Safety Tips for Hiking with Dogs

If you're about to hit the trails and want to take your furry friend with you, there are a lot of safety precautions that need to be taken. These are some guidelines for having the best hike possible with your pup.

Gear

  • Always have more water than you think you'll need. Your dog will need to take frequent water breaks, especially if it's hot. Make sure to have something for them to drink out of, like a collapsible bowl, with you too!
  •  Always use a leash. Most trails require this anyway, but even if they don't, we think you should. It's the best line of defense between you and your pup and wild animals, plants they shouldn't be eating, or other dogs. 
  • Pack a doggie first aid kit. You can buy a pre-packed one, or you can do it yourself. If you do, make sure to bring the essentials.
    • Gauze
    • Bandages (we suggest the self-cling ones - they won't stick to your dog's hair)
    • Tweezers
    • Cotton balls or swabs
    • Ice pack
  •  Invest in a set of booties. Dogs have tough paw pads, but they aren't invincible. Booties will help protect from hot trails, rocks and thorns. These can get lost while hiking, so be sure to pack an extra set too. 
  • If it's going to be hot, get a cooling collar or cooling vest. These both work to keep your dog's body temp right where it needs to be. Depending on the size of your dog, you can decide which will work best. This website does a good job of breaking down the differences.

Before the Hike

  • Make sure their flea and tick medication is up to date. Not only are they annoying, but those little bugs can carry some dangerous diseases. It's always a good idea to check up on vaccinations too.
  • Consider rattlesnake aversion training. Especially if you're hiking in a place where rattlesnakes are prevalent, teaching your dog what to do when they spot one could save their life.
  • Practice hike first. It's always good to start off on an easier and shorter trail first to see how your dog will do in a more strenuous environment.

During the Hike

  • Bring along the number for the nearest emergency vet clinic. You never know when something might happen, and it's always good to call ahead to let them know you're coming.
  • Avoid hiking in the heat of the day. If you're hot, chances are your pup is even hotter.
  • Carry a set of tweezers. Burrs and foxtail can get caught in your dog's fur or between their toes. The worst thing is seeing your dog uncomfortable or in pain and not being able to do anything about it.
  • Try your best to stop them from eating anything in the wild. There are lots of plants out there that can be poisonous for your dog. If they do get something, take them to a vet and try to bring along a piece of what they ate. The only thing they should eat is the food and treats you brought along!
  • Do a post-hike check. Search your dog for any ticks, cuts, burrs or burns once you get back to your car.

First Aid

  • Know the ABC's of first aid. Check these three things if your dog starts acting weird, and if there's anything abnormal, go to a vet.
    • Airway - is there anything blocking the airway?
    • Breathing - are they breathing fast, slow or not at all?
    • Circulation - can you find a heartbeat?
  • Learn dog CPR. This life-saving technique could come in handy out on the trails. There are two different ways to do it, depending on the size of your dog, so check out this website to learn what's right for you guys.
  • Avoid dehydration. Take frequent water breaks and know what it looks like if your dog needs more water.
    • Sunken eyes
    • Dry mouth or nose
    • Loss of appetite
    • Weakness
    • Pale gums
  • Avoid overexertion. Take it slow and know what it looks like if your pup can't take anymore.
    • Excessive panting
    • Drooling
    • Weakness
    • Bright red gums
  • Touch their ears to check body temperature. The only way to truly know is by using a rectal thermometer with petroleum jelly (and you can bring one along in your first aid kit), but touching their ears will give you a clue if they have a fever.

And last but not least, have a good time! Hiking with your pup can be a great experience - for both of you. Just be sure to do it safely!


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