We live in the Mountains of NE Georgia, so we get to hike a lot and see some pawsome scenery, meet other fun hikers, and enjoy our time in the fresh air and great outdoors.
We've learned over the years that there are some tips to hiking with dogs...tips to keep us comfortable, happy, healthy, enjoying our day and leaving no carbon pawprint.
We wanted to share our tips with you!
1. Are you and your dog ready? Make sure you and your dog are prepared for the hike you are undertaking. Not all dogs (or humans for that matter) are suited for 7-8 mile hikes like we enjoy. And we sure didn't start hiking seven miles in the beginning; nope we started with about a mile. Gracie and I are agility dogs and are well conditioned for active, high level fitness, but your dog may not be ready. So be sure and start with short hikes if you've never hiked with your dog, and build to longer hikes.
2. Pack it up! Mum has a pack that she takes with us on our hikes. Our pack contains everything we need for a fun, healthy and environmentally friendly hike. Here's just a quick list of our pack contents
GPS - with satellite connection because we hike in really dense forests on scantily marked trails with no cell signal sometimes
Snacks - for us and Mum
Vet wrap, alcohol wipes, Traumeel cream, tweezers and spare dog boots or socks for what if
Long line - for when we get to go in the river.
Some dogs like to take their own packs and we think that's great! Some dogs are suited for carrying packs, and some aren't. Be sure that your dog is prepared for carrying a dog pack; that they are strong enough, can handle the extra weight and are used to carrying a pack. You can gradually get a dog used to wearing a pack by trying it at home first, giving lots of treats when the pack is near, then placed on their back, then strapped, then gradually increase the time your dog wears it around the house. Be sure and give lots of treats as you train them to wear the pack.
3. Leash up! Hiking trails are unpredictable. You can encounter a wide, wide variety of things on your hike - cliff drop offs, other hikers that may not like dogs, stray and other off leash dogs, deer, squirrels, wild turkeys, snakes and even bears! That's why it's important to stay leashed up. Yes, it's super tempting to let your dog loose on the trail, but it's important to follow the rules and to be safe; most all national and state parks require that your dog is leashed on the trail.
We have a leash system which we love. Mum has nice, tough and durable harnesses for both me and Gracie, that allow us all kinds of freedom of movement and flexibility. Then we have six foot leather leashes that we've had for well over six years, that we still use today! Mum can have both of us on leash in one hand very securely and even take photos with the other. It's a great system that works well for us. Find a system that works for you for a happier hike!
4. Keep hydrated! Keeping both your dog and you hydrated on the trail is sooo important. We have a several water containers that we take with us. One of them is stainless steel with a BPA free lid that also acts as a water bowl for me and Gracie. The other two are BPA free Nalgene bottles for Mum and for our refills. At least every mile when it's cooler and more often when it's hotter, we stop for a nice sip of water, and take a little break, check the paws and pads and do a little stretching. Oh and it's a great time to give Mum some licks to thank her for a fun day!
5. Snacks! Hiking burns a ton of calories, especially if you are out for four to five hours like us on some hikes, climbing up 1000 foot elevation changes. So every few miles or so, Mum will give us a few treats to keep us energized, and she'll snack on some trail mix as well! We have a couple of favorite snacks we like on our hikes - Zukes Mini Naturals and Dr. Harvey's Power Patties; they are both great energy suppliers, and healthy, safe snacks for us.
6. Pick up the doo! I can't tell you how many times, even on the most remote trails, that we have found the remnants of another dog on the path. So please, please, pick up your dog's doo when you're out hiking. Keep it green and leave no trace! Mum takes some very strong, durable biodegradable bags when we're out hiking, and yes, she adds them to her pack when used; then deposits them either in a trash bin at the end of the trail, or if there isn't one she takes them home with us to add to our dog poo composter.
7. Watch the temps and the weather! Before we plan a big hike, Mum will check the Weather Channel. Being in the mountains, weather can be a bit unpredictable. Mum wants to make sure it's not going to be too hot or too cold for us and wants to make sure that Gracie and I (and her, of course) are dressed for whatever weather we may encounter.
I'll never forget one of our favorite hikes last year. It was one day after we had seven inches of snowfall. But the next day it was sunny, 45 degrees and still had about four inches of snow on the ground. We didn't need a warm coat for that day, but Mum did make sure that we stayed out of the creek, because of the icy water. So be prepared! Have your dog wear a dog coat if it's going to be too cold; and delay your hike if it's going to be too hot.
8. Those enticing waters! Those rivers, lakes and streams can be very enticing to us dogs. First sign of water and I'm wanting iin there! But Mum makes sure to take extra precautions when we're near bodies of water. She only lets us sip out of nice flowing mountain streams in national and state parks where there are no farms or plants nearby; and keeps us out of creeks and ponds that are stagnant.
Why? Because there can be some really nasty stuff in some of those creeks, ponds and lakes. Everything from checmical run off from farming, to giardia in creeks from other dogs and wildlife. So encourage your dog to drink from the filtered water you bring on your hike, and steer clear of drinking from water sources that are unfamiliar or questionable.
8. Take breaks! I giggle, because my Mum needs more breaks than I do. She knows, however, what to watch for when we're out hiking and I, or Gracie, may be tiring. What do I do when I'm tiring? Yep, I start lagging (sure doesn't happen very often, but it does on occasion). If I'm not out in front, pulling Mum up and down the trial, that's when she knows I need a good break.
9. Check the pads! There are all sorts of things you can encounter on a hike, pine needles, broken glass, stickers, small stones, burrs and lots more that can reek havoc with a dog's paws. Mum makes sure to watch us for any slight limping, and when we stop for a water break, she always checks our paws and pads for any foreign material or abrasions.
10. Body check! After the hike, check for ticks, fleas, burrs, and well, all kinds of things us dogs can get into. After every hike Mum will spread us out on one of our beds in the cabin and start rubbing all over us, checking for anything that's not supposed to be there. But the best part? I get a nice rub down after my hike too! Love those rub downs.
Have fun!!! The best part of hiking with my Mum and sis Gracie is having fun. No stress, quiet, serene times, great exercise and just being with my pack...we love that! Take the time to have a fun day with your dog, 'cause us dogs can really show you how to have fun!