Make your next epic adventure pet friendly, with our complete beginners guide to hiking with your pooch.
Have you ever wanted to hit the trails with your fun loving, furry and possibly slobbery sidekick? You know, that big bundle of joy who can’t wait for you to put this magazine down and grab the leash for a walk. Chances are, if you own a dog, you’ve thought about bringing them along on a hike at least once. Now to be honest, bringing the pooch along does require a little extra planning and preparation. The terrain is typically rougher than the local dog park, the inclines can be as steep as the price tag on a new Ferrari, and there’s a high chance you’ll be a long way from home. But when you think about it, it’s not all that different to taking your dog for a walk, it’s just a bit longer. Still not sure? Check out our advice on everything you’ll need to know before taking your dog bush for the first time with confidence.
PREPPED AND READY
Like any outdoor adventure, you’ll need to do your research before you put your best foot forward. The problem is not all trails are dog friendly. Most National Parks are no-go zones, but you’ll generally have better luck with State Forests or State Parks. Don’t get caught out with those lengthy trails that are only partly dog friendly; some forest trails tend to cross into National Park territory halfway through. While you’re selecting a suitable trail to conquer, take into consideration the fitness level of your dog too. They can’t climb Mt Everest on their first hiking trip! Start them off on a smaller hike to see where their fitness and endurance level is at and go from there. Remember, the climate effects dogs like it does people, so it’s important to research and consider how it will affect your pooch and plan around it. For example, short haired dogs with thin coats tend to feel the cold, while the big fluffy fur balls heat up faster.
VET CHECKS AND VACCINATIONS
The last thing you want is your four-legged friend picking up a potentially deadly virus in the middle of absolutely nowhere. There’s also the risk of coming home with worms, fleas or a tick. The preventative is pretty simple; get up to date with your dog's vaccinations and treatment programs well before you head off. It’s a good idea to pop down the vets for a check up before you leave. Oh, and clip the dog’s nails. It’ll drastically reduce the chances of one getting ripped off and bleeding everywhere.
DOG LEASH – ON OR OFF?
One question that always gets thrown around is whether you should let your dog off the leash. While in some cases it’s not as much of a problem (like walking trails on private land), the general answer is no. It can be risky business. Even a dog with the best recall can fail if a new exciting distraction pops up out of nowhere. Plus, dogs tend to poke their big noses into pretty much anything and everything with no respect for native fauna and flora. For their safety and the safety of everything else around them, the best thing you can do is keep them on a leash, and on the designated track. Plus, having an unknown and unrestrained dog approach you on the tracks can be quite daunting for other hikers.
While most dogs would love nothing better than to accompany you on a hiking adventure, it’s worth saying that not all dogs are suited to this kind of activity. You don’t need us to tell you an aggressive, untrained or unsociable dog will be a nuisance, and a liability. But if your pooch is healthy, happy and obedient, there’s a good chance you’ll have the best hiking partner on the planet. Sure, your tent might smell less than pleasant on occasion but on the bright side, you’ll never hear them complain about the rain, they won’t talk your ear off and best of all, they are the masters of the big rule – what happens on a hike, stays on a hike!
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