Hiking With Your Dogs- A Guide For Beginners
Whether you’re meandering through a forest, frolicking on the beach or finding your way to the tallest mountains, you are experiencing wilderness. Wilderness is such a broad term, and I mean that in the most respectful way. Wilderness is the wild, people are replaced with flowers and commercial buildings replaced with trees; it could even be described as a state of peace and acceptance.
My favorite way to enjoy my own wilderness is hiking with my dogs; Boone and Crockett. Hiking alone is a great challenge, and even greater of a challenge is hiking with your dogs. I’m selling you on it, right? Well, before I plummet too fast, let me tell you how incredibly rewarding it is to have your furry-friends along for the trek.
Dogs Make Everything Better
Am I wrong though?
Hiking is pretty spectacular all on its own; summit views, feelings of accomplishment, and endless amounts of guilt-free treats, but something that makes it much more special is sharing all of this with your dogs (they of course have their own goodies).
Watching my boys romp around on the trail with their tongues out and their noses working is a beautiful sight. Dogs need adventure just as much as people (maybe more). New smells and the exploration of different terrain mentally stimulates them. So next time you’re out for a walk, let your pup(s) lead the way, let them stop and sniff the flowers, they will be that much more tired, trust me.
If you have concern that your dog may be an uncommon breed for hiking, don’t fear! Your capable canine will be more resilient that you can imagine on the trail. I have seen everything from Chihuahuas to Beagles to Saint Bernards on the trail, and as long as you know your dog’s abilities then you should be able to tailor any hike to fit them in! I always have a rule: “If I go, they go.”
You Have The Pup, But Do You Have The Product?
Let’s chat about gear.
This area can be as simple or complex as you’d like, dependent on the level of hiking you are doing. The standard gear you would need is collar/halter, leash, and a water bowl (plus tons of water and treats). You can expand this gear to accommodate for harsh conditions (hot/cold weather) or longer treks and include jackets, boots, and packs (that they wear!).
If hiking with your dog is new, then start basic and get a good collar or halter (halter- only if the dog does not pull when on lead), and a leash that you either wear around your waist or are comfortable holding. That’s it!
And when you are ready to venture deeper, there are so many resources out there to make your pup(s) feel comfortable and safe for any occasion.
Leash or No Leash?
The big controversy! Should your dog be let loose or be tethered to you at all times?
This topic always holds great discussion. The first thing I would advise is to know the area you will be hiking in- is there a rule to have dogs on leash? Some forests will say that your dog needs to be under voice command, while others are strict about leashing your dogs.
With the “law” taken into consideration, think about your pup. Does he/she have good recall? Is he/she dog/people friendly? Do you feel safe with your dog off leash- meaning they aren’t going to eat something toxic, or bother wildlife? If you’re unsure, it is better to play it safe and have your dog leashed.
There may be areas where it could be dangerous to be attached to your dogs (ladders, slides, steep or wet sections). If you do encounter this and don’t feel safe proceeding, turn around..the mountains will always be there. If you’re obligated to take your dog off leash to access certain areas, make sure you have your dog remains under voice command and assist them safely through these tricky sections. Most online apps (Alltrails being the most popular) will state whether ladders are on certain trails or if the trail is dog friendly.
There Is A Book For Everything
One of my favorite things to do is research; research the areas I want to hike, pick up a guide for hiking with dogs at a local bookstore and even chat with fellow hikers on where they like to bring their dogs.
Another helpful tip I recently learned is when in doubt, pull up google maps and check out the nearest green areas and go for an adventure. This is a great way for you and your dog to explore through the unknown and find new places (new places = new smells).
You have your pack (both dog and on your bag kinda-pack), you have your destination, gear and most importantly you’ve got the treats (food, and water)..now the best piece of advice is to have fun. Be present- in the moment, take breaks often and really absorb all of the surrounding beauty, bring poop bags (or at least bury the poop with a stick and dirt!), and most of all stay pawsitive.
Ciara, B & C