As members of the Sierra Club, we are all passionate about enjoying and exploring the environment in a safe and responsible way. Many of us are also dog parents and want to take our dogs with us on these trips. For me, my dogs are my children and my constant companions. I want my dogs to have enriched, fun lives. Here are some considerations to make your dog hikes as enjoyable as possible.
First, know yourself and your dog. You must be healthy enough for the chosen activity. It is just as important to have a healthy, fit, and well-trained dog capable of hiking. This requires regular visits to your veterinarian for physical exams, appropriate vaccinations and parasite control (including flea, tick, heartworm and intestinal parasites). Training sessions help to build a strong parent-dog bond, understanding of commands and leash walking skills. Leash walking your dog is always advised to avoid injuries to them and others as well.
Before a trip, think about the trip requirements and risks to be encountered. Do your research and be prepared. Choose hikes at locations where dogs are allowed. Make sure your trips are an appropriate length and duration for your dog. Ideally, scout these places without your dog first to ensure an understanding of the environmental risks. Note the terrain, climate, plants and animals that you and your dog will have to navigate. The ten essentials are a must, and must also include items for your dog. This includes extra water and food, a bowl, first aid equipment and even clothing for cold weather. Before the trip, create an emergency plan including a list of local veterinary hospitals and their contact information. Emergency situations that require immediate care can include snake or insect bites, limping (fracture), lacerations (bleeding), overheating (heat exhaustion or stroke), and allergic reactions. Always play it safe. Besiders emergencies, think about your dogs’ comfort. Find local dog-friendly restaurants and hotels for meals and lodging if you plan extended trips.
While hiking, always have your dog on a leash! I recommend a six foot leash and ideally a chest harness such as the Sporn ro Ruffwear harnesses for control. It is important to be aware of your surroundings at all times. Be a responsible dog hiker by staying on trails and sharing the trails with others. At narrow areas, pull to the side of the trail to allow others to pass. Also, follow the leave no trace principles and carry poop bags to pack out your dog’s stool. Make regular stops to allow for rest and water beaks. Remember, dogs don’t sweat through the skin, they pant to cool down. If you are hot and tired, chances are your dog is even hotter and equally tired. Avoid overheating and be prepared to soak your dog with water and rest in the shade.
Our dogs are our family. Having them with us strengthens our family bond and enriches all our lives. Keep exploring and enjoying the outdoors safely and responsibly.