Tips for Keeping Your Dog Safe on Trail
Ensuring your dog's safety on trail is a top priority for hikers who want to bring along their furry friends. Since your dog isn't able to speak up when they're feeling tired or overheated — you'll need to pay close attention to the surrounding conditions and how your dog is acting to make sure they are staying comfortable.
Warm Weather Tips
After a long and restless winter, we (and our dogs) can't wait to enjoy some warm sunshine on trail. But, hiking in those high temperatures will require a bit more forethought for those bringing their pups along.
- Be aware of bugs
Bugs — and most notably, ticks — begin emerging as early as March in parts of the state. Ticks like to hang out in shaded, grassy areas, so try to keep your pup on the established trail to lower their risk of bites (one more great reason to keep dogs, who are tick-magnets, on leash). Once you finish up your hike, give your dog a thorough tick check and remove/crush any you find.
- Protect their paws
While compact ice isn't as much of a problem in the heat of summer — the possibility of burning your pups paws on hot surfaces is. If you are hiking somewhere with asphalt or gravel trail tread (human-made surfaces which retain heat well) keep an eye out for limping or a hesitation to continue walking from your dog.
- Keep them cool
Heat exhaustion is a real concern for our furry friends. If the forecast calls for high temperatures, head somewhere with plenty of shade and water to cool off, or consider leaving your buddy at home, even if they beg you to bring them along.
When hiking with a four-legged friend this summer, be sure to bring them their own supply of water and a container to drink from (an old Tupperware or rinsed-out plastic container makes a light and cheap dog bowl). Dogs' biology makes them more prone to dehydration, so make sure they’re drinking water as often as you are — especially on hot days.
- Ensure safe drinking water
Some lakes are populated with blue-green algae (or cyanobacteria), which is toxic to dogs and can be fatal. It’s best to avoid allowing our pups to drink from or wade into ponds and lakes, especially if algae is visible. Running streams are much safer, as is the water you carry.
Cold Weather Tips
The snow is falling but that doesn't mean you have to leave the dogs at home. Being prepared for the winter weather conditions can make a brisk day on trail with your pups just as enjoyable as any other hike.
- Keep them warm
Just because your dog has a coat of fur, doesn’t mean they won't get cold on a frigid day. If need be, buy your dog a winter fleece for when the temperatures drop below freezing. Remember to always check the weather conditions before heading out on the trail and know your dog's limits.
- Make time for snacks and hydration
Having enough water and food is especially important during the winter months. The colder temperatures and snow causes your pups to work harder and burn more calories, meaning they will get exhausted and dehydrated more easily. Be sure to take frequent rest breaks along the way.
- Start small with snow
Before hitting deep powder, take your dog on some shorter walks in the snow. This will allow you to get an understanding of how they handle the conditions. Over time you can gradually work them up to longer more strenuous hikes. Some dogs might even prefer a healthy dose of snow on hikes (have you ever witnessed the pure look of joy on a huskies face as they roll around in a fresh layer of powder?)
- Check for ice
Snow and ice can form compact ice balls between the paw pads of your furry friends. This will not only slow them down, but it can also be quite painful. To prevent this from happening, you can buy some doggy booties for all their winter adventures. Or if booties aren’t their style, just be sure to check your dog's paw pads every time you stop to rest.