Important Factors To Consider Before Hiking With Your DogImportant Factors To Consider Before Hiking With Your Dog

Dogs display a natural exuberance in the outdoors. Being away from the city gives them a chance to run and play unconstrained by the limitations of home. There is a world of exciting new sights and scents to explore on the hiking trail. For canines, the lure is nearly irresistible. For owners, their pets' enthusiasm is infectious.

But it is important to take the right steps to ensure your dog's safety away from home. A lot of owners take a haphazard approach, and unwittingly place their pets' health at risk. In this article, we'll offer several suggestions to help you prepare to go camping and hiking with your canine. Preparations should begin long before you pack your vehicle for the trip.

First Stop: The Veterinarian

Because hiking requires a high level of physical activity, your dog needs to be healthy. He may appear so, but health problems can lurk beneath the surface, placing him at risk once you hit the trails. For this reason, make an appointment with his veterinarian so a routine examination can be done. Results from the exam will reveal any issues that may be hidden from view.

The vet can also make suggestions regarding whether certain activities may be harmful for your canine. For example, if your pet is showing early signs of arthritis, hiking may worsen the condition. Similarly, if he is nearing his twilight years, too much exercise may be unwise. The veterinarian can also suggest products that will minimize the trouble caused by fleas, ticks, and intestinal worms. These and other pests are commonly found in wooded areas that are dense with foliage.

Conditioning Your Canine Before The Hike

Given that hiking can be physically strenuous, spend time helping your canine prepare for it. If he is accustomed to taking a short, leisurely walk each day, there's a good chance a long hike will leave him exhausted. If he is overweight, help him drop a few pounds before the trip. Otherwise, his extra weight will place stress on his joints and ligaments.

If your dog receives a lot of exercise each day, he may only need a small bit of conditioning for the hike. If, however, he spends much of the day indoors, take the same approach as a long-distance runner. Determine how much activity your canine will enjoy on the trip, and slowly work him up to that point. For example, start increasing the distance of his daily walks a few weeks ahead of time. Each day, increase the distance a bit more. He will gradually gain more endurance, which will prove valuable on the trip.

Taking The Essentials

Your canine will need several items for the hike. First, pack plenty of drinking water for him in order to prevent dehydration. Even in a relatively cool climate, your dog will need a constant source of water.

Second, pack a first aid kit. Your dog's veterinarian can recommend items to include, but start with bandaging materials, a disinfectant for wounds, tweezers, and cotton swabs. Put your pet's leash in the kit for easy access.

Third, make sure you take your canine's papers, including his identification and documents showing proof of vaccinations. Also, put his ID tags on his collar to help ensure he is returned in the event he becomes lost.

Fourth, take plenty of food for him to eat. In addition to his meals, pack a source of sugar (e.g. syrup) as well as something to replenish his electrolytes (e.g. Gatorade).

Proper Etiquette On The Trails

While hiking with your canine, it is important to observe common etiquette rules to avoid becoming a nuisance to others on the trails. Make sure your dog responds reliably to your commands. Also, pick up after him - or where allowed, bury his waste. If he defecates on a hiking path, make sure his waste is out of the way of other hikers.

Taking your dog hiking can be a rewarding experience for both of you. It gives you a chance to enjoy the outdoors while strengthening the bond you share together.
by Larry J. Reaves
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