Taking to the trail with your dog
Now days dogs are like family members to most of us. We all want to include them in our outdoor activities.
Most dogs love camping, hiking, walks in the wilderness and everything else we humans find entertaining.
Your job as the human being in the family is to make sure pets are welcome as you begin your big adventure.
Check with the area that you plan to visit and they will tell you their pet rules. It would be terrible for everyone if you headed to a destination that wasn't "pet friendly."
The internet is a fantastic place to begin your research. If you are like me and you aren't quite the complete outdoorsman, you may be planning to rough it inside an air conditioned hotel room.
Once again, do your research before getting upset with hotel rules and regulations. I found many places that welcome our animals as much as they do us.
Hiking is often a big part of a trip into the wild. Have you hiked before? Has your dog hiked before? Those are two very important questions.
If the answer is no to either question, you will want to keep reading. Better yet, keep reading no matter what. You never know you just might learn something new.
Putting your hiking boots on and looking over at your canine best friend asking "Do you want to go for a walk?" is only the beginning of this escapade.
Of course he wants to go for a walk, don't they all? Now let's think about what you are really saying. Are you talking hike or walk?
A hike and a walk are two completely different things in my eyes. Walks yes, let's go. Hike? Let me think about that for a fraction of a second. That would be a no.
I can honestly say I'm not even close to being ready to hike. Are you? What about your dog, is he ready?
All dogs enjoy new scents on trails, new sights and just the closeness of being with their owner. But some breeds are better suited hikers than others.
Take into consideration why type of dog you have and what you plan to do. An example is my Golden Retriever would be more than happy to hike with you until the sun went down. My little Chihuahua would probably last less than an hour and whine most of the way.
It's not fair to put unrealistic expectations on an inexperienced animal. Know your dog and its capability. Better yet, before you head out be sure of your own.
Humans need to be acclimated to the task at hand and so does your dog. Neither would do well going from a recliner in the cozy family room to a four hour hike in the forest or mountains.
How much exercise did you get over the winter months? Let's see, hand to remote control, point at television and push button?
Don't forget the other exercise we have all done this past winter. Arm out, stretch to popcorn bowl, arm up and then hand to mouth. If this is true of your recent exercising, you also need to get prepared.
Before you begin anything strenuous with your pet make sure you take him in for a clean bill of health from your vet.
While he's getting his well check, it's a great idea to also get his toenails trimmed for his adventure.
Make sure he is current on vaccinations and any medications that he may need. Is he wearing his identification tags and proof of a rabies vaccination?
If you are hiking in any areas with Lyme disease, ask your vet about preventative measures recommended. It's better to take all precautions than to have a sick pet.
Heading to the wild means that you are willing to respect the rules of the area you are visiting. In many areas you will find that there are leash laws.
It is important that you follow the requirements of the area and not lose the privilege of being there.
Your excursion will be much more pleasurable if your dog has basic manners.
It is a plus if your dog has good leash manners and understands that "come" means now.
It is recommended that you begin with short hikes and build up stamina for you and your dog. Choose the cool part of the day and easy terrain to start your training.
As your new hiking partner builds strength and you learn what you can expect from him you can build up to more lengthy hikes. This is supposed to be a fun time for both of you.
If you are planning to put a backpack and boots on your canine friend it's import to start this at the beginning of your shorter hikes.
Once your pet is conditioned he will be able to carry his own supplies in his backpack.
Let's not load the little guy up with all of his equipment just yet. To get him acquainted with his new gear let's start slowly.
Crumble newspapers to fill his backpack since he has no idea what you are expecting him to do.
He may not even like the backpack at first, just try it for short periods of time. It's best to work your way up to actually giving him something to carry.
As he grows accustom to something new he will get used to the idea of something on his back. After he's conditioned he will be able to carry things he needs for his hike.
The normal dog has sensitive pads on his feet unless he is accustomed to being outdoors on a regular basis.
Please realize that being in a yard all day doesn't compare with hiking in the wilderness for extended periods of time.
This is where the canine hiking boots come in. They just slip over the paw and protect the pads from the terrain and the hot ground.
I have to admit that I have tried boots on my Chihuahua. Kya immediately freezes her body up as if she is paralyzed.
Once in the "I'm not doing this mode" there isn't going to be any walking or even any moving as long as they are on her feet.
One more tip before you head out for your first hike. Don't feed your canine partner before you leave. It's not a good idea to hike on a full stomach.
I won't go over what you need to bring for yourself, but the supplies you need to take for your dog consist of:
Good quality lead
Collapsible cloth water bowl
Plenty of fresh water (for you both)
Day's worth of food
As you pack for yourself it is important to bring a means of communication with you. Also bring a flashlight just in case you get lost.
Cell phones work great in most areas, but you will also need a backup plan in case reception is poor.
Even if you feel you don't need one, a walking stick is highly recommended in case you happen to encounter an unwanted predator.
Tell someone where you are going to be hiking and what time you expect to return home. Call them if your plans change. Keeping someone else informed can be very useful in case you get lost or in trouble.
There's just one more warning before you and your canine friend head out into the wilderness.
Streams, rivers and beds of cool fresh water may be present along your hike. They seem so inviting. For everyone's sake use the water you have taken with you.
The surface water which includes rapid flowing streams and rivers may be infested with Giardia.
These microscopic protozoa which can't be seen with the naked eye can play havoc on the intestinal system of humans and animals alike.
Giardia can create an almost crippling case of diarrhea for you and your pet. Be safe, not sorry.
This water can also be contaminated with algae, pollutants and many other things that are very hard on digestive systems.
Happy hiking! I'll be waiting back at the shelter with a nice cold ice tea for you.
Come in and share your adventure with me.