With the ever growing influence of social media, getting outdoors with your pet (and taking a great photo!) has become increasingly popular. Not only is it a great way to visit new places, but it is also an awesome hobby for you and your dog to bond over! My name is Kristen Halderman, and I am the Veterinary Technician Supervisor at Lollypop Farm. I adopted Jake from Lollypop Farm in 2006, and we have been hiking together ever since. Jake and I have been able to see so many new places, try new things, and even make new friends! Over the years we have learned a lot through experience and wanted to share some of our best tips for getting outdoors with your best friend.
Whether you just adopted your new pup or have been buds for years, hiking may be a whole new experience for you and your dog. Start small and make sure this is an activity you can both enjoy together! For example, you might want to first pay a visit to your local parks or running trails. Dogs, like people, need to get used to hiking longer distances little by little. So don’t forget even if you are used to such activity, your dog may not quite be. You’ll be working your way up to longer hikes, or taller mountains with time!
Even if you adopted a senior pet, they may love getting outside to check out some new, easy, local trails. Jake is over 13 years old and still can’t get enough of hiking. Although we have made some modifications to his activities, these are memories you and your dog can share forever.
Do your research
Some may find it surprising but not all parks and trails are dog friendly! Be sure to check online or your trail books to make sure there are no restrictions. Once you have some hikes in mind, start doing some more intensive trail research – checking out trip reports online is a great resource. You may find some trails to be too long, or too steep, or even have some obstacles that your dog may not be ready for, or could be too much for them. Don’t be afraid to start small! Your dog’s health, safety, and happiness should be your first priorities.
Trail and mountain manners
Don’t forget your manners. Training and obedience are not only great ways to bond with your dog, but they will make you better prepared to hit the trails. Hiking should be a safe and enjoyable experience for you both. Learning basic manners and recall are perfect places to start. Lollypop Farm offers a variety of training classes to get you and your pup on the right track. Jake is always at his best when off on an Adirondack adventure and prides himself on his trail etiquette. To keep his manners top notch, I always make sure to have his favorite treats on hand.
Don’t forget the snacks (and other dog gear)
Don’t forget the extra snacks! If you asked Jake, snacks would be the most important part of a dog’s hiking gear. Be sure to pack those first! There are quite a few other things to consider before setting off on a bigger adventure. Having plenty of water for your dog is of upmost importance and you don’t always want to rely on water sources you might find along the trail. Along with extra water, I always carry a collapsible water bowl for Jake to drink out of. One of our other favorite pieces of gear is Jake’s Ruffwear harness. Not only does he look like quite the mountain man, but the handle on the back makes it very functional for any times he may need assistance on a steeper trail or obstacle.
One other factor to consider when it comes to gear is weather. If you plan on hiking into winter, Musher’s Secret is great for your dog’s paws to keep them from accumulating snow balls, cracking or getting injured in cold temperatures. You could also consider a coat for their comfort on those colder days or even exposed summits.
Doggy First Aid
Another very important piece of gear is your dog’s first aid kit. Become as familiar with this as you would your own! Although fun, hiking does sometimes pose some risks for your pup. Most first aid kits available at your local outdoor retailer will provide you with basic bandaging in case of injury. This will include wound flush, non-stick dressing, and a bandaging roll. As a Vet Tech, I prepared Jake’s first kit myself and am proficient at caring for a wound or other emergency if needed.
If you are interested in learning more about pet first aid, Lollypop Farm does offer classes for First Aid + CPR! I also keep a list of contact information for the closest veterinary hospitals, including emergency practices, when Jake and I are going on a trip.
For the less adventurous pups
If your dog isn’t able to hike with you or is unable to hike long distances, don’t forget to try other activities with them. Bringing them out on the water with you is a great option and can also be great exercise for dogs who love to swim! An activity like paddle boarding or kayaking may take some time for your pet to get comfortable with, so don’t push them into something they are not ready for yet. Take your time in getting them relaxed around the boat with plenty of positive reinforcement. With time if you do give paddling a try, don’t forget a life jacket for your pup! This is also a great way to work on your obedience and training you worked on in your classes. Don’t be afraid to try new things, but only if you think your best friend is ready.
Have a blast!
Jake’s last tip and most important of all would be to have fun! Hiking, paddling or any outdoor activity you choose to do with your dog should be enjoyable for you both. Pick the trails and activities that are right for your dog, whether it be the local running trails, lakes, or even some of the highest summits. Always be prepared and keep your pet’s safety the first priority and don’t forget to reward them with their favorite treats!