A Trail Training Guide : Dog Edition
How To Hike With Your Dog :
Look outside! In case the date on the calendar hasn't already tipped you off, summer is in full swing. Which means it’s officially time for rooftop happy hours, weekends away from the home, and exploring the great outdoors with some nice, long hikes.
And you know who would absolutely love to spend that time with you?! Your dog of course!
Follow our guide to make sure you and your four-legged friend are fully ready for a fun and successful day on the trail. And if you need a little refresher on training click here for an easy self guided trail training guide.
Disclaimer: There are several links throughout the article to various recommended products. We are not affiliated with these links and are not receiving any type of compensation by you clicking the links or purchasing products. They are merely suggestions of products we absolutely love for our pets!
Hiking Boots: Protection for our dogs doesn’t often cross our minds unless it’s snowing and the sidewalks have been salted. And normally that is completely fine! Dogs' paw pads are much stronger than the skin on the bottom of our own feet so walking in various terrain isn’t as worrisome, but that doesn’t mean they are resistant to injury. If you are going to be heading to the mountains and exposing your dog to nature (sticks, rocks, water, and other potentially harmful items) it’s a good idea to invest in a pair of hiking boots!
Hiking boots might look a little silly, and your dog will certainly need some time to get used to them, but I promise it’s better than having to rush to the vet because of some unexpected injury to your dog's paws.
Click here for some ideas!
First Aid Kits : You should also be sure to keep a first aid kit handy. A majority of the kit will be useful for both you and your dog (gauze, bandages, ointment), but there are a few items that will be especially helpful if your pup sustains a small injury or sneaks a bite of something on the trail.
It’s always best to try and reach your vet first, but if you think your dog has ingested something poisonous, you’ll want to get it out of his system as soon as possible. Consider contacting your veterinarian for proper dosages on any quick remedies for ingestion. Dosages vary depending on which substance you use and the size of your dog, so do some research ahead of time.
Additionally, it’s wise to include either an eye dropper or syringe in your kit to flush wounds or administer any oral treatments.
Easy List of the essentials for hiking
A proper leash of course! Shop Here!
Appropriate footwear - both you and your dog!
Extra food +water/purification method
Rain gear, warm layers
Safety – matches/lighter, light/headlamp, whistle
First aid kit
Knife or multitool
Shelter and sun protection
A comfortable pack to carry everything in. Shop Here!
A small amount of Musher’s Secret paw conditioner/wax for their pads, just in case.
AND SAFETY LAST, TOO
After spending all day outside it’s a good idea to check your dog for ticks. All dog owners should probably do this on a regular basis anyway as ticks are becoming common in urban areas too. Ticks like to hide and often attach themselves to dark, moist areas on your dog. Check your dog’s whole body thoroughly, but pay extra close attention to the following places:
Behind, and even inside, the ears
Between the toes
Under the tail, especially at the base (yes, you know exactly where I mean…)
Around the genitals
Around the eyelids
Under the collar
WHAT DO I DO IF I SPOT A TICK ON MY DOG?
Not all ticks carry Lyme disease but if you’re unsure whether it’s a deer tick or not, you can keep the tick in a sealed jar to bring to the vet if you’re concerned later. If a tick is removed within 24 hours of biting, the risk of infection drops significantly. You can even do a bit of research on tick species in your area just to have that in your brain bank.
Tick Tools are nifty little tools you can use to remove the ticks yourself or make an appointment at your vet and have them do it for you.
WHAT DO I DO IF MY DOG GETS HURT WHILE HIKING?
Stay calm, assess the situation, make a plan and get to safety. If it’s an emergency, call for help.
Plan ahead for the what-ifs — conduct some research and consider basic first aid training beforehand. We always bring a rope, carabiners and a climbing harness (weight-rated, something sturdy with a handle if you need to lift/assist them) and we’re thankful we do! They’ve come in handy on more than a few occasions.
It’s always better to be over-prepared!
Just as you’d never forget to pack plenty of water and snacks for yourself, it’s important to bring water, food, and treats for your dog as well.
For quick morning or afternoon hikes remember to bring food and a single meal serving just in case.
For longer day trips that much outdoor activity can be exhausting for dogs - even if they seem to have endless amount of energy - and they are going to need times to refuel just like we would. On these trips bring a full days worth of food for your dog plus a little extra since they will be expending so much extra energy.
If you are taking an overnight trip your dogs will sleep plenty that night, but you’ll need to keep their energy up throughout the hike to avoid them plopping down for a mid-afternoon nap.
Pro-tip: Bring a collapsible, silicone travel bowl for food and water and reserve an extra bottle of water for emergency use only (i.e. first aid purposes).
“Take Only Pictures, Leave Only Footprints”
When we enjoy Mother Nature’s beauty, it’s best to do so respectfully and to leave the trail exactly as we found it. While your dog’s waste is perfectly fine on soil, you don’t want to ruin the day (or at least the shoes) of some unlucky hiker behind you. So remember to bring plenty of poop bags and a poop bag holder with you to free up your hands!
WHERE DO I FIND DOG-FRIENDLY TRAILS?
Before heading out on hikes it’s important to research trails that you think you might enjoy hiking and then see if they are dog friendly.
The app AllTrails is a great app to download and check out! Through this app you can search your current location and see what close options are or further distance options are. You can also see the distance of the hike, average time, elevation gain, and what the dog rules are.
They also feature reviews from others who have hiked the same trail so you can get a feel for your experience.
*** Not many dog owners know this but National Parks are fairly restrictive when it comes to allowing dogs on hiking trails. The delicate terrain, wildlife, and abundance of visitors makes this understandable. However the lands/forests surrounding the National Parks are typically full of the same beauty, similar trails and are usually a lot more dog friendly.
HOW DO I KNOW IF IT’S TOO HOT/COLD OUTSIDE FOR MY DOG?
Extreme temperatures add another challenging element to hiking and require more preparation and attention. And every dog is different in their appreciation for temperature fluctuations.
You know your dog best - do they love the snow but tend to stay indoors when it's warm outside? Or vice versa - can you barely get them outside to go potty during the winter but come summer it’s all you can do to bring them inside?
If your dog is not so much a warm weather kind of dog then best to leave them inside and skip the hikes. Here are some helpful body language tips though to help you decipher if they are loving it or not:
When dogs start to pick up their paws and stop moving forward, they’re too cold. You can try booties, coats/jackets or shorter distance hikes to keep things comfortable. Watch their pace, rate of breathing, and check in with your dog frequently to watch for changes.
Were they keeping up just fine & happy for the first few miles but have now started lagging behind? Sometimes when dogs are too hot or tired they’ll start venturing off to the side of the trail and lay down. Take a water break, find a shady spot and give them a chance to relax. If you’re hot, your dog is really hot.
CAN I TAKE MY DOG HIKING OFF-LEASH?
Some trails require that dogs remain on-leash at all times, others allow off-leash voice command. Researching which specific trail you are wanting to hike will let you know the leash rules.
That being said, training your dog for either situation (off leash / proper on leash ) is ESSENTIAL! Not only for your own safety and enjoyment but for that of others on the trail.
Every dog is different. Introducing and adjusting your dog to the mindset of “work” during hiking takes time and a lot of your attention. We suggest starting small, starting slow, and working your way up to more challenging terrain and longer distances as you and your dog progress together.
Consistency is key with your verbal cues. Practice & maintain your recall skills at home and on short walks. When in doubt, keep your dog close and on-leash.
If you would like a self guided trail training guide click here
You really never know what or who you may encounter on your hiking adventures. When you take your dog off leash, you’re putting a significant level of trust in your dog and in your ability to protect and control them. You may encounter wildlife, washed out trails, difficult terrain, other dogs, etc. If you are feeling unsure about that then best to keep your dog on leash. Long lines are an awesome option for an inbetween! They give your dog a little extra freedom like being off leash does but with the reliability of a leash. Check out some long line options here
As much as we are unconditional dog lovers, there are a lot of people out there who are not as comfortable with or interested in dogs. Be conscious & respectful of approaching hikers. Watch for body language cues.
WHAT IF WE ENCOUNTER ANOTHER ANIMAL OR ANOTHER DOG ON OUR HIKE?
Most hiker and other dog interactions are wonderful, positive and welcomed events on the trail. It’s a good idea to be prepared for any situation though and always be respectful of other hikers on the trail. We’ve encountered a few aggressive dogs or people who are fearful of dogs on the trail before. Etiquette is usually to warn oncoming hikers if you have or sense special considerations like this.
Seeing other animals can be a challenge. A lot of dogs have a strong prey drive and can see and hear things long before you do. If your dog does have a strong prey drive best to keep them on leash at all times. If you hear or see something, bring your dog a little closer and be vigilant of your surroundings.
NEED A LITTLE EXTRA HELP OR PREPARATION?
Comprehensive Self Guided Trail Training Guide : Click Here
Need some help further with recall training and trail manners? Schedule Time To Chat With Me Virtually - A Dog Trainer Who Loves Trail Training! : https://calendly.com/cassiesorensen/one-hour-virtual-training-session