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Whether you hit the trails only on the weekends or early in the morning before you head to work, hiking can be one of the most fun and enjoyable activities for a lot of people, and their dogs often enjoy this time outside too. Taking your canine companion out on a trailhead is a great source of exercise and can make for a wonderful bonding experience for the two of you, and with a little care and preparation you and your dog can get the most out of your hike together, all year round.
Safety on the trails
When it comes to outdoor excursions, safety comes first, and the best place to start is with a healthy, vaccinated dog who is protected from pests commonly found outside, like fleas and ticks. The overall health and activity level of your dog is a very important thing to consider, so before you head out on a hike, make sure your dog is up to the challenge. An older dog or a dog with health issues like arthritis or difficulty breathing may not find even an easy hike to be as enjoyable as you do.
If your dog tends to get overly excited or aggressive around other people, dogs, children, or bikes, a day on a designated trail may be more stress than it's worse for you, your dog, and your fellow hikers. Being out on a hike and away from home is not an ideal time to test the limits or obedience level of a dog, so if you worry about her health or behavior, the kinder thing will be to leave her at home with a favorite toy, and exercise her as usual before you leave or after you return home.
Know trail basics
Part of sharing a great day with your dog means sharing space with other hikers. Before you take your dog on an outing, research the trail you're about to hike and make sure she's allowed to join you, suggests the American Hiking Society. If she gets the "dogs allowed" OK, be sure to keep her on a non-retractable leash so you can pull her away from snakes or other trailside dangers she may be inspired to check out. Many parks and other public lands require dogs to be on a 6-foot or shorter leash.
This tip can also keep her out of harm's way in the event that you run into any predatory animals, keep her from getting lost if she takes off in pursuit of deer or rabbits, and can keep her from running in the way of mountain bikers, who often share the same hiking paths. Also, just because your dog is good with other dogs, and is usually fine off-leash doesn't mean every passing dog or person, will get along with her, so keep her close to avoid unpleasant encounters.
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What to pack
Just like you bring supplies to protect yourself from dehydration , sunburn, and bugs, you should plan for your dog's comfort along the trail also. Always carry a few basic essentials to keep your dog safe on a hike. If your dog is healthy and fit, buy a doggie backpack to let your pooch carry his own gear. The OneTigris Dog Pack Hound Travel Camping Hiking Backpack Saddle Bag Rucksack for Medium & Large Dogs is Amazon's No. 1 Bestseller with more than 1,500 five-star ratings. Roomy pockets, durable cotton canvas fabric and secure, adjustable straps make it a customer favorite. The product comes in sizes and styles designed for giant and small dogs, too.
Always pack a container of water and a collapsible dish to drink out of. Better yet, carry a combo unit where you can easily offer your dog water without spills. Amazon's Choice is lesotc Pet Water Bottle for Dogs, which has a silicone bowl that folds over the top. Simply squeeze water up from the 18-ounce reservoir to let your pup sip.
A snack can go a long way in keeping anyone's energy level up enough to complete a hike and your dog is no different, so if you're going to be out for more than an hour or two, be sure to pack some dog food for your pal to enjoy on a break in case he gets hungry.
Consider your dog's comfort when planning a long day outside. Short-haired dogs may need a jacket in cooler months, or if it's raining. Alternatively, sunscreen can help keep dog's exposed skin areas protected from harmful UV rays, which may become harsher if you're climbing up in elevation. Just be sure to reach for zinc oxide-free formulas created for dogs, says Banfield Pet Hospital.
Finally, every trail should be left as clean as it was when you got there. Most outdoor recreation areas require dog owners to pack out their pet's droppings and dispose of it at the trash can back at the trailhead. If the thought of carrying a sack of poop on your hike isn't appealing to you, buy a portable waste container that will seal the used poop bag inside a sanitary container for transport. Doo Doo Tube Filled Dog Waste Bag Holder locks in odors and germs and clips easily to your daypack, leash, or doggie backpack. The silicone cylinder has room for four bags of medium-sized dogs or one used bag from a dog up to 110 pounds.