If you are a hiker and a dog owner, then you know there is nothing better than hitting the trials with your furry friend. And for most dogs, a trek in the great outdoors is ...the best thing since a peanut butter stuffed Kong. But as a dog owner, it's important to be mindful of your dog's endurance and fatigue during your hike - and preparation is key.
Let’s explore some necessary gear to consider to make your hiking trip safe and enjoyable for you and your dog.
1. Dog Pack
The versatile dog pack is a fantastic addition to any hike. The goal is to make sure you find a pack that fits your dog properly, and get him used to wearing it before your trip.
Before you head out to your local REI or outdoor store to purchase, measure the circumference of your dog’s chest to find the right size. Make sure the straps are sturdy around his body, but not so tight that he can’t breathe. A good rule of thumb is that you should be able to fit two fingers underneath the pack when it’s on your dog.
Start by introducing the pack to your dog with treats and praise so he builds positive association. Let him wear it around the house for a bit, and as he gets used to it, try taking him outside on a walk while he is wearing it. Gradually increase the weight to get him comfortable. It’s safe to put about 20-25% of your dog’s body weight in the pack - but always check with your vet first.
2. Tick and Flea Preventative
If you are hiking in deep woods and brush be sure to use a tick preventative on your dog to protect them from the many diseases these critters carry. Ticks are waiting for prey in the grass and brush alongside many trails, so be wary -- especially when Fido is off-leash. There are many different types of preventatives so be sure contact your vet before letting Fido explore the woods and be prepared with a comb to check their coat following your hike.
3. First-Aid Kit
Accidents can happen anywhere - especially in the great outdoors. Make sure to pack a First-Aid kit for you and your dog. Think of including the basics, like absorbent gauze pads, antiseptic wipes, thermometer, tweezers, etc, but also plan for the worst case scenario.
4. Hiking Booties
Booties might look a little silly (and cute), but they can protect your dog’s feet from hot surfaces, snow, sharp rocks, and thorns. Nine times out of ten, booties won’t be necessary because most dogs have paws that were built to withstand the elements. But some dogs can benefit from booties if they have furry feet that easily collect ice or rocks between their toes.
Many dogs will flat out refuse to wear booties, so try them out at home first and make sure you get your dog used to them. But just like a baby with socks, dog’s will lose these - so make sure to pack spares!
5. Dog Jacket or Sweater
Even if the temps are warm, it’s always smart to pack a dog coat or sweater in case mother nature turns on you. If you are hiking in higher elevations, weather can be cooler and unpredictable.
To be fully prepared, make sure to bring something warm for your dog to wear. Ruffwear makes great, durable jackets and sweaters that fit varying sizes, needs and preferences.
6. Dog Towel
When you head out for a hike, always make sure to bring an extra towel for your dog. And if you plan on camping, bring another towel to keep outside of the tent to wipe your dog's paws before entering. Depending on the terrain, there could be mud on the trail or rivers/lakes that your dog can get into. And, let's be honest, a dry dog is a happy owner!
7. Dog Light
Always be prepared for the sun to go down, even if you only plan for a day hike. When there is no natural light, you need to be able to see your dog. Some new wearable dog collars have light activated LED lights built into their collars. When it comes to dog lights here are a few different options for your dog - just do your research to find a reliable product that won't leave you in trouble on the trail.