Hiking with Your Dog – Dos, Don’ts and Advice from Top Trainers

Hiking with Your Dog – Dos, Don’ts and Advice from Top Trainers

Fun with Dogs

The vision of hiking side-by-side with our dogs, away from the hustle and bustle of the real world, at one with nature, brings smiles to our faces. You’ve probably seen beautiful pictures on Instagram of people with their loyal, obedient dogs, sitting shoulder-to-shoulder at a mountaintop, overlooking the pine tree covered valley illuminated by the fuchsia glow of the setting sun.

But for most of us, our first time hiking with our dogs paints a different memory. Do you remember the first time you and your dog went exploring? Chances are, he or she was an energetic but naive pup, running around and pulling on the leash, trying to sniff out at anything that wasn’t dirt, and biting and picking up anything that could fit into a mouth.

And you probably remember some close calls (that you might laugh at now) and vowed to be much more careful next time. We all have moments of “Wow, we dodged that bullet,” especially when out in nature.

Dogs make excellent company for the outdoors, but as much as it’s fun to go hiking with your dog, there are some issues that could be avoided with simple knowledge and preparation. Here are ten tips to prepare a dog for hiking.

Top 10 Do’s (and Don’ts) for Hiking with Dogs

1

DO: Make sure your dog is fit enough

Although your dog may seem like a hyperactive furball, hiking can be a different story. A good way to gage is to see if your dog can be active at home all day without feeling tired.

Sometimes it can depend on the breed. If the weather is cold or if you’re going high altitude, be sure that your dog is fit enough for it.

Dogs that are very young or very old may not be physically fit enough for a hike. Since their main goal would be to keep up with you and be at your side, this could be too exhausting and your dog may not enjoy it.

Check with your vet to see if your dog is healthy and ready for action.

hiking with your dog

Don’t: Push too hard

Prepare to go easy at first. It’s easy to overestimate how active your dog could be, especially if he or she runs around all day without getting tired. As with anything exercise or new endeavor, start off slow.

2

DO: Know how long the hike will be

How far can a dog hike in a day? The answer will affect what supplies to take with you, such as how much water, food, flashlight, etc. This is also important for your dog because some breeds don’t have the endurance for hikes for more than several hours.

Don’t: underestimate the danger of hot weather

“The main way that dogs lose heat is through evaporation through their tongues and their respiratory tract … If it’s hot and humid outside, that really limits the dog’s ability to lose heat by its primary mechanism. Then if you add running in the heat and humidity on top of that, between the temperature gradient, humidity and the heat they’re generating as they run, they end up having more heat inside than they can lose.” – Dr. Nicholas Dodman, Professor of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University [1]

3

DO: Obey leash laws and be aware of trail regulations

Many hiking trails (especially national parks) require leashes or don’t welcome dogs at all, so you’ll need to do your research ahead of time. And if they do, dogs may be restricted to designated trails. Take some time to get to know the rules and regulations of that trail can save a lot of time and headache: no one wants to drive for hours only to see the dreaded “No dogs allowed” sign!

obey leash laws when hiking with your dog

Don’t: Let your dog run loose on the trail

“Trails are not dog parks. You and your dog are guests on a trail, whether it is in the front or back country. If you take your dog on a trail you have a specific and EXTRA obligation to have them with you, either on or off leash (depending on how much training you have done). Trails are multi use, horse packers, llama packers, mountain bikers, bird watchers, etc. You should feel obligated to be respectful and kind to those around you, so everyone can enjoy their day out and about.”

Nancy Tanner, Dog Trainer [2]

4

DO: Know the trail beforehand

If your dog needs space in order to feel safe, narrow, crowded trails won’t be fun for your dog. Choose wider and less busy trails. Depending on the breed and fitness level of your dog, check the elevation levels as well.

“Look for trials that are ‘easy on the paws.’ Pick trails with leaves and dirt and avoid trails with sharp rocks and gravel. Also, check for any surfaces that can get very hot that can hurt your dog’s feet … Stay away from areas with heavy horse use and mountain bikes. They can come at you with little warning which can cause potential harm. ”

Craig Romano, author of Best Hikes with Dogs Inland Northwest

“Choose trails with switchbacks so you can see who is in front or behind, choose wider trails or less populated trails. Just because your friends are going to a certain hiking area doesn’t mean it is right for you and your dog. If you are going to bring your dog, you need to take what they can handle into consideration, and what you have done in order to help them be successful.”

— Nancy Tanner, Dog Trainer [2]

Don’t: Leave poop behind

They are not a natural part of the ecosystem. You and your dog are guests and have a responsibility for maintaining nature’s balance. If other people see your dog’s poop, they may also think it’s OK to not clean up as well.

5

DO: Make sure your dog is well trained, especially the “come” command

Imagine that you’re on a nice trail with your dog, off-leash, and suddenly he sees a potential dog-friend! He chases lunges to play with her but the other owner, eyes widening, yells out, “No, she isn’t friendly!”

Uh oh.

Hopefully, any tragedy is averted and you’re just left a bit embarrassed. However, there more serious possible dangers on the trail, such as snakes, coyotes, skunks, and other wildlife that your naive dog may want to “play” with.

Make sure that your dog is well behaved, and this is especially important on the hiking trail.

beware of skunks on the hiking trail and make sure your dog is well trained

Don’t: Let him bark at everything

This can be annoying to other hikers and alarm the wildlife. Controlling your dog’s barking is another behavior skill that’s needed on the trail.

6

DO: Bring enough water and food for both of you

Bring dry food with high protein and high fat to give your dog an energy boost. Give a small amount an hour before the hike, and small portions throughout the day. If the hiking trip would be a long one, consider dry, dehydrated food to lighten the load.

Whenever you need a sup of water, give some to your dog too, about every 30 minutes, depending on weather temperature and trail intensity. A collapsible water bowl would be ideal.

bring water on hikes with your dog

Don’t: Let your dog drink from bodies of water along the trail

This is especially true for still water such as ponds and puddles: these can have pathogens harmful to dogs.

7

DO: Bring a doggy first-aid kit

  • First-aid guide: do not rely on your smartphone in case there’s no signal. Have a hard copy at all times. You can download and print one from the American Kennel Club: Emergency First Aid for Dogs
  • Tweezers to pull out thorns, stingers, and ticks.
  • Antihistamines for pets. Useful for treating insect bites and stings.
  • Bandages, especially self-adhesives that will not stick to fur.
  • Betadine solution to protect skin wounds from possible infection
  • Canine sunscreen to prevent sunburn
  • Muzzle. “Not my dog,” you may say, but a dog that’s panicking and in pain can lash out. An injured animal can be very unpredictable.

Don’t: Panic when there’s an injury

Don’t leave your dog’s side and call emergency services.

8

DO: Invest in dog hiking gear

With all these suggestions on what to bring, you’re probably thinking how much you’d have to carry but fear not! Your dog would love to help you out by carrying his or her own load. Dogs love having a job to do: just make sure your dog gets used to it before your trip. Have him practice by walking around with the pack on.

And he’s going to look so cool doing it.

dog hiking gear and backpack

Don’t: Over stuff the doggy backpack

Most of the heavy equipment should be carried by the human.

9

DO: Be aware of pest prevention

As amazing as outdoor adventures are, they come with downsides, with pests being the most common. Fleas, ticks, mosquitoes, and heartworm can all play their part in ruining your hike, so take preventive measures. Before your trip, apply flea and tick preventives and give him heartworm medication.

Don’t: Let your dog romp around

This is especially around plants vegetation that’s unfamiliar to you. Keep your dog by your side at all times.

10

DO: A post-hike checkup

After the trip, always examine your dog from head to tail. The last thing you need is something from the trail to come back with you into your home!

 

Don’t: Forget to rest up after the adventure!

dog resting after a long hike

Remember that hiking is supposed to be fun for both you and your dog

It may seem like a lot of preparation, but it’s a very small price to pay for all the joyful adventures that you and your dog will have together.

We’ll leave you with this from the Dog Whisperer himself, Cesar Millan:

“Hiking with the pack is one of my favorite things to do. The level of happiness I feel on those mornings is beyond a ten! I feel really relaxed and have absolute silence within me. The only sounds are those of the nature around me and the hard breathing of the dogs. I love that sound. You hear and feel everyone and everything when your mind is silent.”

Cesar Millan, Dog Trainer [3]

Sources:

The New York Times, (2015, Aug. 13) The Dog Days Can Be Deadly for Dogs
Nancy Tanner, (2014, July 7), Our Trails Are In Need Of Better Etiquette
Cesar’s Way, Go the distance!, Hiking With Your Dog

Exercises for Older Dogs

Exercises for Older Dogs

Fun with Dogs

As our dogs get older, we watch them slow down, have a bit less energy, gain weight easier, and maybe get mopier (just like us!). You can tell in her eyes that there may be something she wants to tell you but can’t due to tremendous differences in speech anatomy.

Hip and joint pain are common issues for older dogs. This would be very obvious during exercise, as you watch your once outdoorsy, adventurous dog start to slow down and maybe struggle to keep up. These signs are also apparent in simple activities, like hopping into the car and climbing up and down the stairs. When you see your dog struggling, you should be watchful for two of the most common ailments that come with older age: arthritis and hip dysplasia. Fortunately, exercises for aging dogs can help!

Signs that aging is taking a toll on your dog’s joints

It’s that time of day and even before you reach for her leash, her head perks up, eyes wide with excitement, ears honed in on your usual call.

As she saunters over, tail wagging, you also go grab the ball flinger and realize that it’s been a while since you’ve both played in the grassy park just blocks away. She sees the toy and gets as excited as ever!

Reaching your favorite spot at the park, she looks up at you, then eyes the ball, eager to play fetch like the good old days. Seeing your grin, her body quivers with excitement as you wind up to launch. She turns and bolts after it, razor focussed on the flying object as only a dog can. When the ball lands, she stumbles a bit as she slows down to pick it up. Her run back to you is more of a slow gallop, and then you remember why don’t let her run alongside you on your bike rides anymore.

old dog walking

She’s no longer that rambunctious pup almost a decade ago. She looks at you with those eyes, urging you to throw it again. This is still her time with you, and nothing will stop her from entertaining you. But it’s your job as a dog-parent to know when it’s time to take it easy and take some proactive steps to keep her in the best health you can. And that means knowing what ailments are affecting her and what you can do to help her.

Aging Joint Issue 1: Arthritis in Dogs

When seeing your dog slowing down and being less active, it’s easy to just assume that’s it’s just a part of aging. To some extent, this is true. However, as with humans, aging comes with health issues that need more attention and more care, and as dog owners, it’s our loving duty to make the years as comfortable and happy as possible.

Unfortunately, we can easily miss the early warning signs of arthritis because dogs, being the brave, loyal fur-buddies that they are, tend to actively hide discomfort and pain until they become severe.

Here are some signs of arthritis in dogs:

  • Stiffness (particularly after rest)
  • Slow gait
  • Licking of joints
  • Reluctant to climb stairs
  • Has accidents in the house

One of the causes of arthritis in dogs is years of stress on the joints. The more active the lifestyle, the more stress there would be on the joints; therefore it’s even more important to be watchful when living with an active dog.

Your vet may have many suggestions for treatment, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicine. Weight management and exercise can reduce weight, especially on the already inflamed joints. Glucosamine supplement treats can help alleviate pain and stress on the joints.

Joint Issue 2: Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

Canine hip dysplasia is a disease of the hip when the ball and socket joints of the hips rub and grind instead of sliding smoothly. This mostly affects larger breeds but can be suffered by smaller dogs as well.

The signs of hip dysplasia in dogs are similar to arthritis, but there are more obvious issues with the hindquarters:

  • Having a narrower stance of the hind legs
  • Grating in the joint when moving
  • Loss of thigh muscle mass
  • Noticeable enlargement of shoulders (due to compensating for the loss of thigh muscle mass)

Only your vet can diagnose hip dysplasia. If surgery isn’t necessary, your vet may recommend weight loss, easier exercises, and anti-inflammatory medications.

Best exercises for older dogs with joint problems

Your own doctor probably told you that exercise is one of the most effective preventive measures against the onset of ailments related to aging, and this is also true for dogs as well. It’s sometimes hard to know what’s too little, or what’s too much. Every dog is different, so it’s up to you, the loyal human, to be watchful and careful when taking her out on your adventures.

When a dog is active and healthy, it will help stave off obesity and joint pain, which are so common in mature dogs. Below are several exercises that are easier but still enough for your old pup.

A good old walk

Dogs LOVE to walk, and even if they’re older, they can still act as if everything they see, hear, and sniff is just as exciting as the first time. But rather than a full-on hike, your older dog would benefit from a slower pace.

You’ll need to be more mindful of other factors that you may haven’t thought of.

  • Check the outside temperature. If it’s too hot, your dog can tire quickly, and if it’s too cold, her old bones would feel the chill, so a nice doggy sweater or coat would help. Those little dog boots can help.
  • Check the surface. Uneven surfaces can add strain to your dog, possibly making them less steady on their feet. Depending on the severity of your dog’s joint conditions, try staying on flatter surfaces. A harness would be useful in case of accidental slips or falls.
  • Try sticking to familiar routes. Again, this really depends on the dog. Remember that older dogs can have “senior moments,” due to a reduced sense of sight, hearing, and smell. This can lead to anxiety. New, sudden changes can alarm the dog, so keeping to familiar paths will keep the walk stress-free and happy. Remember that for your dog, it’s not about the route, it’s all about just being happy by your side.
good old dog walk

Fetch and frisbee with your dog

As we can see from the earlier example of the ball flinger in the park, it would be time to adjust how high or how far she should go. She just won’t be able to jump as high as she used to. Keep the trajectory lower so she doesn’t have to jump and keep the distance short.

Keep the play short, and remember to be watchful of her energy. If you see her fatigued or panting heavily, have her rest up. For a dog, your praise and satisfaction could be a higher priority than her own health, so it’s very possible that she could overexert herself without realizing it.

old dog plays fetch and frisbee

Also, remember to stay near a shade and plenty of water for hydration.

Tug-of-war with your dog

Strangely enough, a game of tug-of-war isn’t the best for puppies or younger dogs because it tends to enforce dominance. But since your dog is now a wise, seasoned companion who’s “been there, done that,” a game of tug-of-war can be ideal.

The act of pulling is good for toning her entire body, especially the jaw, neck, and shoulders. But be gentle: you don’t want to sprain anything and have her lose a tooth!

tug of war exercise with an old dog

Swimming for aging dogs

Again, just like for humans, swimming is probably one of the best exercises, especially for older dogs with joint issues. The water makes her lighter, freeing her joints from her own weight while allowing her muscles to do more work. She’ll enjoy it more if you get into the water with her, so get out your swimsuit, jump in and doggy-paddle right beside her!

swimming exercise with old dog

Natural anti-inflammatories for dogs

In addition to anti-inflammatory medicine that’s suggested by your vet, you can opt for natural ways to reduce low-grade inflammation. Below are some natural alternatives that are safe for dogs.

Turmeric

Turmeric has curcumin and other anti-inflammatory properties that reduce pain and stiffness. It’s a good idea to start out slow, especially if your dog has a sensitive stomach.

Curcumin, the active component in turmeric, is also an antioxidant that can help to slow down degeneration and aging.

turmeric as a natural anti-inflammatory for old dogs

Hawthorn

Hawthorn can also be a good choice for dogs. The herb helps to stabilize collagen, which is protein found in joints. Hawthorn also aids in circulation, which helps to get rid of toxins.

hawthorn as a natural anti-inflammatory for old dogs

Glucosamine for dogs

Glucosamine has natural anti-inflammatory properties, making it one of the best supplement for dogs with joint pain or stiffness. Glucosamine can help improve mobility and down slow the aging process in your dog’s joints.

“No one knows exactly what the mechanism of action is, but the supplement, an amino sugar, appears to improve the synthesis of glycosaminoglycans, one of the building blocks of cartilage. This is the tough connective tissue that cushions bones at the joints. The theory is that the supplement somehow stimulates chondrocytes or DNA activity that protects against joint degradation.” — American Kennel Club [1]

If your dog already has conditions of hip and joint pain, including arthritis and canine hip dysplasia, glucosamine can ease discomfort and pain, leading to more years spent being active and adventurous. Starting early could benefit your dog’s overall health and mobility.

In order to ensure that your dog has the nutrition to help with hip and joint issues, we developed an all natural supplement treat specifically for hip and joint health. And don’t worry, we use our no-heat no-cook process to keep 100% potency. And with the tasty natural chicken flavor, your dog will love it!

Adding a regular supplement rich in glucosamine and chondroitin work wonders for hip and joint issues, and for overall long-term health. And since you and your dog love to be active together, especially into her senior years, adding this simple addition to her diet will keep her happy, mobile, and active for many more trips and adventures to come.

Things to keep in mind when it comes to your aging dog’s joints

As dog owners, we know living with a dog is one of the best things in the world, but part of the downside is how they age so quickly when compared with humans. The more we age, time seems to go faster and faster. It may only seem like just a few years ago when your dog was that feisty frolicky pup, always chasing and following you, always 100% interested in whatever you were doing.

Aging is a bittersweet part of life, and as we watch our dogs age, it’s our time to give back for all the years of joy they’ve given us. The best way to show our love is to give them as comfortable as possible while still including them in our adventures.

a couple with their old dog

By just being aware of their condition, by feeding them healthier food and treats, and by making sure they know they’re part of the family no matter what, our dogs will live out the rest of their days with the same amount of happiness that they’ve always given us.

Sources:

American Kennel Club, (2016, Feb. 23) What Is Glucosamine For, and Can It Help Dogs?

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