There is nothing that makes my 3-year old Siberian husky, Juneau, happier than spending time on the trails and being in the wild. And, I’ll be honest, since she came into our lives, she has been one of our biggest motivators to get out and enjoy nature. Luckily, we live in Michigan were you can experience all kinds of climates and landscapes all within a day’s drive.
Here are my awesome tips for adventuring alongside (wo)man’s best friend:
1. Get Your Dog In Shape
Even working dogs like Juneau can get a bit out of shape and become couch potatoes. Start training with them early with walks around the neighborhood that get longer and longer every day to build up their stamina. Then work yourselves into walking on different terrain for long distances. This will also help you to evaluate whether or not your dog is physically (and mentally) able for strenuous hiking.
2. Be Prepared
Just as you shouldn’t be hiking without a first aid kit of your own, you also need to bring supplies specific to your canine sidekick. Consider things like extra gauze or even socks to help with paw injuries, which are most common. You can even pick up a small Dog First Aid Kit from Petco. It is also important that your dog is wearing identification tags, just in case you are separated during your journey.
3. Carrying His Own Weight
You shouldn’t be the only one doing all the hard work on this trip—make your pooch carry his own weight! Get a dog pack, like this one from Ruffwear, for him to carry his own food and supplies. Some breeds can carry 10% to 15% or more of their own body weight, while other breeds are not built to carry much at all. This weight also changes with age, so evaluate your pup often to understand what he can handle. If you are unsure about your dog’s capabilities, check with your vet.
4. Stay Hydrated
It’s important to recognize the quality of the water your dog is drinking and the effects it can have on them. Just like their human-counterparts, water in lakes and rivers can contain algae or parasites that can make your dog sick or even cause death in extreme cases. Keep plenty of fresh water on hand and bring along collapsible bowls for them to drink out of.
5. Wear Protective Clothing
You never know who or what you’ll run into while you’re out on the trails or in the wilderness. It is best for you and your dog’s safety for him to be wearing a reflective vest. By wearing a vest it will give him extra visibility for you and for hunters.
6. Gear For You
While you’re packing up your own supplies consider adding waist belt leash system, like this Musher’s Belt from Alpine Outfitters, for a more hands-free experience. This is probably my #1 essential to any trip! By having a waist best leash system you can move around with your dog attached to you while leaving your hands free for more important things like taking pictures, snacking, holding your walking stick, or even administering first aid. These belts are also extremely versatile and can be used not only for hiking but for jogging and walking or even while sleeping to ensure your pup stay close in the night. You can even hook it around a tree at camp.
7. Snoozing Under the Stars
After a long day of hiking your pooch is going to be so happy to rest his head. While I’m resting in my DoubleDeluxe ENO Hammock, Juneau is always catching some Z’s close by. She is always harnessed to a person or to a tree since she is very curious. For protection against the elements and bugs/wildlife, invite your pooch into your tent or get them a tent of their own.
8. Dispose of Your Waste Properly
It is a dirty job, but someone has to do it! Just like you would your own, bury all pet waste at least 200 feet away from trails, camps, and water sources to be safe and considerate. Do not bury the poo in the little plastic baggies hanging from your leash, as these are not biodegradable or environmentally friendly.
9. Don’t Forget to Have Fun
Although your furry friend loves being out on the trails, he is probably treating it more like a job. Make sure you give him time to let loose! Bring along one or two of your bud’s favorite toys to play with and enjoy during your downtime. We never leave home without Juneau’s favorite stress chew toy to cozy down with at night (she can’t sleep without it) and something to play fetch with that also floats just in case we end up near water. When all else fails, the woods are full of fetching sticks!
10. Conduct a Post-Trip Evaluation
At the end of the trip, be sure to check your dog’s body for ticks, burrs, bites, injuries, or any other anomalies. If you do find a tick, consider contacting your vet before taking any action. Believe it or not, you can actually do more harm than good if a tick is incorrectly removed. Inspect your pooch’s paws for any cuts, scraps, or excessive wear and apply a medicated ointment, like Pawtector from The Natural Dog Company, to relieve any discomfort. Continue to monitor your dog for a few days post trip for any latent issues.
Canine buddies make great hiking companions on and off the trails So next time you are planning your next adventure, don’t forget your furry friend and don’t forget their gear!