Having good company while hiking or trekking is essential, especially if the walk lasts several days. So why not go hiking with your four-legged friend? Walking a mountain with your dog can be an enjoyable and healthy experience for both of you.
But you must take precautions. Although your dog may seem hardy, you need to make sure he’s healthy enough for the trip, be prepared for weather changes, and comply with the area’s regulations.
If you enjoy the great outdoors, imagine the adventure it will be to take your furry friend along.
Here are 17 tips for trekking with a dog:
1. Endurance and good health
Start by focusing on your dog’s health. Make sure your dog is prepared for the physical effort involved in hiking in the mountains.
Before planning the walk, consider your dog’s age, weight, breed, health history, and trail conditions.
Not all dogs are capable of taking long walks or climbing mountains with ease.
If your dog is small and short-nosed, like pugs, bulldogs, terriers, or Pekingese, it is best to check with your vet before taking him on a hike.
Large breeds such as Great Danes, Dalmatians, or German Shepherds can better handle the journey, although you should also regularly check their heart rate to make sure trekking isn’t too much exertion.
2. Bring water for your dog
Obviously, trekking with dogs involves bringing their food and water, but how much? Walking for hours makes it necessary to increase the usual amount of water and food.
The amount of water your dog should drink per day is based on how much he weighs. Normally calculate about 70 ml per kilo or 2.36 ounces per 2.20 pounds. Thus, if your dog weighs 20 kg or 44 pounds, he should drink about a liter and a half or about 80 ounces. But if you exercise, increase this amount, and even more so if trekking on a warm day.
One trick is to observe your dog’s nose. If it is dry, then your dog is not sufficiently hydrated. Be sure to give your dog water throughout your hike to prevent him from getting dehydrated.
3. Check park regulations before you go
Many national parks prohibit the entry of animals but in those that do allow dogs, most require the dog to be leashed.
If you don’t know the spot where you plan to hike, you can use websites like BringFido.com to find dog-friendly hiking trails worldwide.
These kinds of details make the difference between a satisfying trip and one ruined by a lack of information and planning.
4. Bring a first-aid kit
Bring along a first-aid kit that contains not only emergency essentials for you, but also for your dog.
In these situations, you must be prepared with what is necessary to apply first-aid for your dog and treat the emergency until you can get your dog to the veterinarian’s office.
Don’t forget to include antihistamines, gauze, bandages, and rubbing alcohol. You must check the internet about local animals, insects, or poisonous plants that may be dangerous to your dog.
Tweezers can be useful for removing thorns or spikes. A nail clipper is essential if the route is long. Long nails can dig into our dogs’ paws or tear the tent.
Some people who hike with dogs also carry medications to stop diarrhea. If you have doubts about using these instruments or medicines, it is better not to use them. Check with your vet for advice before your hike.
5. Provide parasite prevention
If you want to have an outdoor adventure with your dog, you should consider the possibility of him getting sick.
Calm down; this is just one possibility that should not make you give up spending a great day with your dog.
The idea refers to the fact that in the rivers and lakes, some bacteria and parasites can damage your dog’s health.
One of the most common illnesses is leptospirosis, which causes flu-like symptoms and can be fatal.
Another prevalent parasite is the roundworm that lodges in the intestine of the animal. It is very dangerous since it is easily contagious. Just stepping on the contaminated soil or licking a surface will be enough.
One of the most feared is heartworm, very common in southern or eastern Europe. This is transmitted through mosquito bites. Once implanted, heartworms live in the heart and blood vessels in the lungs. They can be up to 30 centimeters long.
6. Make sure your dog´s vaccinations are up to date
Your dog must have his vaccination record in order, but this may not be enough. Hiking with dogs is easy for them to drink from lakes or ponds without us noticing.
These waters may be contaminated by other animals’ feces, which poses a risk of contracting certain bacteria such as leptospirosis. In this way, if you do frequent hiking routes or you are going to do an extensive backpacking route with your dog, you should ask our veterinarian if it is necessary to administer any other vaccine.
7. Use flea and tick repellent
To avoid fear and paranoia taking over you during the walk, spray a little repellent on your dog’s skin; this way, you will keep fleas and ticks away from him.
It is important to remember to apply flea and tick protection at least 48 hours before the trip to be safe for your dog.
If you do not have any repellent within reach, use items you have in your cupboard. You only need 1 cup of white vinegar or apple cider vinegar, 4 cups of water, and 3 drops of lavender oil. Mix everything and apply with a spray bottle.
8. Pack your dog’s collar and leash
Although most parks have regulations on the use of the collar and leash for dogs, you should always take your dog on the leash.
Avoid using a retractable leash on the trail. Short leashes offer better control.
9. Consider a dog backpack
Surely you would never have imagined that your dog could take his own backpack for the walk. Although it sounds strange, this accessory is as functional as it is original.
You can place items in the dog backpack that your dog needs but remember the weight in the pack should not exceed 25 percent of your dog’s weight, especially if the walk will be very long or in the summertime. Remember your dog is not a pack animal.
You can store everything from water to dog food in the backpack, so feel free to take your furry companion with you to the campsite, on your backpacking trip, or to climb with confidence.
These bags are comfortable; some are padded and have several pockets to carry everything he needs. The important thing is that you balance the load so as not to bother him.
A good backpack for dogs fits him completely but is not too tight. There are more and more backpacks for dogs that have a wide range of sizes. Normally, sizes are set based on chest size. Measure the dog at the widest part of the rib cage using a measuring tape.
When placing the backpack, make sure it’s not too tight and doesn’t hinder your dog’s movements. It also can’t be too loose, which could rub or slip.
Get your dog used to wearing a backpack
Your dog must get used to carrying a backpack before going out. First, put the empty backpack at home. The dog should adjust to wearing the pack quickly.
Once the pack no longer bothers your dog, try taking him for a walk with the empty pack. If your dog associates wearing the pack with something fun like walking, he’s less likely to reject it.
Later you can slowly add some weight (in a balanced way in both saddlebags). Gradually increase the weight until you reach a load similar to what you will have to carry on the hiking or trekking route.
10. Consider a rain jacket for dogs
Just as you put on the right hiking shoes and clothing, dogs also need clothing for trekking.
A rain jacket, for example, can help protect your dog during a rainy hike.
11. Don´t forget to carry a bowl
Just as you carry enough food to endure the journey, your furry friend also needs food and water.
Folding bowls are lightweight and, of course, inexpensive. They are easily washable and can be carried in any pocket thanks to their small size.
They are generally made of plastic or silicone to make them lighter and more durable.
12. Bring food for your dog
Double the amount of food your dog would normally eat to meet his calorie needs after exercise.
Calculate the amount of food for hiking based on the tables found on the food package. Normally, these tables use calculations based on your dog’s weight and activity. Choosing your dog’s weight and the high activity column, you will find the amount you need per day.
In addition to these general guidelines and your veterinarian’s advice, you must consider your own needs. If you need to stop to drink or eat, perhaps your dog needs it too.
Be sure to bring appropriate food for your dog so you’re not tempted to feed him foods you shouldn´t share with your dog.
13. Don´t forget your dog´s blanket
If the trip is overnight, don’t forget to include a blanket to keep your furry friend warm.
However, if the adventure will be during the day, you can use the dog’s blanket for rest breaks to protect your pooch from heat or rough surfaces.
14. Take sunblock for dogs
Like humans, animals can get sunburns so bring sunscreen along for both of you.
Areas such as ears, nose, and abdomen tend to overheat because they do not have hair to cover them and therefore are susceptible to serious burns.
If you plan to take your dog outdoors regularly, it is advisable to consult your veterinarian to recommend an effective sunscreen to protect him.
15. Consider using GPS for dogs
Especially in cases where the dog is not used to being out, using GPS is a fairly functional tool that can prevent your dog from getting lost or help you find him if you get separated.
A GPS collar communicates with the controller used by the dog owner.
16. Educate your dog
No matter how remote the area you have chosen to walk is, chances are good you will run into other people and more dogs on the way.
That is why your dog must be trained to deal with strangers.
Hiking with dogs requires that they obey your commands and be able to remain calm. Although your dog must obey in any environment, it’s especially important in the mountains. Horses, goats, bicycles, other dogs, people, children, and even wild animals may appear on the trail. With all that stimuli, it’s critical to control your dog’s behavior.
You need to make sure your dog won’t try to dart off-trail or impulsively jump into mountain streams or ponds.
17. Take sturdy bags to collect poop
Responsible dog owners carry bags to collect poop. Cleaning up after your dog is especially important when trekking with your dog.
Poop can disturb other hikers. But also, and more importantly, dog droppings can damage the natural environment by containing bacteria and parasites that can contaminate the soil, water or be passed to other species.
Carry poop bags and if possible, pack them back out. If you can’t carry them with you, use a small shovel to bury the poop bags several feet off the trail. Your goal is to leave the area the way it was when you arrived.
Trekking with your dog
Hiking with your dog can be fun for both of you if you take the proper precautions. Make sure your dog is healthy enough for trekking, bring enough food and water, and plan to follow the rules of the area your visit.
Dace Lace is the co-founder of dogfoodsite.com. She is an animal advocate and nutrition specialist.