Take a hike! No, really, take a hike and don't forget your dog. Before you head out the door, consider these tips to make it a safe and enjoyable adventure for both of you.
I have really gotten the hiking bug this year in my effort to be more present. I am trying to practice enjoying life now versus waiting for the "right" time or when I have more time, which, let's face it, will never happen. Not to mention I would never have seen this lake which is like none other, as you can see, if I hadn't stepped away from the rat race. That color!
Before you head out with your pup on a local hiking adventure, here are my top tips!
1. Download the All Trails app.
There is a free version, and there is a paid version. Use this app to look up trails in your area. I was surprised by all the hikes I did not know existed in my area until I started poking around this app.
As I mentioned, there is a paid version of this app. I suggest the paid version because you can download your trail map. I think it's $30 for the year. As you venture into the woods, cell service is spotty, if you have any at all. By downloading the map, you will always have access to it and will get back to the car. The app will tell you when you get off the trail, and this saved me several times. I am terrible at navigation.
2. Bring water for both you and your pup.
Don't assume there will be water where you are or water you want your pup to drink. I like having Annika wear a backpack, and she carries a collapsible bowl and her own water. Just two small water bottles in each saddlebag are not a lot of weight, but it is less I must carry and easy to access. Also, if your pup is going to drink water in nature, have it be the running kind like a stream. No stagnant puddles. Things grow there. Yuck!
3. Bring a first aid kit for both you and your dog.
Many hikers remember to bring a first aid kit for themselves, but what would happen if your pup got hurt. Do you have what you need? Nowadays, they make kits for pups and humans, and they are easy to find online.
Also, be thinking about how you would get your dog back to the car if he/she was injured and could not walk back. At www.backcountry.com, you can find the Fido Pro Airlift Emergency Dog Rescue Sling. It's easy to throw into a backpack, and it may be just the thing that makes life easier in a not-so-easy situation. I actually had to carry Bam off a hill on my shoulders, and it was not easy. He wasn't hurt but tired. It was at the beginning stages of his Degenerative Myelopathy diagnosis.
I would have much rather had the emergency lift. I do now!
4. Bear spray for the obvious reason.
Having your dog(s) with you is not enough. Many times you will see the threat before they do. Bells do not really do any good. You can leave those off. Your voice is best. Yell out "HEY BEAR!!!" periodically to make your presence known.
5. Bring on the bug spray.
Don't fill up your pack with something for your dog and then something for you. You are just adding weight, and it adds up fast. Use one product both you and your pup can use. Buy or make your own.
6. Make sure your dog has an epic recall.
If you cannot recall your pup at home, then do not have them off-leash on the hike. You can not compete with all the good smells and game trails. Check the trail regulations to see if off-leash dogs are even allowed. Please follow the rules. They are there for a reason. You can still have a most wonderful time on leash. If your pup is exuberant, the backpack will help add to the workout, and you may have the best walk of your life on leash.
Here is an example of what I mean by an epic recall. I was waiting for Annika (blonde) and Joon (white) to take off running and playing. Finally, they did, and I was able to recall Annika back when she was in a full sprint in the opposite direction and not visible. Sorry the quality of the video is not the best. I got a new camera and I am learning about it. You get the idea anyway.
I had to use her recall later that same day due to hearing motorcycles quickly approaching on a single-track trail. We darted off the trail, and I needed Annika to be by my side pronto. We were able to get off quickly and safely, and the bikes blew past us, not even noticing we were there.
7. Condition your pup just as you need conditioning.
Start with small hikes and work your way up. You can filter out the length of hikes on the All Trails app. You can also get all the kinks worked out with your gear and see if you have what you need and that all is working properly. Better to learn on a short hike than 8 miles in!
8. Know the signs of heat stroke.
Make certain to watch the weather forecast and read reviews of hikes. Some are in the wide open and do not provide much shade, while others have a lot as you walk under the canopy of trees. Be mindful of your pup. If you see your dog slowing down, lacking coordination, a deep red or purple tongue, vomiting or diarrhea, your pup may be suffering from heatstroke. If you see these symptoms, grab water, wet your pup down, and find shade anywhere you can. Make a plan to get to the vet as fast and safe as possible.
9. A backpack is optional, but I like it.
Annika carried her own water and poo bags. On the next hike, Joon will have one too. Nowadays, companies make great backpacks. Outward Hound is a great company. I have had several of their backpacks and they have really improved the design over the years. I prefer backpacks with removable saddlebags so at lunch we can relieve the girls a bit without taking off the whole backpack. In addition to the removable saddle bags, I also look for a substantial, cushioned breast strap. Lastly, I prefer to have two straps for the belly not just one. I don’t want my pack sliding around. I want it secure so Annika can go this way and that unencumbered.
It's not fun thinking about the "just in case" scenarios, but once you have all your bases covered, all that is left is to enjoy the adventure. I highly encourage you to unplug, grab the dog and a friend and head out into your local area and beyond. Warren and I had the most wonderful time with the girls. We loved having them with us, and they were SO happy! Life is happening right now! Don't wait.
Questions? I'm always here to help! Feel free to reach out anytime.