Now spring is underway and summer is almost here, the return of beautiful, sunny days is often the ideal occasion to go for long walks with your dog. Hiking enthusiasts can even consider practicing this sport with their pet, provided they follow a few rules.
If you wish to preserve your dog's health as well as the safety of other hikers, then it's best to not be spontaneous and take precautions. If you're thinking of trying this new activity with your dog, follow these five basic tips and they may be soon asking for more.
1. Make sure your dog is fit and healthy enough for a hike
More than simply a stroll, a hike is considered a sport and requires a basic level of fitness, from humans as well as dogs. If your dog isn't used to long walks and prefers their bed, then it's important not to overdo it on their first hike.
To increase their stamina, you can start by lengthening their usual walks, getting them used to hills and slopes, running a little more and perhaps playing or running with them too, improving your endurance along the way.
If you dog isn't used to going on a lead or isn't always very obedient when they're free, make sure you take the time to train them to avoid any problems with other hikers.
Source: Steve Dale pet world
Before you start, perhaps make an appointment with your veterinarian to ensure that they are in good health, up to date for their vaccines and microchipped.
If your hike is taking place at a high altitude, be careful of the affects this could have on your dog. Keep a close eye on your pet: a strong panting, a pace that slows significantly and other signs of fatigue should alert you.
A dog will not stop unless you are completely unable to move forward, so it's up to you to be alert. Do not hesitate to take a long break or stop the hike if your dog seems to be suffering.
2. Gearing up to hike with your dog
To be prepared for all eventualities, having the right equipment is very important for all hikers, even dogs. Here is the available walking equipment for your dog:
- Food and water: Bring bowls. Folding and lightweight models are recommended for easy transport.
- Something to pick up your dog's droppings: You have to pick them up, even on hiking trails.
- A collar with an engraved tag: If your dog runs away, a tag with your details will allow someone who finds him to contact you quickly. This does not replace a chip or other forms of identification.
- A harness and a lead: A harness is recommended to avoid hurting your dog's neck. A collar is essential for walking your dog in areas where they are not allowed to roam.
- A first aid kit for dogs: with scissors, tweezers (to remove thorns, splinters …), a "pull-tick", latex gloves (to handle the dog without risk), disinfectant, cotton, gauze, tape, a metering pipette (to rinse a wound accurately or administer medications), a thermometer, a muzzle (to avoid bites if you handle your dog), a blanket.
- An emergency veterinary contact: Plan to be able to contact a veterinary service in all circumstances.
- Sun-cream for dogs: If you are hiking with your short-haired dog in summer or your dog is particularly sensitive to the sun, then don't forget to protect them.
- Dog shoes: If your dog has fragile pads, you may want to consider putting on some suitable boots. However, plan to get them used to it before their first hike.
- A backpack for dogs: Medium to large dogs can carry some of their equipment themselves with a dog backpack. The weight of the load must not exceed 20% of its total weight and must be well adjusted so as not to hurt their back. Just like with the shoes, make sure you dog is used to the bag before leaving.
- An orange gilet for dogs: If you're walking during hunting season, a fluorescent gilet may be essential in ensuring that your dog is easily distinguishable from other animals.
3. Train your dog to hike and train yourself
Training your dog to hike
Hiking is often synonymous with freedom in nature for your dog. To make sure the whole hike runs as smoothly as possible, your dog must be trained.
Firstly, they must be able to walk on a lead without pulling. Without being able to do this, they could very quickly tire themselves out, and bring the hike to a premature end.
Source: Long Haul Trekkers
If you decide to let your dog off the lead, make sure they always listen to your call and always keep them in your field of vision. A dog can very quickly be distracted, excited or become aggressive because of a wild animal, another dog or another walker.
Don't let your dog approach another person's dog without their permission. Even if your dog is well trained, the other dog could feel threatened. Don't force another walker to make contact with your dog, hold them back.
If you have any fear, you can keep your dog on their collar during the whole hike.
Behaviour to adopt when you see another dog on your hike
While it is important to train a dog for a successful hike, it is equally important to learn how to behave in the face of an unknown dog in the same situation.
Avoid running past a dog, stopping abruptly in front of him, or reacting sharply if you are surprised or scared. In the face of unexpected human behavior, a dog may feel assaulted and react quickly.
To avoid this situation, the easiest solution is to just keep walking when you walk near a dog. If you see that you are going to overtake a dog that has not seen you yet, you can warn their owners so they can call him back.
If you see a dog that seems aggressive and you do not see their owner nearby, the best thing to do is to turn around and turn back. You will be able to find another way or leave time for their owner to take care of their dog.
4. Be prepared for the dangers nature poses to your dog
Parasites are one of the many dangers for your dog and they will become particularly exposed to them while hiking.
Make sure your dog doesn't go near any processionary caterpillars as even the smallest of touches can cause serious damage.
Beware of fleas and ticks, control your dog's coat when returning from hiking and until a few days later. Fleas can cause allergic reactions and ticks can cause serious diseases such as piroplasmosis or Lyme disease.
Also beware of mosquitoes that can transmit diseases such as canine heartworm .
5. Finding a place to hike with your dog
Not all hiking trails are open to pets. National parks, for example, do not allow dogs, even on collars. Some regional natural parks allow them, but only on a collar to avoid frightening wildlife.
On the rest of the trails, the law does not oblige to keep your dog on a collar. However, it forbids "straying", that is to say that a dog walks without being within sight or shouting distance of their owner. If a dog causes damage, their owner will be held responsible.
Now it's up to you to find the right course for you and your dog.