Are too many hours behind your desk, in front of the TV, and on your couch making you (and your pup) a bit bleary eyed, sluggish, and down? It may be time to get up, get out, and get moving -- because the outdoors is stil open...and it’s free!
Like us, our dogs need physical activity to stay happy and healthy. So, instead of the usual walk, why not mix things up a bit and take a hike?
Experience a scenic trail that helps you reconnect with nature and lets the sunshine in! If you and your four-legged sidekick are new to hiking, here are some tips to help ensure that you’ll both enjoy your hiking experience.
Tip #1: Recognize your limitations (and your pup's)
If your current exercise routine involves walking down your street and back again, then you might want to reconsider that 10-mile hike you’re planning! You’ll need to be able to readily and steadily hike your trail, and your dog will, too. We advise that you first get clearance from your dog’s vet, to make sure that your pooch will be able to safely and comfortably go hiking with you when the time comes. After you get the all clear, you can start by adding some extra distance to your daily walks, along with going up and down some hills to increase endurance. It won't be long before you’ll both be ready to take on a hiking trail’s rewarding physical challenges!
Tip #2: Don't go down the unbeaten path
When you’re hiking, it’s best to roam where others have roamed before. This is not the time to venture down a path that leads to the unknown, as you may possibly encounter unexpected wildlife, a thick patch of poison ivy, and very steep or dangerous terrain. Stay on a clear trail where both you and your furkid will remain sure-footed, and where you’ll most likely be visited by welcomed wildlife visitors such as squirrels and deer.
Be sure to still watch out for any animals who may become frightened when they see you or your dog, like porcupines and skunks. And just in case, be familiar with poison ivy and other plants that can be irritating to a dog with sensitive skin. Although it is rare for dogs to have a severe reaction, they can get the plant's oils on their fur and pass them along to you!
Tip #3: Pack the necessities
You’ll need to be prepared to fuel up and stay hydrated when you go hiking, and the same is true for your four-legged sidekick. Be sure to have plenty of water on hand and his pet travel bowl, so you can offer him drinks along the way. A good rule to follow is to have your dog drink 8 ounces of water for every hour of hiking. Make sure he’s drinking the water you bring and not from streams or ponds you may come across. While natural, these water sources may contain bacteria that could unfortunately make your pooch sick.
If it’s hot outside, consider packing bottles of frozen water that can offer a quick, cool relief for your dog. If he’s hungry, give him food and/or treats when you’re taking a break, or at times when you’re walking at a slower pace. This will keep his tummy calm and avoid bloating. Also, don’t forget to apply sunscreen to yourself and your dog, and bring along a first aid kit.
Other options to consider include bringing an extra layer of clothing for you and your dog (if he lets you dress him) if it’s cool outside. During warmer weather, have your pup wear a damp scarf or bandana to help him keep cool. Also, keep in mind that if it’s hunting season, you need to take measures so you both can be easily seen. Putting an orange vest on yourself and your furkid can help you both stand out. And if your dog doesn’t mind, lighten your load a bit by letting him carry his own supplies in a pet backpack!
Tip #4: Be mindful of your surroundings
Remember that the same rules apply to hiking in nature as walking in your neighborhood. Keep your pup on a leash so that other hikers and their dogs, along with the natural surroundings, are not disturbed. Be courteous and let other hikers pass you by if you’re moving at a more leisurely pace than they are. Also, be sure to clean up after your dog and don’t leave any messes behind.
Tip #5: Don’t break the rules
Last but definitely not least, make sure to follow the trail’s rules. Most places ask that you keep your pooch on a leash at all times. Don’t be tempted to stray from this rule, even if your dog normally does well off-leash. Also, plan ahead and make sure that the trail you choose allows dogs. Some, especially those located near nature preserves, may have restrictions on four-legged visitors.
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