Trail Etiquette and Safety Tips for Hiking With Your Dog

Reviewed for accuracy on May 13, 2019, by Dr. Katie Grzyb, DVM

Nothing beats hiking with a dog. A brisk walk or even a stroll through natural surroundings can be great exercise for two-legged and four-legged family members.

 

And, because hiking exposes your canine companion to new and interesting things, it’s mentally stimulating for your pup too, says Katherine Aromaa, avid hiker and owner of Cooper’s Dog Training and Behavior Modification in Portland, Oregon.

 

Before you hit the trails, you want to make sure that you and your dog enjoy the park responsibly by following both safety and hiking etiquette rules. That way, everyone else can enjoy the park, too.

 

Keep Your Dog’s Safety In Mind

 

During hot or humid summer days, take your dog hiking in the early morning or late evening when the weather is cooler. This is especially important if your dog has a short snout (like French Bulldogs, Pugs and Boxers).

 

In colder months, hit the trails midmorning, recommends Katy Chadwick, owner of Brightside Dog Training and Boarding in Dacula, Georgia. Always remember to take water or food breaks.

 

Also watch out for unfamiliar terrain if you’ve got a newbie hiking dog—cliffs and drop-offs to fast streams or icy ponds. “Lots of young and inexperienced dogs can get perilously close to the edge or think that they can go down just fine. Sometimes that is true, but then they can’t get back up! Keep your inexperienced dog on a leash in these situations,” says Aromaa.

 

Practice Trail Etiquette When Hiking With Dogs

 

With these tips, you’ll be prepared with the right knowledge, training and dog supplies so you can enjoy hiking the trails with your pup.

 

Follow Dog Leash Rules

 

Make sure you always adhere to the rules for each hiking trail. Many state parks and nature preserves allow hiking with dogs, but only if they’re leashed. Do not ignore this guideline.

 

The leash rule is there for a reason. It makes it safer for other hikers that are there with or without pets, says Aromaa. Having all dogs on leashes eliminates the potential for negative interactions between dogs or between your dog and other people.  

 

The leash rule is also in place to protect the environment. Many parks are preserving habitats and animal species, so a loose dog could end up disrupting nesting sites, trampling natural flora or getting injured themselves.

 

There are many off-leash hiking trails available to dogs, but that still doesn’t mean you should just let your dog run free, especially if your dog is reactive to strangers or other dogs. You need to make sure that your dog is properly trained to be loose in a public space.

 

Let Other Hikers Pass

 

It is also important to remember that you are not the only ones enjoying public hiking trails.

 

If you pass other pups or people, step to the side and let them go by. “It avoids so many problems, especially on single-track trails,” says Aromaa.

 

To help other hikers or dogs pass, Aromaa has her dog come to her and sit. Chadwick likes to keep her dog’s attention by offering dog treats. 

 

“A dog with basic training and manners will greatly improve your experience,” says Chadwick. Your pooch must be able to obey the commands “sit,” “come,” “stop” and “leave it,” even with distractions.

 

Help Prevent the Spread of Disease

 

It also important to make sure your dog is all up-to-date on their vaccinations, flea and tick prevention, and heartworm prevention. The National Park Service says that by keeping your dog up-to-date on these, you can prevent the spread of disease to and from wildlife. Tick-borne diseases are especially concerning in certain regions.

 

Make Sure to Bring These Hiking Dog Supplies

 

Having the right hiking supplies with you can ensure that both you and your pup have a safe and fun hike. Here are a few of must-have hiking supplies when out with your dog:

 

Dog Leash

 

Chadwick recommends a durable 6- to 9-foot dog leash that easily lets your hiking dog explore but keeps him close by so that you still have control.

 

You will want to steer clear of retractable leashes because they can break or tangle if your pup takes off after something.

 

A dog leash like the Hertzko hands-free running dog leash is a great option because it allows you to have free hands but also keeps your pup close and under control.

 

Fresh Water

 

Always make sure to bring enough water for you and your dog. (along with portable water bowls to drink from) so she can stay hydrated.

 

“I try to avoid letting my dogs drink from unknown water sources as it can cause an upset stomach, diarrhea or diseases like giardia,” says Chadwick. 

 

Dog Treats

 

It is always smart to have dog treats with you—they can help to get your dog’s attention. Treats are great for rewarding your pup when she comes back to you or sits quietly by your side as other dogs walk by.

 

Dog Poop Bags

 

Yes, your dog’s poop is biodegradable, but dog poop can also transmit diseases that can affect local wildlife and ecosystems.

 

The National Park Service suggests you use the “Leave No Trace” principles when hiking with dogs, so it is super important that you always remember to bring dog poop bags, and pick up after your dog while hiking.

 

It’s the polite thing to do, and it will help to ensure that you keep the local wildlife safe and healthy.

 

Dog First Aid Kit

 

Finally, you will always want to make sure you have a dog first aid kit on hand. This will help to make sure you are prepared for any unplanned circumstances while out hiking with your dog.

 

Your dog first aid kit should include:

 

·         An emergency contact card

·         Blunt-tipped scissors

·         Bandages

·         Sterile eye solution

·         Latex or rubber gloves,

·         A plastic syringe

·         Tweezers

·         Antiseptic wipes

·         A thermometer

 

You should also have a stash of your dog’s medications just to be safe and prepared.

 

By: Linda Rodgers

 

Walking the dog-how are you doing it?

By Dr. Karen Becker comments by Diane Weinmann

Thinking About Dog Walks in a Whole New Way

 

Many pet parents tend to look at dog walks as chores to be quickly finished, and I think part of the reason is they’re simply in a rut. They’re not using their imaginations. There are actually lots of ways to change up your dog walking routine that can make it fun for both you and your canine BFF, and something you look forward to. Different types of dog walks:

1. Purposeful walks — These are typically short and have a specific goal, for example, walking your dog to her potty spot.

2. Training walks — These walks can be about improving leash manners, learning basic or advanced obedience commands, ongoing socialization, or anything else you can think of that can be done on a leashed walk. Be sure to bring some healthy training treats on these outings.

Ongoing training throughout your dog’s life is a great way to keep his faculties sharp and boredom at bay. It’s also a wonderful way to strengthen the bond between you and your pet.

3. Power walks — Power walks keep your dog’s frame strong, his weight in check, and help alleviate arthritis and other degenerative joint diseases. These walks can also be an essential method for ensuring your dog gets the exercise he needs, as long as you’re consistent with them.

Remember: A healthy dog needs to exercise an absolute minimum of every three days (every other day is better; every day is ideal) at an intensity that elevates his heart rate for 20 minutes to maintain cardiovascular conditioning and muscle tone. If your dog is out of shape, you’ll need to start slow and build gradually to 20 minutes per power walk.

4. Mentally stimulating walks — Most leashed dogs don’t get to spend nearly as much time sniffing and investigating as they would like, so allowing your pet some time to explore is good mental stimulation for her. These walks allow her to stop, sniff, investigate, and pick up and send pee-mail. Dogs accumulate knowledge about the world through their noses.  Take them to the woods—it’s great for their mind and body.  They sniff all kinds of stimulating smells, walk over logs and branches which gently helps with coordination and they can find treasures of leaves and rocks and if lucky, maybe a glimpse of wildlife.  The woods is a treasure trove of activity for your pet to enjoy just remember to leave the leash on!

5. Sniffaris — I don’t know who coined this term, but I love it! Sniffaris are walks during which your dog takes the lead, you follow, and he gets to sniff whatever he pleases. Sniffaris are upgraded mentally stimulating walks, more or less, with your dog making all the navigational and investigational decisions!

6. Change-of-scenery walks — Instead of heading outside in the same old direction, instead, buckle your dog in and drive a few blocks away or to a neighborhood park or nearby hiking trail for your walk. Both you and she will find new things to see, smell and experience.

7. Walks with friends — If your dog is comfortable around other dogs, consider meeting up with neighbors or friends with dogs for group walks. Everyone on two legs and four gets to socialize and exercise simultaneously, and dog parents can also be valuable resources for one another.

8. Different dog-walker walks — Everyone walks a dog a little differently, so the more members of your household who walk your dog, the more variety she’ll enjoy. And since walks done right are bonding experiences, everyone in the family gets to spend one-on-one time with the dog.

A variation on this if you work outside the home is to hire a professional dog walker a few times a week or ask a willing friend or neighbor to take your dog out for a walk in your absence.

One of the most important things you can give your dog whenever you interact with him, including on walks, is your undivided attention. Put down the phone and other distractions and let your dog know through your focus on him how much he means to you.

Carri Westgarth, Ph.D., a research fellow at the University of Liverpool and the lead author of a 2017 study titled “I Walk My Dog Because It Makes Me Happy: A Qualitative Study to Understand Why Dogs Motivate Walking and Improved Health”3 also suggests leaving your cell phone behind to thoroughly enjoy the walk and the time with your dog.

“Dog walking can be really important for our mental health, and there is no joy like seeing your dog having a good time,” Westgarth told Health Newsletter. “In this age of information and work overload, let’s thank our dogs for — in the main — being such a positive influence on our well-being … leave the mobile and worries at home and try to focus on observing our dog and appreciating our surroundings.”4

 

 

De-icing Dangers

Veterinarian Reviewed on January 7, 2016 by Dr. Janice Huntingford and Diane Weinmann

I need Diane's lotion bar please!
I need Diane’s lotion bar please!

The winter season is here with the cold, snow and ice. When snow is on the ground, municipalities apply commercially prepared snow and ice melting products. Home and business owners also apply similar chemicals to sidewalks, porches and driveways. Most ice melting compounds contain salt products that can damage vegetation and hard surfaces and are toxic to people and their pets. Most people are not aware of the dangers that deicing solutions pose to pets.

Many ice melting salt products contain sodium chloride. With exposure of the salt to water and low temperatures, a reaction occurs that causes melting with temperatures generated up to 175°F. This reaction can burn the pet’s foot pads and skin with contact and can burn the mouth and rest of the GI tract with ingestion. Dogs and cats can ingest the salt by licking snow or icy surfaces or by licking their paws after being outside and picking up the ice melting pellets between their toes.

Salt toxicity is also a possibility with the salt-based ice melting products. Ingestion of salt can result in high blood sodium concentration leading to thirst, vomiting, lethargy, anorexia, kidney damage and possible neurologic signs including seizures, coma and even death. It is difficult to know how much salt is a “toxic dose.” Even small amounts of pure salt can be dangerous to a pet if ingested.

A pet with clinical signs suspected of ingesting rock salt should be assessed by a veterinarian. Serum sodium level will be elevated and reestablishing normal fluid and electrolyte balance may be necessary with fluid support and in-hospital care with 24-hour observation. It is important that water replacement be managed carefully because rapid shifts in water with dehydration may result in cerebral edema ( brain swelling) and cause neurologic signs.

Salt-based ice melting products are the least expensive. There are other, more expensive formulations that contain potassium chloride, magnesium chloride, calcium carbonate or calcium magnesium acetate. The potassium and magnesium salts are less toxic if ingested but can still burn the foot pads. The calcium-based products do not create an exothermic reaction but still can be drying to the skin surface with exposure.

I know you have to carefully check the pads of your dog’s paws for salt granules that are stuck. I think my dog ate one and then he threw up a bunch of bile. It was gross but once he threw up he seemed better and ate his dinner.   I know it’s easy to forget to check but try to remember to look after every outside walk!

Here are steps that the pet owner can take to minimize risk for his or her pet:

  • Monitor/modify your pet’s behavior to minimize the risk of salt exposure.
  • Use waterproof pet boots during winter walks with dogs.
  • Wash off the pet’s feet, abdomen and chest after being outside with exposure to deicing salts.
  • Use sand, crushed cinder or cat litter to provide traction on icy pavement being aware that these products will not melt the snow or ice.
  • Immediately remove slush and dissolved deicing product after the snow and ice have melted enough.
  • Seek veterinary care if you suspect foot pad or skin burning from salt exposure or that your pet has ingested a significant amount of a salt product.
  • I also sell a product that is a pet lotion bar to put on your dog’s paws or nose to help with chapping and winter exposure to the elements as well as to the salt. The product has cocoa butter, shea butter, bees wax olive butter, avocado oil, neem oil and oatmeal and is completely handmade, holistic (as you can see by the ingredients) and safe for your pet even if they lick at it.       The pet nose and paw lotion bar is $10 plus shipping. Contact Dianefortheloveofanimals@yahoo.com if you would like to purchase one of these fabulous bars (I use it on my own hands and feet).