The Benefits of Hiking with Your Dog (Plus Tips)
Take a hike!
No, we’re not trying to be rude. We mean it literally. In honor of National Take a Hike Day (Nov. 17), we're shining a spotlight on the benefits (both physical and mental) of hiking with your dog.
Walking, and by extension hiking, is one of the best ways to stay fit and maintain a healthy weight – for you and your dog. People and pets that don’t get enough exercise are at risk for being overweight, which can lead to chronic health problems like diabetes, high blood pressure, and arthritis.
Regular walks reduce those risks by providing owners and their dogs with consistent exercise. (Studies have found that dog owners average more minutes of exercise per day than non-dog owners.)
Add in the jumping over streams and climbing on rocks that are often a part of hiking and you and your dog can get in a great workout during a hike.
Regular walks are great for mental stimulation as well. No one likes being bored, human or dog alike. Getting out for a walk or into the woods or countryside for a hike provides a plethora of excitement. New sights and smells, bumping into other people and dogs… there’s nothing boring about it.
The less bored your dog is, the less likely he is to act up at home, as well. Destructive behavior, like unwanted chewing and digging, can be signs of an unhappy dog with a surplus of energy. With no other way to dispel all that energy and inner anxiety, he often has no choice but to act out.
Being out with the dog is also good for owners, who report feeling happier, more relaxed, and closer to their dogs after a walk.
The more time you spend with your dog, the closer the two of you will be. Strong bonds between people and their dogs are created when there’s a mutual give and take of time and energy. Sharing life experiences, like on a hike, is one way of achieving that.
Hiking with Your Dog: Tips & Etiquette
But taking a hike with your dog isn’t quite the same as going for a walk to the dog park. To keep everyone safe – and having fun – we’ve rounded up a few tips (plus some etiquette rules) for hiking with your dog.
Nothing ruins a day on the trail with your pup faster than a lost dog or an unfortunate encounter with the local fauna and flora. The easiest way to avoid both? It’s simple; leash your dog.
By keeping your dog on a leash and under control at all times, you cut the chance she’ll run off after the local wildlife. This also saves the resident wildlife unnecessary scares. And, helps prevent the destruction of their native habitat.
Keeping your dog close by also means you can stop him from eating anything he shouldn’t be … like a poisonous mushroom.
Not to mention, not all your fellow hikers (or their dogs) appreciate running into an off-leash dog.
Your dog should also know basic commands like sit, stay, and come. This will help you maintain control of your dog if the need arises.
Even with a leash, accidents can happen, and you should always have a first aid kit on you. Stock your kit with antiseptic ointments, bandages, and gauze. The Farmer’s Dog Digest recommends having something to induce vomiting on hand, in case your dog ingests something that might be toxic. (This works for small kids who tend to eat things they shouldn’t, as well.)
Bring Water & Treats
Experienced hikers know to bring plenty of water and energy-boosting treats. This holds true for your pup as much as for you.
Besides water bottles for yourself, make sure you’ve got a collapsible bowl and plenty of fresh water for your dog.
If you plan on spending the day hiking, bring along dog food as well. (Consider adding puppy food to your dog’s diet for the day. It has extra protein and calories that can give your dog an energy boost during a long hike.)
Clean Up After Your Dog
One of the golden rules of hiking is this: never leave anything behind except footprints. Put another way, clean up after yourself and your dog. That means no littering of food wrappers or water bottles, and no leaving your dog’s poo behind.
When it comes to your dog’s waste, you have two options. One, carry doggy disposal bags and carry the dog doo out with you. Or, bring along a small shovel and bury his poo. (Remember, most dog waste carries infectious bacteria that can pollute nearby water sources and infect local wildlife.)
After the Hike
Being safe doesn't stop when the hike is over. Always take time after your day’s adventure to check your dog for ticks.
These disease-carrying bloodsuckers can be found anywhere on your pup’s body. But they particularly like dark, moist spots. Check behind and inside your dog’s ears, between his toes, under the tail and around the genitals, around his eyelids, and under his collar or harness.
Where Can I Hike with My Dog?
Not all hiking trails are open to dogs. To ensure you’re not breaking any rules (and to avoid possible fines), do your research ahead of time. You can use websites like www.petfriendlytravel.com and www.bringfido.com to find dog-friendly trails. Or do a Google search for “dog-friendly hiking trails near me."