I’m am always happy to see how many people hit the trials with their closest companion, their dog. Dogs are a great hiking partner. They go wherever you go, and they are always close by your side. They won’t bail on you when the weather gets rough, and they’ll never nag you about that wrong turn you made back there. I mean, who else is more loyal? Who else will blindly follow you down those long trials in the worst of conditions? They are there till the end, but they aren’t always prepared.
I’m always amazed, and even saddened at how many people don’t properly prepare for a hike with their pet. There should be certain considerations and preparations that are made before you hit the trial with your furry companion. I’ve detailed some of the basics.
Your pets health.
Dogs are tough, rugged, and they’ll never complain, but that can be a problem. Dogs are insanely loyal, and they’ll follow you way past the brink of exhaustion, and discomfort. You need to be the judge of what you pet needs, even when the signs aren’t there.
1. Consider breaks. Most dogs spend a great portion of their time stationary, waiting for you to get home. Often times, even if they are lean and fast, they are not in shape for a once a week, or month 6 mile trek in the woods. Schedule breaks for your little buddy, even if he’s looking perky. A panting dog looks energetic and happy, but he could easily be suffering and gasping for air instead.
2. Consider water. Dogs actually need a lot of water, anywhere between one half, and full ounce per pound of body weight daily. This increases when your dog is active. Plan for a full day of water for your pet, and carry it with you. A larger, more muscular dog may need even 2 ounces per pound when very active. If you’re staying the night, plan for the next day as well.
3. Consider food. Your dog will get the munchies on a trial, just like you do. When a dog is active, it’s metabolism jumps, causing it to burn a ton of calories per day. Pack in a days worth of food, plus at least 20%. Watch how much your dog eats in a normal day, and 20 percent, and pack this in. Bring more if you’re staying over night on a trail. Consider snacks for your dog as well, an active dog needs more nutrition. Keeping your dog well fed will also help to keep him or her cool or warm in more demanding weather conditions.
4. Consider your dogs feet. When hiking on hard, cold, icy ground, or hot ground, your dog needs protection too. Buying protective wear for your pet isn’t going the extra mile, it is doing what is necessarily. A dog, especially who’s life is spent mostly indoors, will have soft tender feet. Sending your pal down a rock studded trial unprotected, is just like you running across those same rocks barefoot. It will get painful, and dogs can even develop blisters. Do some research and find something that works for your pet. They make amazing, light boots for around 30 bucks. Also consider, your dog probably needs to break these in before hitting the trial to avoid the pains of adjusting to footwear.
5. Warmth. When camping or hiking in the winter, your dog will often need some source of warmth. That thin layer of fur may suffice for cool fall days, but it’s no competition for the sharp cold. There are small, light weight dog sleeping pads that can be purchased, or pick up a light weight sleeping bag silk liner. You could temporarily donate your nice warm jacket while you sleep, and even throw in an activated Hot Hands in there for good measure. Anything you can do to help protect your pet from that frigid cold will be much appreciated when your dog settles in for a nice nights sleep. You can even purchase a larger sleeping bag and let your best friend in at night. Whatever works, get creative.
6. Ticks. Thanks to one of my favorite followers for this tip. Ticks! Always take the time to check your dog for ticks after your hike. Ticks carry many diseases, and can cause a lot of discomfort on your little buddy. If you catch them quickly, they are easily removed. To remove a tick, take tweezers, and grasp the little booger as close to the skin as possible. Pull straight up, without twisting or rotating. This will remove the tick easily, hopefully without leaving anything behind. Clean the area around the bite immediately. If the mouth parts are left behind, remove them with tweezers if possible. If you can’t easily remove them, leave them alone and let the skin heal.
Protecting your pet.
Your pet often needs, and requires a leash. Dogs can easily run off, into dangerous streams, rivers, waterfalls, and into the paths of other animals. Snakes, bear, wolves, porcupines, and other animals pose a threat to your pet. Your pet probably isn’t nearly as aware of the dangers in the back country as you are. Keep this in mind when hiking with him/her. While no one wants to keep a pet on a leash, it is often times a necessity to prevent your dog from getting into a bad situation. Other dogs also can pose a grave threat to your pet. Some parks even require leashes, and not abiding by the regulations can result in a steep fine.
Gear for your pet.
There is a surprising array of pet products designed for hiking and camping.
Companies now offer great backpacks that your pet can carry, to pack in some of their weight in food and water. Be careful to not overload your pet, especially at first. Break your pet in by adding a little weight at a time so he or she can get used to it. Starting out, your pet should never carry more than 15-20 percent of it’s body weight on a trial. Consider your own weight, and figure up 20 percent of that. Heavy huh? The dog probably feels the same way. Eventually, you can work your way up to allowing the pet to carry more, up to around 30%. But for now, be a man (or woman) and carry some extra ounces.
These are just some of the things you can, and should do for your pet. Consider the fact that your best friend feels every mile, just like you do. Plan, and prepare so that your pet can have just as great an experience as you do.
Your pet considers you his best friend, treat them that way.
Happy trails to both you, and your companion.