Hiking with your dog is a super enjoyable weekend or vacation activity. Just like humans, dogs benefit greatly from outdoor exercise and interaction with nature. Hiking with a dog is easy and accessible — it doesn’t require any training or much special equipment. If you are new to taking a dog hiking, here are five tips to make sure your first outing goes smoothly.
1. Limit Hiking to Dog-Friendly Trails
While hiking is a dog-friendly activity, not all trails are open to your four-legged friend. Sometimes, trail restrictions are in place for a good reason. For instance, the popular Old Rag hiking trail in Shenandoah National Park features difficult scrambling and climbing that makes it inaccessible to dogs. Some trails are restricted to dogs because of high levels of human foot-traffic. Other trails are in areas with sensitive wildlife. It’s important to know the rules before you hit the trail.
2. Be Mindful of Leash Rules
Some trails allow dogs to run loose, but some trails, especially those in sensitive natural areas, require all dogs to be leashed. Research the leash protocol prior to arriving, and make sure to come prepared with a secure harness and leash. Even if your dog has proven capable of hiking with you off-leash, you will need to be mindful of the trail’s leash protocols and other hikers.
3. Bring a Collapsible Water Dish
Water is listed as one of the ten essentials of hiking, and this goes for your furry friend as well. Dogs may be able to sip from streams on your hiking route. However, not all water is safe to drink, even for dogs. It’s important for dogs to stay hydrated, especially on a hot day. Make sure to bring a water dish so your dog can hydrate on breaks. Collapsible dishes are a great option since they are easy to fit in your bag.
4. Stash a Supply of Poop Bags
There’s nothing like smelly dog poop to ruin an otherwise pristine trail. Cleaning up after your dog isn’t just the law — it’s an important part of respecting fellow hikers. Always make sure to stash extra poop bags so you can clean up after your dog.
5. Keep Clean-up Gear in your Car
Trails can get muddy, and while paw prints are adorable, you definitely don’t want them on your car’s interior carpeting and seats. Especially when hiking after the rain, you’ll need to be prepared for returning to your car with a muddy dog. Keep towels and other clean-up supplies handy. You can also purchase a cover for your car’s seating to prevent mud from penetrating the upholstery.
Have Fun on the Trail
Hiking with your dog is a great way for both of you to get exercise and interact with nature. Many people embark on hikes with their dogs without making the proper preparations. Always research the trail from beforehand and bring the proper supplies so you and your dog can have an enjoyable outing.