Dogs love going on walks, so it seems natural that they'd make perfect hiking companions. However, you can increase the odds of a safe and pleasant hike for you and your pet by following these safety tips.
1. Make sure your dog is wearing ID tags. Losing your dog on a hike is a worst-case scenario, but be prepared for that possibility by making sure he's wearing up-to-date ID tags. If you're away from home and staying in a hotel or campground, putting that information on a tag can help you get reunited with you dog as quickly as possible.
2. Stay current with veterinarian checkups. Make sure your dog has all his vaccinations and meets other canine medical requirements so that he'll be protected out in the woods. Mosquitoes transmit heartworms, for example. Check your dog regularly for ticks and consider bringing a tick comb along on your hike.
3. Get your dog in shape before your hike. If you're planning to go on all-day hikes, give your dog time to build up to it. Just like humans, dogs need to get conditioned to increase their endurance. Keep in mind that puppies less than one year old shouldn't go on long hikes because their muscles and bones are still developing. According to the Kennel Club, a rule of thumb is to walk a puppy for no more than five minutes of exercise per month of age and no more than two times per day. A fully grown dog can go for much longer walks.
4. Check your dog over after a hike. Look over your dog carefully for signs of bites, ticks and wounds. Pay particular attention to the dog's paws in case they've caught any small stones in them or gotten cut on rough terrain. Pack tweezers with you for removing thorns or ticks. Adhesive bandages and a sock can be wrapped around an injured paw. Also, bring small scissors or a razor to remove fur from around a wound if needed.
5. Pack water and let your dog help carry it. You know it's crucial that your dog stays hydrated and fed. Your dog can help carry his supplies with a dog pack. Naturally, the dog will need to get used to wearing and carrying supplies, so again, be sure to condition your dog before a long hike. Young, healthy dogs can carry 10 to 15 percent of their weight. If a dog is old or has a medical condition, the kinder thing might be to leave him at home if you're going on a long or strenuous hike.