Hiking with a dog can be one of the most enjoyable experiences, both for you and your pooch. Not only does it allow you both some time away from your schedules to bond, but the exercise is great, the fresh air is relieving, and it allows your dog to tap into its instinctual need to work and make you happy. Not every dog can just head out to the trail, though. Keep reading to learn how to prepare for a trip to the woods with your canine companion.

If you’re unsure of your dog’s physical capabilities to handle the trail, it’s a good idea to them into the routine of hiking. If you want your dog to carry some of the load, start off by having it wear a pack around the house or on walks around the neighborhood, starting with lighter loads. It’s safe to work to up to one-third of your dog’s weight if your dog is in healthy physical condition. If you’re dog it too old, too young, or not healthy enough to carry a load, either let them go without, or leave them at home or with friends.

First aid isn’t just for humans; you should be prepared to care for your dog if an emergency arises on the trail, as well. There are many books on pet first aid, which I highly recommend looking into, but you should also carry a specialized pet first aid kit, some of which come with a book. Even though they have two more legs than we do, they can still slip, sprain an ankle, or even run into a coyote or other animal. It’s best to be prepared.

Hydration and food are crucial for dogs, especially on the trail. Many dog packs are equipped with a pocket for a bottle of water and some even have a built-in hydration pack. It’s smart to bring collapsible food and water containers, to cut down on weight. Depending on size, your dog should usually be able to carry their own food and water. I’d still check any make sure there will be enough water where you’ll be hiking that you can filter, though. Be sure to pack enough for both of you if there’s nowhere to get more. Like us, dogs are vulnerable to pathogens in untreated water, so be sure to filter or treat their water just as you would if you were going to drink it yourself. 

As for food, I would bring double what your dog would eat on a daily basis, especially if it’s a really strenuous trip. Check with your vet beforehand to get a better idea of how many calories your dog will need to intake during the activity, as well.

Lastly, the temperature can drop quickly at night, so it’s important to bring either a separate sleeping for your dog, or one big enough to fit the both of you. Short-haired dogs especially will get cold quickly, so it’s smart to bring too much rather than not enough.

The tips outlined above will help you prepare for a season of hiking with your dog. They’re called “man’s best friend” for a reason, and any dog owner can tell you that their own canine is like a member of the family. Treat them as such by taking the necessary measures to make sure they’re safe, healthy, and comfortable when hiking. 

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