Our furry friends can be great companions on the trail. Many people struggle whether or not they should take their dog on a hike with them. Here are a few tips for taking your dog hiking with you.
First things first
The first important piece of information for taking your dog hiking with you, is make sure they are on a leash. Even if they are very obedient and love everyone, not everyone loves them. Other people may get scared if they see a dog not on a leash, and they would prefer not to get near the dog. There are also other dogs and animals you could run into. Sometimes a dog that’s friendly with other dogs can be spooked when approached by a dog bumbling off leash down the trail. Not all other dogs are friendly, and wild animals can send your dog running into the woods. Keeping your dog on a leash can make all the difference in your dog’s safety when out on the trail.
When deciding to take your pal out with you for the first time, be sure to choose a shorter, less popular hike to start out with your dog. If a dog is only used to walking around in a neighborhood, they could behave totally different on the trail because it is unfamiliar to them. Limiting the amount of people you might see, and just going out for an hour will be a good way to start out. You can build up from there and work your way up to overnight hikes as well!
The next step after day hikes, is overnight hikes. It can be a good idea to camp in the backyard, or car camp for the first night out with your dog. Again, the dog may not be used to sleeping outside, or in a tent, so it’s good to do a few test runs before you go backpacking with them.
Once you decide to go backpacking, make sure your dog has all the right equipment to spend the night in the woods. In colder weather, you will want a small pad, and sleeping bag for your dog. They get cold too! Dogs can carry their supplies too so don’t get worried about the extra weight. A small pack for your dog is great for their food, water, and sleeping items. You can also just snuggle up with your dog if you are used to that.
Another not so pleasant thing you need to do with dogs is leave no trace. Just as humans need to dig a cathole to go to the bathroom in, dogs need to have their business in a cathole as well. Dogs are our pets. We feed them dog food and they live with us. They do not live in the woods or mountains and they do not eat wild plants. Their feces do not belong in the wilderness just like humans. You may not be able to control where the dog goes to the bathroom, but wherever it is, it’s best to dig a cathole next to it and just shove it in the hole with a stick. I know it may sound gross but it really isn’t so bad! And you are keeping the wilderness more wild.
Be sure to listen to your dog. If the dog is getting too tired, be sure to take plenty of breaks, or even stop early for the day. Some dogs get more worn out on long hikes than the people do. Depending on the terrain and the time of year, check your dog everyday. Their feet might get more worn out and maybe even cut up if you are walking on rocks. The dog will likely pick up some ticks or other insects during the summer in the Appalachians. Just be aware of where you are, and your surroundings because dogs can get injured too just as people can.
Lastly, if you go on a few trial hikes and things aren’t working out for you or your dog, then don’t bring them! It is ok to leave a dog with a friend or board them while you take a few days to hike. A dog is a big responsibility on the trail so it is understandable to not want to take them sometimes.
I hope this post helps! Be sure to leave no trace and enjoy hiking with your dog!