See the world through fresh eyes: your dog’s. One of my favorite memories is of a hike we took with our dog Bella at Yosemite National Park. If it hadn’t been for her, we would never have seen the mule deer grazing just a few yards away. Dogs see, hear and smell things that our puny senses would never pick up, making them perfect companions for exploring the great outdoors.
There’s no easier way to spend time outdoors with your dog than to go on a hike. Even if you live in a big city, there’s a good chance that you have easy access to pet-friendly,good hiking trails no more than a half-hour drive away. It’s a great way for both of you to shake the kinks out from your flights.
Any dog can hike as long as you condition it slowly and choose trails suited to its abilities. For instance, stick to mostly flat trails for short-faced dogs such as Pugs. For any dog, start slow and work up to long distances. A dog’s skeletal development isn’t complete until 18 to 24 months of age, and gradual conditioning will help avoid the risk of orthopedic problems. Here are 10 tips on making your hikes fun and safe.
1. Bring a quart of water each for you and your dog. To serve it, tote along a folding water bowl made of nylon or other flexible material.
2. Pack a snack in case you’re out longer than expected. Your dog will enjoy a couple of “sandwiches” made of dog biscuits smeared with peanut butter.
3. Hike with your dog on leash, but in case he gets loose, teach him to respond to a whistle. The sound will carry farther than your voice.
4. Identify your dog with tags and a microchip. Tags are easily visible, but they can be removed. A microchip is always there.
5. If your dog wears a backpack, choose one that fits well—not too tight or too loose. You should be able to fit two to four fingers between the straps and your dog’s body.
6. Carry a small first-aid kit with bandaging material, tweezers, eyewash, 25 mg Benadryl tablets, antibiotic ointment and a silver nitrate stick to stop bleeding from small cuts.
7. Before you set out, apply citronella insect repellent to your dog’s coat and dog-safe sunscreen to his ears and nose. If he has a thin or light-colored coat, put sunscreen all over the body to prevent sunburn.
8. Bring bags to carry out your dog’s waste. Don’t leave it to foul the trail or nearby water sources.
9. Hike on cool mornings, not in the heat of the day. Dogs can become overheated more quickly than you think.
10. Turn back before your dog gets tired. If your dog is panting heavily, has a swollen tongue or refuses to continue, he’s already exhausted.
11. Bonus tip: Have fun!
By Kim Campbell Thornton for Pet Airways