The Benefits of Hiking for Dogs
Hiking with your dog provides numerous benefits for both human and canine. The most important of which might be the opportunity for increased bonding time and the chance to work on obedience training in challenging conditions. While the benefits listed below are by no means the only benefits they are some that I hope will get you curious enough to give this fun activity a try!
Reduce Destructive Behaviour related to Boredom
Many of the behavioral problems that people experience with their dogs can be traced back to boredom. This is especially true for young or high energy/active working breeds. Time on the trails is not only physically tiring but mentally stimulating. New scents, sights, and the ability for your canine companion to indulge in their more instinctual abilities can be quite powerful.
Stress Reduction for both Human and Canine
Spending time outside has long been a proven stress reducer for humans and its no different for dogs. Exploring new places and sending time with their favorite people are all things that make most dogs happy. Hiking provides the perfect opportunity for both of these and more. Just like people, dogs experience a rise in endorphins after exercise so they can experience the ‘exercise high’ the same way you can.
Increase in Physical Health
Hiking provides a great opportunity for your dog to get both a mental and physical workout. Climbing over hills, wading across streams and jumping tree limbs are far more of a workout than your typical walk around the block! Hiking provides the opportunity for a good cardio workout as well as a good opportunity to improve core and leg strength which improves overall health.
Safety Tips For Hiking with your Dog
Now that you’re interested in giving this wonderful activity a try it’s time to go over a few tips to make sure your experience is a wonderful one! Taking your dog out on the trails is a lot of fun but any activity comes with its risks. Thankfully, with a few precautions, a lot of these risks can be avoided or minimized. Taking the time to prepare for your hike properly will make it the stress-free fun activity it should be!
Consider your Pets Health and Limitations
Pets that are taken to wilderness areas should always be fully vaccinated. You have no way of knowing what type of illness might be found out on the trail. Vaccinations are the easiest way to prevent them from affecting your furry friend. Talk to your vet about where you will be going to make sure that no boosters are needed or specific vaccines are required for certain areas.
Hiking with dogs can be a physically demanding activity and it’s important to make sure that you are taking your pets current physical limitations in mind. If you have never taken your pet for more then a short walk around the block then odds are they will only be fit enough for a short hike! Young puppy’s and certain breeds also require consideration. Any healthy dog can enjoy a hike, but the distance and pace will vary greatly and you should keep this in mind! Of course, over time, you’ll be able to lengthen your excursions as both you and your pet gain the fitness levels and age required.
Take the Proper Safety Precautions
Most state parks and hiking areas require that dogs are leashed in order to enjoy the trails. In addition to being leashed your dog should also have at least some basic obedience training and be socialized around other dogs so that you know how they will react should you meet other canines and strangers on the trail. It’s your responsibility to keep yourself and other hikers safe by making sure that you can control your canine companion.
Despite all your training and preparations however unexpected things can happen in the wilderness. It might be worthwhile to take precautions for just such a tragedy should our pet ever become lost or separated from you in an unknown location. Dogs are lost every year during family vacations and while dogs who escape from their yards often find their way home this is far more unlikely when you are far from home. ID Tags with your contact information are of course the easiest way to do this. But there are other options too as collars with I.D. tags can break and fall off. In fact, breaking after getting stuck is a safety feature of many collars to prevent choking.
Microchipping your dog is a popular choice as it ensures that should your pet ever become lost and picked up by animal control or a well-meaning stranger a quick check by a veterinarian or control officer should provide the necessary details for return. Microchips are relatively low cost and easy to have done. Echo was microchipped at the same time that she received her second set of puppy shots. She did cry for a moment but, much like keeping my children healthy, I consider that split second of discomfort well worth a lifetime of protection.
While microchips are helpful they do have a drawback – they rely on someone finding your pet and then having them checked for a chip in order to work.
While Echo is microchipped, Connor is not. When he was a puppy our family was not as active outdoors and such things were not of much concern. Now, however, I enjoy hiking with dogs and he goes everywhere with me! While he will get microchipped the next time his rabies vaccine comes due I wanted something to keep him safe in the meantime. Enter Fi Collars!
Why did I Choose Fi?
While there are several brands of GPS collars available I was immediately drawn to Fi. This was for many reasons, not the least of which was the crazy battery life. With the collar connected to your home wi-fi or in proximity to it’s charging base the battery will last for several months, which is great – I already have to remember to charge my phone every night and I did not want that from a dog collar too!
Aside from the battery life Fi Collars are waterproof (even in the ocean). I can attest that ours still worked perfectly after taking Connor swimming while in Miami. And, since Echo adores grabbing onto Connor’s collar while they are play fighting I can say without a doubt that the durability claims are pretty spot on too. It’s also kind of fun to use the activity tracker like a Doggy Fitbit. Connor regularly goes well over the minimum 10 000 steps!
Another feature I love is the ‘Safe Zones’ feature. I can easily set our yard (or any place we might be visiting) as a safe zone. This means that the collar will alert me should Connor leave these areas. If he leaves with a family member with a phone the collar is connected to (like my husband) my app will also alert me. I can see how this would be very useful if you hired a dog walker, or were relying on your older kids or family members to take the dog out while you were at work.
The GPS Lost dog feature is by far the most important feature of this collar, however. This feature will send you real-time location updates, turns on a blinking red light so that you can locate your dog in the dark and gives you the option to connect with a Fi Collar 24hr Lost Dog Helpline for further assistance. I would much rather find my dog the moment it’s lost then rely on someone else finding him and hopefully contacting me! Of course, to unlock some of the more advanced features of your Fi Collar you will have to commit to a subscription fee – the price works out to be about $1.89 a week for a 1-year plan and like most subscriptions, there are discounts for longer subscriptions. You can find all the pricing details here.
Pack the Proper Gear
Just like people your dogs will need supplies while hiking. Water is especially important as our canine friends can be prone to overheating easily. A set of collapsible dog bowls is a pretty good investment! You will also need to pack food, treats and a doggy first aid kit if you plan on hiking for a lengthy period.
Anyone who has gone camping and hiking already knows that backpack space is a premium commodity. If you want to enjoy hiking with dogs and have a healthy pet then you should consider having them pack their own supplies! In fact, having your dog learn to wear a backpack can be highly beneficial even on everyday walks!
Water is important while hiking with your dogs
Many breeds of dogs enjoy having a job to do and packing their own supplies can fulfill this part of their desire. If you have a high energy dog the added weight can also help wear them out which is a benefit for many weary owners. I have also found that dogs wearing backpacks are not approached as much by strangers. While our dogs love people there are times I would rather they be left alone while we work on training and some shy and fearful dogs would likely benefit from this too. With all of this in mind, I was eager to get Connor his very own working pack, after a lot of research we chose to give OneTigris a try!
Why Did We Choose OneTigris?
When I went looking for a pack for Connor I was faced with many options but most of them alway lacked a little something. They either had very little pack room, had dubious quality reviews or were made from flimsy-looking materials. None of that was going to work well if I wanted to take him on long hikes or spend a week camping in differing weather conditions!
OneTigris is a company whose entire motivation is to get people outside and enjoying a more active lifestyle without breaking the bank or working with less than excellent quality gear. Their mission statement alone was enough to make me look into them further!
The Mammoth Dog Pack Is Perfect for Us!
The Mammoth Dog Pack that we tested out seemed perfect for our ultimate needs! The two large packs are well supported across the back meaning that any weight we add is balanced and well spread across a large area, much like the camping backpacks we humans carry. It is, of course, essential to condition your dog properly to carrying weight and make sure that the packs are equally filled to ensure there is no uncomfortable pulling to one side.
The pack attaches with wide velcro straps across the upper chest and around the girth with secondary clasps to make sure it doesn’t come off. It’s exceptionally durable with nice padding for comfort too. So far Connor has been able to carry four water bottles (two on each side) for several miles without any trouble at all. In fact, he acts like he doesn’t even notice he’s wearing it and the pockets still had a lot of room for treats and food as we work on increasing our distance and weight slowly.
During our first hike with the pack, he was able to sit, lay down and climb over tree branches with no issues at all! The durable handle at the top of the pack could be very useful for helping your dog over obstacles, in faster flowing water or just to gain a bit more control should your dog spot some interesting wildlife or be approached by a less well-behaved dog on the road. We are already planning on getting a second pack for Echo when she’s fully grown!
Perhaps a bit less important function-wise but still a feature I love is the addition velcro strips along the side of the packs. The strips allow for the addition of patches (You can see the OneTigris patch on Connor's Harness). I am already planning to get a patch with his name on it but I expect you could also use this for many reasons! Perhaps an ‘In Training’ patch for dogs you don’t want to be disturbed or just something cute to prove how spoiled your buddy is.
If the Mammoth pack isn’t your cup of tea then I highly encourage you to look at the other options OneTigris provides as they have Dog harnesses for pretty much any occasion. If you have something really specific in mind you can even contact them about creating a personalized harness just for you!
Credit: Tales from Home