Now that we are (finally) getting into some warmer, sunnier weather it is getting into that time of year where we like to enjoy more of our time outside with our furry friends alongside. But as much as we might like to hike and check out what the world has to offer, we sometimes forget to account for our pets hiking needs as well!
Here are some useful tips to help our pets enjoy our hikes as much as we do!
Make Sure Your Pet Is in Shape
Just like us, our pets are not always in the best shape! Before heading out on a brand-new hike it is good to make sure that it is something your pet can manage without pushing them too far. Ensure that they can handle the trip without causing too much of a strain on their physical health and check that they are not experiencing excessive heavy breathing or soreness through their legs and body. This can make it difficult for them to complete their hike and can result in additional pain for them afterwards. Don’t overwork them!
If your pet does not seem ready for the hike you have in mind start them off with shorter, easier trails and help them to build their endurance and strength before heading out on the next big adventure!
Have The Right Type of Lead
The best type of leash for your dog will depend on your personal preference as well as on the specific terrain you are both embarking on. For rocky or high elevation hikes it is often recommended to keep them on a short leash to better control where they can explore. And when going to a new location it is always best to keep them leashed until you know whether it is safe to let your dog roam free.
For horses it is always smart to carry a halter and lead rope with you when going on a trail. You might be surprised how many times you may need to dismount and tie your horse off. Bringing a halter along makes this a much more manageable experience.
Avoid tying your horse off using the reins. The reins are connected to the bit; if your horse freaks out and pulls back while being tied, they could easily cause damage to their mouth.
Check The Weather and ALWAYS Bring Water
It is always good to know beforehand what type of weather you are going to be experiencing before heading out on your trail. Changes in weather can cause a multitude of problems that your pet may not be able to manage outside of their typical environment. Thunderstorms, rain, or even snow can all result in fear or panic for our pets, which can sometimes cause them to run off and get lost or even hurting themselves.
And no matter the weather ALWAYS bring plenty of water for both yourself and your pets. Even on the nicest, coolest days the increased activity can result in dehydration. Every time you stop to drink assume that your pet may need a break or a chance to get water as well!
Choose The Right Terrain and Be Ready for The Possibility of New Obstacles
Whether or not your pet is in shape, some hikes are just too hard for our pets that do not have the right hiking experience. Check the trail’s difficulty and see what new obstacles might arise that your pet has not experienced before, such as going over or under something, crossing water, or navigating steep drop-offs. You do not want your pet to feel stuck, scared, or unable to complete the trail.
You may be able to carry your dog back, but it is not so easy with a horse! Being assertive yet rewarding will go a long way with most horses. As well as always doing your best to stay both calm and collected even during tricky situations.
Bring The Proper Gear (Including Treats!)
Sometimes it may feel like you are packing for a weeklong trip not a quick trail ride, but it is always better to be safe than sorry! Packing extra leashes or tack, a first-aid kit (for both you and your pet), and extra water should be the bare minimum you bring with you! But the more prepared you are the better you will feel once you are out on your adventure!
Don’t forget about treats (or snacks for yourself)! Having treats on hand for your four-legged friend can help you to manage some of the unknown or difficult situations that may occur once out on your hike. Rewarding good behavior will also ensure that all future hikes will go smoothly!
Don’t forget your cellphone either! It might seem like the perfect time to disconnect but do not leave your phone behind! Simply turn it off and store it within your bag, that way if any emergency (including getting lost) may arise you will be able to call for help.
Be Aware of Local Wildlife
Most trailheads will have posted wildlife animal information, but it is not a guarantee! It is always good to check what type of wildlife is seen within your area so you can best prepare yourself and your pet for any unexpected encounters. Lots of wildlife animals will leave humans alone but will find a dog (especially small dogs) much less threatening. (i.e., Coyotes and mountain lions). Unexpected encounters with wildlife can also cause your horse to panic and bolt, which can result in injuries or becoming lost, so keep your eyes peeled for any type of creature that may cross your path.
Make sure you research if there are any snakes around the area as snake bites can be lethal for both you and your pets. If snakes are around, try to remain on the path so that any snakes encountered will be easier to see and avoid. If a snake bites your pet IMMEDIATELY contact your local veterinarian and do your best to get them back as quickly and safely as possible!
The more planning and preparing you put into your hikes and trail rides will only increased the chances of everyone having a fun and healthy experience!