This is the perfect time of year to get outside for a hike. The leaves are changing colors, the air is crisp and cool, and the fresh air is rejuvenating. Need a hiking buddy? Snap on your pooch’s leash and get out of the neighborhood. Your dog will enjoy the change of scenery just as much as you!
Why hike with your dog?
By definition, a hike is a long walk especially for pleasure or exercise (Webster’s Dictionary). When you set off on a hike with your dog, you are committing to enjoy the walk or to use it as exercise, both of which are excellent for you and your dog. Let’s break it down a little further.
Hikes are enjoyable for your dog
Your dog is probably familiar with the well-trod path of the sidewalk in front of your house, or perhaps to the mailbox. This is a path he has traveled time and again, without much variety. Your dog’s probably even familiar with the patch of grass that is his favorite pooping spot. So, why not change the pace a bit and show your dog what the big wide world has to offer in terms of grass to sniff and hills to conquer? The terrain of a new path will provide mental stimulation that is important as your dog ages. The new smells on the trails will satisfy your dog’s innate desire to learn about his environment by sniffing.
Hikes provides exercise
Just like us, dogs need exercise to manage their weight. According to the Association for Pet Obesity and Prevention, 54% of dogs and 59% of cats are considered overweight or obese by their vets. Obesity can cause shortened life expectancy, osteoarthritis, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, breathing problems, kidney disease, and many forms of cancer. Exercise doesn’t just help dogs manage their weight, hiking with your dog can also tire him out and provide the stimulation needed to reduce and/or eliminate unwanted behaviors (destructive chewing, barking, whining). A tired and mentally stimulated dog is going to be less likely to tear up your couch cushions!
The terrain challenges provided by a hike can also assist in keeping dogs healthy and agile and reducing digestive problems. According to Dr. Ernie Ward, DMV, “Exercise is critical to keeping your pet youthful.” See our post, National Pet Obesity Day for more on managing your pup’s weight.
Before you go on a hike with your dog…
Of course, there are some precautions to take before you head to the hills with your dog.
Health - If your dog has an open wound or is not completely healthy, it is best to postpone your hike until he is feeling 100%. A hike will be harder on your dog’s body than a walk on a paved road or sidewalk, and you want to set your dog up for success.
Preventative Care - Make sure your dog is up to date on vaccinations and preventative medications for fleas, ticks and heartworms. If you have pet insurance wellness care coverage, don’t forget to submit a claim to received reimbursement for these preventative items!
Contact Information - Check your dog’s contact info on his collar to make sure it is up to date. If your dog has a microchip, make sure your information with the company is also current. You can read our post, 4 Reasons to Microchip for more on the importance of this digital ID. Finally, make sure his/her rabies tag is attached securely to the collar.
Pet Insurance – If your pet isn’t already enrolled in pet insurance, consider enrolling before you adventure out on more arduous hikes. It’s better to be safe than sorry! Get a quote today.
Enjoy your hike!
Now, you’re ready to tackle that hike! The morning of, make sure your dog eats a few hours before the trip, pack plenty of water (consider allowing your dog to carry a backpack with water to free up your hands), and throw in a doggy first aid kit for good measure.
While on the hike, it is best to keep your dog on a leash (new terrain means more of a risk of getting lost or encountering wildlife) and keep an eye on your dog for signs of dehydration. With all these safety measures in place, you’re sure to have a great time, get plenty of exercise, and enjoy the great outdoors!