If you enjoy hiking and are a dog owner, then you and your furry sidekick are destined to be great trail buddies. Many pet owners also choose to venture out on the trail for a change of scene from their normal visit to the dog park. But, especially at first, your hiking companion is going to need a lot of care, feeding and preparation to stay safe. Before you hit the trail with your dog, make sure you are well equipped to ensure a wonderful experience in the outdoors for both you and your pup.
First, don’t assume that all trails are dog friendly. Always check a local park website for rules and restrictions before you set out on a hike to avoid encountering a stiff fine or dangerous terrain. It pays to practice the National Parks B.A.R.K. rule wherever you hike with your pet. The B.A.R.K. rule stands for: Bag your pet’s waste, Always leash your pet, Respect wildlife, Know where you can go. Picking up after your dog is important hiking etiquette because it can cause problems for local creatures and can even impact the local water supply. The second B.A.R.K. rule should apply in almost every hiking situation. Keeping your dog on a short leash is important for safety, courtesy, and control. Also keep in mind that while your pet may be playful and friendly off leash there are many dogs who are not as comfortable around a stranger. An off-leash dog can disappear out of sight, and if you can’t see what your dog is doing, you can’t prevent them from getting into trouble, like encountering a wild animal or eating something dangerous.
For an enjoyable hike, you should also come prepared with appropriate dog hiking gear. Some suggested items to bring include poop bags, collar with ID tags and a sturdy 6-foot leash, dog food or snacks and dog booties for hiking in rough terrain. Always keep in mind the 1for1 pet hydration rule which states your dog should be drinking 1 ounce of water for every pound they weigh per day and when hiking, that needs to go up. For a large dog, that would be half a gallon or more per hike, or more than four standard bottles of water. An easy walk harness or 6-foot leash allows your pet to have ample mobility while on the trail and keep them safe from unexpected encounters with wildlife. Proper hiking etiquette also includes planning your hikes for optimal weather for you and your pet. Remember that dogs are the only hikers wearing a fur coat. Hiking in overly hot weather should be avoided, as dogs are much more susceptible than humans to the dangers of excessive heat. Aim to plan your hikes around early mornings or evenings since even 70 degrees can cause exhaustion for pets. Follow these tips and enjoy even more travel experiences with your pets!
Written by: Alessandra Navidad, CEO of Arizona Animal Welfare League