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My Dog’s Adventures: Let’s Go Hiking

Hello, everyone! It’s finally here … Spring! The birds are chirping. The flowers are starting to bloom. And, I don’t know about you, but I am an avid hiker. There’s nothing more soothing to me than a long walk through the woods. And, of course I bring my Saint Bernard, Molly.

Over the years of hiking with my dogs (sometimes in ‘the middle of nowhere’) I have learned a lot regarding hiking with your dog. I’d like to share some of what I have learned with you along the way to help your hikes with your dog run smoothly.

Pack the Essentials

Before you take your dog for a hike… there are a few things to check off your list. One of the most important… will your dog come when called? Can your dog be trusted to stay by your side regardless of if he/she sees wildlife or other people? If not, some basic obedience training is necessary before hiking.

The next item … a first aid kit for your dog. It’s better to be safe than sorry. A first aid kit will ease your mind and be there in case of an emergency. The first aid kit should contain sterile gauze pads, an ice pack, first aid ointment, an emergency blanket, tweezers, an emergency leash, gloves, antibacterial wipes, and antiseptic swabs (at minimum).

Treats are important to include on your walk… and lunch. Your dog (and you) will need some type of food to maintain your energy if you’re going on a long hike. And, WATER. Don’t forget the water!

Be Certain Your Dog Can Handle the Hike

You don’t want to take your dog for a walk if his endurance is low. Before you go on a strenuous hike, build up your dog’s fitness levels. Start by taking long walks and walk up hills throughout your area. If you plan on having your dog carry a backpack, you should get her accustomed to this as well. Start by allowing your dog to carry a fully empty backpack. Then, add an item or two at a time.

Brachycephalic dogs (short-snouts) like French Bulldogs and Boston Terriers aren’t suited to hiking. Dogs who are brachycephalic can easily overheat and experience difficulty breathing when on a long walk or a hike.

And, check with your veterinarian to ensure your dog’s health is ‘up-to-par’ before going for a long hike.

Don’t Hike in the Heat

Some breeds can handle heat better than others. But, if it’s above 80 degrees, it’s too hot to bring any dog hiking. Remember, dogs can’t sweat other than through their feet. And, sometimes panting can’t cool them down enough.

If it’s going to be a hot day, you may still be able to hike early in the morning or late in the evening. Make sure you check the ground first, the hot ground can burn the pads on their feet.

And, regardless of if you’re planning on hiking or not, you should know the signs of a heatstroke. Heat exhaustion symptoms include bright red tongue, pale gums, weakness, vomiting, a bright red tongue, and/or rapid panting. If you think your dog is having a heatstroke, immediately leave for the veterinarian and keep your dog as cool as possible until you arrive.

Understand the Trail: Know the Rules

Some places you go have rules for dogs. And, many require your dog to be on a leash. Some trails are also too rough for your dog — there could be cliffs or steep drop off’s you aren’t aware of. Making sure you walk through the trail yourself first is crucial.

If you notice the trail is too rough, don’t worry. There’s plenty of trail systems around. Maybe some you don’t even know about yet!

To get you started, here are a few of my favorites:

Corry Junction Greenway Trail (Corry, PA)

Chautauqua Rails-to-Trails (Sherman, NY/ Brocton, NY)

Allegany State Park (Salamanca, New York)

Hundred Acre Lot (Jamestown, New York)

Boutwell Hill State Forest (Cherry Creek, New York)

Long Point State Park (Bemus Point, New York)

Panama Rocks (Panama, New York)

The Bottom Line on Hiking

Hiking with my family (including my dog) is my absolute favorite activity. I walk out of the woods with a clear mind, my family can see all the beauty surrounding us, and my dog walks out happy. Remember, a tired dog is a happy dog.

Until next time!

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