HIKING WITH YOUR DOG: WHERE TO START?
By: Rachel Novak & Laika bear
You might be thinking how you can start introducing your dog to the trails? Well, it’s simple. First, make sure your dog is healthy. They might be interacting with unfamiliar dogs and people, exposed to elements they might not encounter in their normal environment, and they might be forced to conquer obstacles that require significant physical exertion. Having your dog up to date on shots, heartworm medication, and flea/tick preventative is a good idea before hitting a trailhead.
Younger dogs and puppies should be limited to very short hikes with few obstacles (puppies after their final set of shots-1 year old). Some larger breed puppies take even longer to develop and weight-bearing packs should be limited in use until they are fully mature (sometimes up to 2-2.5 years old). Older dogs might need to be restricted to certain distances and terrain due to joint and mobility issues, but this should be gauged based on their performance during hikes. Start slow and determine what the best distance is for your dog. Consult with your veterinarian on your plans before hitting the trails, and once you get the all clear, the sky is the limit and adventuring is what you make it!
So, you have the all clear for adventuring. Now what? Next, you need to know your dog’s personality and requirements inside and out! You need to understand their behavior, body language, and general needs. Is your dog social? Do they like other dogs? Maybe a little too much? How’s their recall and leave it commands? These are things that need to be understood and worked on to ensure your trail etiquette is ready for the real deal. The number one rule when it comes to trail etiquette and hiking with dogs is DO NOT let your off-leash dog run all over the place without rules! If your dog is off-leash, the general rules you need to follow are always in sight and always under control! There’s nothing more unsafe than an out-of-control dog that is so far out of sight from its owners that they have no clue what their dog is actually doing. DON’T be that person! Having a dog off-leash is a privilege, not a right. Be respectful, be responsible, and have fun! If your dog isn’t ready for off-leash exploring, that’s perfectly ok. Know your dog and their limitations. Remember, hiking with your dog is a fun, bonding activity!
You have the all clear from your veterinarian, up to speed on your training and trail etiquette, now you think what the best gear for my adventure buddy is? I could go on and on about all of the equipment we use, but for those looking to get their paws wet for the first time, I always recommend Ruffwear. Ruffwear is your one-stop-shop for everything from leashes and collars to packs and paw protection. We have gear from them that has lasted years without fail! Check them out: http://www.ruffwear.com