Happy Trails: 8 Tips for Hiking With Your Dog

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Hiking is fun! And when you do it with your best friend by your side, every trail is a happy one. Dogs love time in the great outdoors because it’s good exercise in a place with new sounds and new smells. Still, taking a city dog into the great outdoors could be a little daunting. So here are some tips for getting those wagging tails on the trails.

1. Practice makes trail perfect

Take your dog on a few practice walks in parks or other woodsy areas for longer periods of time. This training will help her enjoy a long hike in the future, since a hike is very different from a casual jaunt around the block.

2. To leash or not to leash?

Every source you read will have a different take on whether a dog should be leashed or not leashed while hiking. The rule of thumb is to follow the laws of the land. Keep in mind that your dog will be in an unfamiliar environment with many distractions, including wild animals and other hikers, so it might be a good idea to keep her leashed—just in case.

3. Stay on track

With or without a leash, your dog is probably going to be tempted to explore the surrounding wilderness. However, some trails have poisonous plants or wild animals lurking just beyond the path, so it’s important that you and your pup stick to the established trail.

4. Monitor stamina

Keep a keen eye on your dog’s stamina throughout the hike, and take into account the hike back to the car! Whether your dog looks like she is struggling or not, take breaks to rest and recuperate.

5. A pack for your pup

Having your dog carry a small pack that’s made just for your dog is a fun idea for hiking. Test the pack on your dog by filling it with paper or other light objects at home and going on walks. If you gradually increase the contents of the pack, your dog will become accustomed to carrying additional weight.

6. Pack snacks

For some dogs, the great outdoors can look like a gigantic, exotic buffet. To prevent her from eating plants or other things from the forest floor, make sure to pack enough dog treats, such as Milk-Bone® Trail Mix. A thirsty dog may also be inclined to sip from a stream, which may have bacteria floating in it, so packing water is also very important.

7. Dress for hiking success

If you plan to hike in an area with lots of underbrush, or other things that might hurt a dog’s feet, invest in some all-terrain booties for your canine companion. If you’re hiking in areas that are also used for hunting, make sure your dog wears a brightly colored bandana so that sportsmen on the trail don’t mistake her for a wild animal.

8. Take care of ticks

An old adage directs us to leave only footprints and take only photographs when visiting the wild. Just make sure your dog doesn’t bring any souvenirs such as ticks or burrs home. Before heading home, brush her hair and check the pads on her feet for such things.

If you follow all these tips, you and your dog will have no problem enjoying the wilderness. Here’s to dirty paws, happy trails and wagging tails for all.

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