Last Updated on September 7, 2023 by Dr. Alisha Barnes
Hiking is such a wonderful activity to do with your dog. You can be in nature, explore and have some one on one time with your favorite pooch. However, like any activity, it is important to take the right precautions and safety measures to keep you both safe.
Dogs that are used to walking on pavement or grass may not be used to the rocky surfaces of a trail. As a result, they can tear up the pads of their feet. One of the best ways to avoid this, is to get their paws used to different surfaces. Check out some local city trails that are dirt or rock to help get your pup’s feet ready for the hiking trail. Paw balm can also be used to help protect your dog’s feet. One of my favorites is from The Natural Dog Company. They make a paw protector and a paw soother, both of which are excellent products. While hiking, check your dog’s paws periodically to make sure they are still in good condition. If they are showing signs of pain, booties can also be worn to provide the most protection. Just make sure to practice with the booties ahead of time to get them used to wearing them. Praise them and give them treats so that they associate booties with fun!
Don’t let your dog’s energy fool you. Just because they run around like crazy does not mean they are conditioned for long hikes. Just like us, they need to train for long excursions in the mountains. Unfortunately, also just like us, they can become susceptible to injury if they are “weekend warriors.” This term is commonly used for individuals (or dogs) that are sedentary most of the week and then are excessively active on the weekend. This can result in injury due to poor conditioning. Neither you or your pup want to be worse off for having some fun in the wilderness so make sure to do some conditioning before your big adventure. Take a few weeks ahead of time to slowly work up to your goal hike. This will allow you and your dog’s body time to get used to the extra activity and to increase muscle mass and soft tissue strength. Plus, you’ll both feel amazing during your big hike.
Warm-up / Cool-down
Like any athlete, a warm-up and cool down are a must! Before you start an aggressive hike, let your dog run around at the base of the trail to warm up their muscles. You can play some light fetch or chase, just keep things nice and easy. Having them do some sit/downs can also be a great way to activate their core muscles. At the end of the hike, make sure your pup is nice and cool before you load them into the car. Make sure they have plenty of water and make frequent stops on the way home to let them stretch their legs and prevent stiffness from setting in (PS this will be good for you too)!
Dehydration is a serious issue and one that can prove deadly for your dog. With any outdoor activity, especially if temperatures are high, it is important to have plenty of water available for your pup. Do not rely on rivers and lakes as these can pose other health issues to your pet and could cause illness. Signs to look out for dehydration include dry gums, rope-like saliva and a loss of springiness to the skin. When the skin is pulled up gently, it should return to normal immediately. If it does not, it can indicate dehydration. If you are having any concerns that your pet might be dehydrated, give your veterinarian a call on your way home to determine if your dog need fluids.
Hiking with your pup is a blast and following these tips can help keep your pet safe and happy for many more adventures to come.