For this post about dogs & hiking, we welcome Bob Owens from Lone Duck Outfitters, a provider of high-performance apparel and supplies to the Gun Dog Community. Bob is an avid outdoorsman and enjoys spending time on the New York State trails with his two dogs, Buck and Memphis. He also trains retrievers for waterfowl and upland hunting across the country. With that being said, we now pass it onto Bob to talk about hiking with dogs. The best Adirondack hiking partners are often four-legged! Spending time outdoors with my dogs is both relaxing and hilarious! Their energy and charisma for the sights, sounds, and smells can bring energy to any hike. Watching them weave effortlessly through the forest is a freeing experience and one that I find myself envying. My five-year-old Labrador Retriever, Buck, floats over obstacles with ease. His natural instincts come alive when he runs through the wilderness. My six-month-old female, Memphis, is learning with every step she takes in an effort to keep up with her older brother.
We, as their guardians, must keep their best interest in mind. They run so hard that injury and exhaustion can rear its ugly head at any point during a hike. Here are some easy tips to follow before you take your dog on a rigorous hike:
We need it and so do they. Don’t count on hidden streams or puddles for your pooch to drink from. Bring extra water to help keep them hydrated.
Depending on the location of my hike, and how crowded the trail may be, I keep a long retractable leash in my pack. Normally they run free (which may upset some people), but I have them trained well enough to come no matter what the distraction is. When they return to me, I leash them up and maintain control. If your dog isn’t trained well enough, keep them on lead at all times. Be responsible and courteous of other hikers.
Don’t hike on a full belly. Depending on the breed, your dog may be susceptible to bloat, which is the twisting of the stomach. If a dog has a full stomach and begins exerting mass amounts of energy, their stomach can flip. If this happens, you must rush them to a vet for immediate attention. This is fatal if you don’t reach a vet in time! I give my dogs smaller portions before a hike and allow time for digestion. I also pack small snacks for them throughout the hike. Here is a link for more information on the subject: www.aspca.org/pet-care/dog-care/bloat
Watch out for their pads! Throughout a hike, I will bring the dogs in and look them over from head to toe for lacerations. Their pads may be tough, but they aren’t bulletproof. Sharp rocks, sticks, and thorns can end your excursion. Bring a small first aid kit for your dog so that you can be prepared for such an occasion.
Dog packs are great! Find a pack that you like and that fits your dog. These packs can carry their water supply, snacks, and a first aid kit.
Physical fitness and preparation is important for both hiker and pet. You wouldn’t bring your couch potato, out of shape; lazy friend on a rigorous hike would you? Be sure to exercise your dog regularly to keep them in peak physical condition. An out of shape dog will be more likely to overheat and break down from exhaustion faster than a dog that is regularly exercised. Know their capabilities and stay within that. Heat exhaustion could be fatal to your best buddy!
Lastly, do your homework before you hike. Not every trail is created equal. Before I hike, I research whether or not it’s safe for my dogs. There may be sheer cliffs that we need to scale and could pose issues for our dogs. I leave my dogs home if there is any chance they could be in danger of fatigue or injury. As I mentioned before, we are their guardians and protectors. We have to keep their best interest in mind!
Hiking with your furry friend is a great way to bond and share time together outdoors. Preparing your pup for the next excursion will allow a more enjoyable experience and the opportunity for memories to be made!
Photo shared by @laducb on Instagram