for your fur buddy. Dogs are also prone to heatstroke. When your dog is slowing down and drags their feet, it’s a sign they may be feeling too hot.

Pay attention to signs of heatstroke, like excessive panting, drooling, vomiting, reddened gums, refusal to walk, or shaking. If your dog suffers any of these symptoms, stop somewhere with shade to let them rest for 10-30 minutes, and offer them water to recover.

  • Damaged paw pads

As previously mentioned, besides sunburns, damaged paws are also a risk for your dog. A dog’s paw pads are usually tough, but a rough trail or jagged rock can tear your dog’s feet.

  • Poisonous plants and wildlife

Dogs are naturally playful. Thus, if you let them off-leash, they may come in contact with poison ivy, which can manifest on their skin and turn out to be a skin rash that causes itching in the affected area.

Aside from poisonous plants, your pet may also encounter other wild animals while out on a hike. Wild animals, such as mountain lions, rattlesnakes, bears, and other predators may get your dog into trouble. If you see or hear any signs of potentially dangerous wildlife, leash your dog immediately.

  • Hunters

Some hikers carry handguns with them to use as a means of self-protection while on the trail, and your dog could represent in danger if it’s not identified as a pet. In such cases, they could shoot your dog if they think it’s a bear or some other dangerous creature. For that, make sure your dog wears a bright collar with contact information and a bear bell, so he can be easily distinguished.

  • Hidden obstacles

Don’t let your dog out of your sight. If you are on an off-leash trail, make sure your dog stays close and pays attention to what is in their path at all times. When your pup jazzed up exploring the trail, they won’t notice if they’re out of bounds, or about to fall into a hole or hang himself on a sharp branch.

 

Conclusion

Overall, we can say that camping with your dogs is not something dangerous and troublesome. With proper preparation and understanding of important factors and risks to take note of, you’ll get to hit the trail with your safe and well-prepared furry hiking buddy.

Therefore, see to it you have read and grasp everything we’ve discussed. Make sure you pack everything you need, including hiking gear for you and your dog.

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