Hiking Dog --
A Backwoods Hiking Companion
Many hikers have expressed an interest in finding a hiking dog to share their outdoor adventures. Actually, dogs and the outdoors are a perfect compliment. Like most outdoor recreational pursuits, careful consideration and advance planning is essential to an optimum outcome.
Which Breed of Hiking Dog?
Before we get to the hiking, let’s consider the dog. This canine is going to be a part of your family. He will be in your home when you aren’t hiking. He will be interacting with your spouse, children and visitors. How important it is to find a good pet, a family companion, not just a hiking buddy. Dog-Paw-Print.com has a great dog selection quiz to help you choose a breed that fits into your family.
Basic obedience training is a must for a hiking dog. You won’t want to worry about him bothering other hikers. Neither do you want him stealing food from your plate. Your dog will need to consistently sit, stay, lie down (and stay), come when called and allow strangers to approach him without jumping.
It is important to keep your dog on a leash while hiking for the safety of your animal and other hikers. Your pet is no match for a rattle snake or porcupine. Keeping him on leash will decrease the chance that he will tangle with these wild animals.
Your dog’s balance and agility is much better than a human’s. You would not want him darting past a hiker on part of the trail where footing is poor. Your dog could well cause a hiker to fall.
This animal will be sleeping in your tent. Make sure there is room for him. Also, pitch your tent in the backyard and make sure that he will tolerate being closed up in a tent. The positive side of sharing your tent on a cold night is that with another warm-blooded animal breathing, your tent will be warmer, even if a bit more snug.
Carrying His Load
Looking into the hiking portion, you will want to choose a dog with a substantial amount of body mass if you expect him to carry his own food, water and supplies. A good place to start looking is the working and herding class of dogs. These animals are large enough to carry a fair amount of weight.
You can expect your canine hiking companion to pack around 25% and no more than 33% of its body weight. And let me emphasize here, our discussion is limited to adult dogs. Your dog should not be allowed to carry a loaded pack until his bones have completely matured.
Just like humans, a hiking dog must be conditioned to prepare for the rigors of the trail. Begin slowly with long walks, progressing to day hikes and finally to an overnighter. Increase the weight of the pack slowly. Pay close attention to your new hiking companion so you will determine quickly when he needs a break. Some signs that you might notice are constantly seeking shade, lagging behind on the trail and lying down at every opportunity. When this occurs, give him a rest including water and a snack. If he does not recover quickly, today’s hike is over. Give him a nice long rest and head home. Your hiking dog is of substantial weight. If you exhaust him to the point that he will not or cannot walk out, you will be carrying him…with his gear…and yours.
The possibility that you may have to carry your pet is always present. Should your hiking dog experience an injury in the backwoods, you will be faced with the choice of either leaving him alone in his compromised position or in some way transporting him out. Give this careful consideration before your hike so that you are prepared should the worst happen.
You will need to have a first aid kit suitable to your canine hiking buddy as well. Talk to your veterinarian about what the contents should be and the appropriate dosage for your pet. Be sure to include booties in the event of a pad laceration. While visiting with your veterinarian, be sure to have him review your pet’s vaccinations. Your pet should wear a collar at all times that includes identification, contact information and a current rabies tag. Most hiking dogs are also micro chipped in case they get lost in unfamiliar territory.
Early preparation for your outdoor adventure with your hiking dog will need to include location. Many trails ban dogs altogether. Others require that they remain on leash at all times. And always, always, clean up your dog’s waste. It may not seem pleasant to think about packing out your dog’s waste, but unless you are going to bury it at least 6 inches deep and over 200 feet away from any water source, packing it out is exactly what you should do.
Other early considerations include treating your pet for fleas and ticks before you leave and locating an emergency veterinary clinic near your hiking destination. Should your hiking dog be injured, you will want to know where to find help as soon as possible.
- Choose your dog carefully
- Prepare well
- Plan for the extra items that you will need
- Carefully observe your pet
- Prepare for a possible emergency
- Be considerate of other hikers
Following these guidelines will help you enjoy your hiking dog on your outdoor adventures.
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