When it comes to hiking with your dog, there are certain precautions that should be taken to ensure that you, your furry companion, and your fellow hikers stay safe. For a tail-wagging good time, follow these six safety guidelines on every hike.
Leash Your Dog
A leash is the most important piece of safety gear you can bring on any hike with your dog. Though it may seem natural to let an animal loose in the woods, domesticated dogs are very different from native wildlife. Just as the local plants and critters aren't used to them, your dog isn't accustomed to what it will encounter in the woods, either. Their adorable curiosity combined with their innocent naivete can have undesirable results. What would happen if your dog encountered a porcupine, skunk, or bear? What if they chased a deer deep into the woods – would they be able to find their way back?
It's also important to consider your fellow hikers and their dogs. There may be a child on the trail ahead of you who is afraid of dogs, or another canine not as friendly as yours. While it does mean putting up with a little tugging now and then, keeping your dog on a leash really is the best option for you, your pet, and everyone else on the trail.
Check the Weather
Summers get hot, winters get cold. Through the course of a year in the Adirondacks, you will encounter sun, rain, snow, and everything in between. While you can put on or take off layers, your dog has only the fur he or she was born with. While they may seem rugged and tough, dogs are vulnerable to the weather too. Before you hit the trail, check the forecasted temperatures and conditions for the day. Make sure it's not going to be too hot, too cold, or too wet for your dog. Every breed and individual animal is different, so it's up to you to make the right call for your pet. While their mopey eyes might sting when you leave them behind, you'll be happier in the long run knowing they are safe.
Map the Hike
You should always map your hikes before you head out, even if you don't have a dog with you. That said, much like the weather, it is up to you as the pet owner to consider the number of miles and amount of elevation you plan to tackle and make an informed decision as to whether or not it is an excursion well suited to your pet.
Whether it's due to a bad past experience or simply personal preference, you will encounter other hikers (and other dogs) who aren't interested in a trailside meet and greet. Help your dog respect the personal boundaries of others on the trail by keeping your dog close and asking permission before allowing your dog to approach.
Keep Dogs Tagged
Even when you keep your dog on a leash, there is a possibility that they will slip away. To be safe, make sure to affix a sturdy tag to your dog's collar that includes their name and your phone number. This greatly increases the odds of a happy reunion!
If dogs could talk, being a pet owner would be much easier. Fortunately, they do have ways of communicating, and it's important to pay attention to what they are trying to tell you. Are they panting heavily and lapping at every puddle? It's time for a water break. Are they whining and lying down in the trail? Pause and let them rest. Are they favoring a paw? Turn back and don't push your pet past their point of comfort. In addition to watching them, be sure to keep an eye out for dangers they aren't aware of and take time to guide them through difficult parts of the trail. It may seem like their four legs make hiking a breeze, but they may feel challenged, too!