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You're not the only one craving for fresh air and beautiful scenery. If your dog lives for daily walks around the block with you, then he'll absolutely love hiking. After all, what could be better than the great outdoors with man's best friend?
But before you and Spot drive to your favorite hiking spot, there are a number of things to take into consideration — such as human and doggie etiquette. To start, your dog should be updated on his shots as he'll likely encounter other dogs and wildlife on the trail. And, just as important, make sure you can control your dog. Dogs should be respectful of other people, dogs and wildlife on hiking trails. If your dog isn't well socialized, he can be disruptive or possibly even dangerous to others.
Now that we have the prerequisites out of the way, here are eight tips for hiking with your dog.
Image: Alice Truong for Discovery
1. Find a dog-friendly trail.
Rules vary from park to park, but make sure you can actually bring your dog before you leave home. Some state parks, for instance, might have a couple trails designated as dog friendly. (See more: Animal Planet's top dog-friendly trails.) But make note of restrictions. If rules dictate your dog has to be leashed, then do so. If you're hiking a trail that allows dogs to be off leash, make sure Spot is always within distance of voice command. If he's not trained well enough to return upon your calling, then it's best to keep him on leash.
2. Stay on the trail.
You don't want Rover running off into the forest chasing after a squirrel. He could end up encountering bears, cougars and, yes, even, poison ivy. (Side note: When I recently went to a state park with Jed, avid hiker and doggie companion, a local warned us from wandering off the trail because he spotted coyotes nearby. The coyotes in that park have a habit of luring dogs to chase after them, wearing out the dogs out before attacking back.) Staying on the trail also ensures that you don't disturb wildlife and decreases your dog's chances of coming across fleas and ticks.
Image: Ken_Mayer/Creative Commons
3. Be courteous to others.
This includes people, their dogs, equestrians, their horses, and other wildlife. If excessive barking is a problem, for instance, you might need to work with your dog before bringing him on the trail. Loud noises can spook small children, other dogs and horses. The last of which can be dangerous for all parties involved, including you and Spot. Yield to hikers, bikers, and horses.
4. Beware of bicyclists.
To keep both dog and bicyclist safe, guide your dog to your right, toward the edge of the trail, when bikers are coming from behind on your left. If your dog has a tendency to chase after bicyclists, you should keep him on a shorter leash around them.
5. Always ask dog owners for permission before approaching.
Like people, pups' personalities vary very widely. Some love making new canine friends. Others are more wary. The person who'd be able to advice you best is the owner. Even if Spot is friendly, ask before approaching to make sure the encounter doesn't escalate to aggression.
6. Pack a water bowl and an extra Nalgene in your bag.
Depending on the length of your hike, you might want to bring along some snacks as well. Dogs should be kept hydrated and happy. Bringing your own water also saves you the headache of finding a water source and purifying it. If your dog seems especially tired, maybe it's time for a water break.
7. Just in case, bring a first-aid kit.
It doesn't have to be extensive, just some essentials, including gauze pads, antiseptic and bandaging in case your pooch gets hurt.
8. Always, always pick up after your dog.
Your four-legged friend has business to do, and it's your business to pick it up. Or you can bury it — just keep it away from the trail and water sources.