Autumn is prime hiking weather. Cooler temperatures attract many to nature preserves and state parks to enjoy the changing foliage.
With their keen senses of hearing and smell, the family dog can make a great hiking companion. Almost any dog that is in good health and well trained to obey basic commands can be a hiking partner. The trainers at Best Friends Pet Resorts and Salons offer the following advice for getting started.
Get into training. If your dog isn’t accustomed to strenuous exercise, it’s important to start slowly. A training regimen can consist of running or walking your dog around your neighborhood, increasing the distance as you and your dog become conditioned.
Protect against parasites. Be sure your pet’s rabies vaccination and flea and tick control are up-to-date. It’s a good idea to check with your vet about other medical precautions that may be important against diseases in your region of the country, such as Lyme disease or Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Check your dog at the end of the hike to be sure he doesn’t bring any ticks home with him. A spoon-shaped tick remover, available at pet retail outlets like Best Friends, can help.
Bring extra water. Clean drinking water is essential for both you and your dog. Never let dogs drink from streams or ponds on the trail, which may contain giardia or dangerous bacteria. Carry plenty of bottled water and a collapsible water bowl, like Pack-A-Bowl, which costs about $12. Made of nylon with a waterproof liner, it is lightweight and folds flat for packing.
Be prepared. It’s a good idea to carry a first aid kit for you and your dog. You can purchase a small ready-made kit that will fit into your pack or put together basic supplies, such as alcohol wipes, antibiotic cream, and bandages, in an empty plastic or cardboard box.
Backpack your pet. Buddy can help carry his supplies with a specially-designed dog backpack. Outward Hound offers a pack that is worn like saddlebags to balance the load for about $32. Animal health professionals say a dog can carry up to 1/3 of his weight, less if the terrain is rugged. It’s important to train your dog to carry the pack. Start with it empty, so he gets used to having something on his back. Then add weight until he can handle the pack with his hiking load.
Use a leash. Most hiking areas require that dogs be leashed. Even where not required, experienced hikers recommend leashing your dog to keep him from running off in pursuit of wildlife. A 15-foot training-type lead will give the dog a little room to explore. Carry a spare collar and leash in case of breakage, and be sure your dog is wearing all of his identifying information, including your name and phone number in the event you are separated.
Clean up after Fido. It’s important to pick up after your pet on the trail. Bring along plastic bags or Bags on Board doggie clean-up bags, which run about $7, come 24 to a pack and are rolled in a small dispenser that can be attached to the dog’s leash or your back pack.
Unfortunately, irresponsible pet owners have contributed to the closing of trails to pets in a number of places. Follow posted rules, keep your dog under control and clean up after him and you will be able to enjoy great autumn hikes with your best friend for years to come.
For information on where to purchase the hiking gear in this article, go to the our centers section of the website.