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Take a (Safe) Hike with Your Pal

Gym membership, what’s that? Canine pet parents know there’s probably no more effective exercise regimen than walking their dog. It doesn’t matter what the weather is like or how tired you are; having a dog means you need to take them for walks every day.

Maybe there’s a favorite part of the city or neighborhood you like to venture to, or maybe you’re both big bark park fans. Whichever you prefer, one of the best ways to exercise with your dog is to hike.

Canines are the ideal hiking companions; they rarely voice a complaint, they run ahead but will usually wait for you, and they’re always sniffing out something interesting. Having your furry family member as a fellow adventurer can inspire you to get out more and explore the wild.Before hitting the trailhead however, keep a few important things top of mind.

Pace yourselves

Be sure your doctor and your dog’s veterinarian give the all-clear before either of you start hiking. Even if you’re both fit, a rugged hike through mountain passes and glaciers isn’t a good idea for your first long hike together. Choose a trail that complements your current level of fitness and activity. If you and your pooch normally walk for an hour at a time, a two-mile hike over moderate terrain could be an ideal adventure.

The goal of this first hike is to gauge how well the two of you do. If you get back to your car and you’re both eager to stay moving, do another loop.

Pack mentality

When you’re out for an hour or more and several miles away from your car, make sure you have everything you need. To ensure you’re not lugging a 60-pound pack (after all, you’re nobody’s Sherpa, not even your best pal’s) or find yourself hungry and thirsty with no food or water, check this list before you set out:

  • Daypack: A smaller backpack to carry all the things you’ll need.
  • Doggie backpack: Get your pal in on the act by fitting him with his own small but comfortable pack to carry his food or treats. 
  • Treats for two: Even if it’s a short hike, be sure to bring an energy bar for you and a few treats for your dog. Making a picnic out of it? Then pack a lunch that includes your food, dog food, and healthy snacks like trail mix and beef jerky. Blue Buffalo even makes real U.S. jerky just for dogs and has a lot of grain-free BLUE Wilderness treats, too.
  • Water: Staying hydrated is crucial. Bring a liter of water for every two miles you hike, and an equal amount for your dog.
  • Collapsible water bowl to hold said water for your pal
  • Your dog’s leash, collar and clear ID
  • Small first aid kit: Include supplies to treat blisters and minor incidents, a copy of your dog’s vaccinations and your veterinarian’s emergency number.

Safety first

While you and your pooch are out on the trail, keep a close eye on him. Watch for film forming around his tongue and mouth, which could mean he’s dehydrated. Overheating is a major concern for you and your dog. Avoid hiking on hot days and make sure your furry companion is properly hydrated. If he slows down, vomits or starts breathing fast and erratically, he might be overheating.

Remember to pack your dog’s leash. While you might be tempted to let him run free, try keeping him on his leash for his own safety. Surrounded by exciting new scents and numerous little critters (not all of whom are harmless), your best pal could easily be distracted, so it’s important to keep him near you.

Also, frisky dogs can truly tear up a trail so you need to keep other hikers and their furry friends in mind. A leash keeps your dog from running after strangers, their dogs, and those elusive, pesky squirrels.

There’s a great big world out there, with plenty to explore. Start by checking out this extensive list of dog-friendly hikes and start your adventure in the wild.