Days are getting a little short, there is a slight chill in the air, Autumn is here. The cooler temps provide a great opportunity to get outside and take in the beauty natuer without the crowds and heat and humidity of summer. This is a great time to take up a new hobby – hiking with your dog!
Bring water for you and your dog and doggie water bowl
Dress in layers – wear non-cotton wicking layers closest to your skin and windbreaker as your outermost layer
Bring snacks – for you and treats for your dog (think tasty tidbit for your dog, not full meal)
Try a hands free leash – they keep your dog safety on leash and let you use your unencumbered hands for balance
Wear proper footwear for the terrain you are hiking on – Eastern Mountain Sports is my go-to place for hiking footwear
Take pictures – if the scenery, your dog having fun, and of course a dog-mom/dad/kids selfie!
Get a map of the area you are planning to hike (and make sure you know how to read it :))
Make sure your dog has a secure collar with identification tags and a sturdy leash
Check with the Park Ranger – if hunting is allowed in the park, consider finding a park that does not allow hunting or wear bright orange and stay on well known and marked trails, hike as part of a group if possible
Make sure dogs are allowed in the park or area you are planning to hike – not all parks allow dogs
Even if the park or area allows off leash dogs, consider keeping your dog on leash the first few times (and ALWAYS on leash if your dog doesn’t have a rock solid recall)
Start on easy terrain for your first few hikes. Starting easy and gradually hiking more challenging terrain will make the experience more fun for you and your dog – give yourself and your dog time to learn to maneuver on steep inclines, over rocks, and around obstacles – a hike really can be more than just a walk in the woods!
Don’t over do it – too many miles too fast can result in injury/excessive soreness for you and your dog. It is no fun to realize halfway through a hike that you over-did it and now have to limp back to your car.
Remember to take breaks for water. Stop at least once per hour for a water break. Let your dog drink until he says he’s done – and while he’s drinking water your should too!
While on the Trail
Remember not everyone likes dog – be respectful of people who don’t want your dog to come say “HI!”
Not all dogs like other dogs – don’t allow your dog to visit other dogs that are overly excited, barking aggressively, or cowering away from your dog. The purpose of the hike is to bond with you, not every dog that comes down the trail.
Be prepared for the unexpected – look ahead down the trail you are on – if another dog comes, what is your plan? Have treats ready to distract your dog if needed. If you see an over-excited dog coming towards you on the trail, plan an exit strategy – don’t wait until the dogs are nose to nose to decide you need to get your dog out of there.
Watch your footing – take your time – learning to hike with a dog who may be pulling in the beginning and be over excited or distracted requires a different level of skill and coordination than just walking your dog down the street.
Cool down – don’t go from full exertion to dead stop. Gradually decrease your pace and incline so that by the time you and your dog get back in the car both of your breathing has returned to normal. Drink more water during this time too!
Water, water, water
Depending on where you hike you may need to clean your dog’s paws. Use a wet, warm towel to remove mud, debris, snow, etc. from your dog’s paws.
Take a minute to jot down a few notes about your hike – Did your dog like it? Did you? Too easy/hard/just right? Ideas for next time you hike there? Do you want to take a different route or direction next time? Anything else you should bring (or leave home)?
Share your picture on social media! You just may inspire someone else to take a hike with their dog – or you may find yourself with new hiking buddies! If you have taken a hike with your dog and want to share your pics feel free to post them on our Facebook page
Pepper’s Paws, LLC provides in home dog training in Chester County, PA. We also teach Basic to Advanced Manners classes and offer in house dog training at Dogtopia of Chester Springs.
Head trainer Deb Murray, CPDT-KA is certified by the Certification Council of Professional Dog Trainers, an AKC Evaluator, a Distinguished Graduate and Mentor Trainer of the Catch Canine Academy, and APDT C.L.A.S.S. Evaluator and Instructor.