These outdoor adventures inevitably lead to encounters with wildlife. Before you head out, make yourself familiar with what kinds of local wildlife live where you’re hiking. Then, be prepared for these encounters by following these safety tips for encountering predators on the trail.
Tip 1: Research Locations to go Hiking with Your Dog
The world is a much more friendly place today for your canine best friend. You probably know of a local dog-friendly brewery or restaurants with patios that welcome your four-footed friends. There are many dog-friendly businesses but don’t assume your local state or national park is one of them.
While some hiking trails allow dogs, other places like National Parks do not. So before you leash up, pack the car and head out; check with a reliable resource about their dog policies. Park websites, ranger stations, local Facebook groups, and apps like All Trails are helpful places to see if a trail is dog-friendly.
Tip 2: Leash Up for Safety
Please keep your dog leashed up whenever you’re on the trail. We all wish dogs could be free to run along the path, sniffing and darting back and forth to their heart’s content, but it’s not best for all dogs or all trails.
Hikers with young children or other animals may not want to say hello to your adventure buddy, so keep Fido under control to avoid unwanted meet-and-greets. In addition, you could be sharing the trail with people who have severe dander allergies where contact with dogs is dangerous.
Wild animal encounters are another reason to keep your dog on a leash. You wouldn’t want your dog encountering a cougar or darting into thorny bushes after a bunny and end up injured. Some hikers employ porcupine-style protective clothing to prevent bite injuries.
Signs your dog should remain on the leash:
- Overreacts to other dogs and people
- Jumps on people
- Barks at strangers
- Won’t come when called
- Has a high prey drive
- Does not stay on the trail
If your dog is showing these kinds of behaviors, it doesn’t mean that you have a “bad dog” or that you can’t go hiking. It simply means that you have to take steps to ensure going off-leash is safe for both of you. Love your dog regardless and consult a trainer to earn that off-leash freedom.
Tip 3: Preparation is Key when Safely Hiking with Your Dog
Alrighty, so you already carry doggy waste bags and water every time you walk your dog. That’s a good start. However, hiking into wilderness areas requires more preparation. You’ll need a first aid kit for both of you, proper gear for changing weather, and food.
A basic animal first aid kit includes:
- Non-Stick Bandages
- Self-Adhesive Tape
- Hydrogen Peroxide
- Antibiotic Spray/Ointment
- Small Scissors
- Magnifying Glass
- Eyedroppers or Needleless Syringes
If you plan on being near water, having a towel is handy. If you’re hiking in the winter, bringing a jacket and booties for your dog will help them stay warm. When dogs exercise more, they need to eat more! Bring treats or a small lunch to help them get through long hikes. Before each hike, consider all possible circumstances and pack accordingly.
Tip 4: Be a Quitter! It’s Safer.
Some dogs know when they’ve reached their physical limit, others won’t notice they’re in the danger zone until they begin to show symptoms. Unfortunately, by the time they display distress, it may already be a serious situation.
If your dog starts to lag behind and is panting or drooling, it’s time to head back or stop and find a place to rest for a while. Plan to give your dog, and yourself, frequent breaks during the hike to catch your breath and cool off. Knowing when to stop, turn around, give up – is the most crucial skill a hiker can have.
Respect your dog’s physical limitations by:
- Beginning your adventures during the cooler hours of the morning or evening.
- If you plan on hiking with your dog during the middle of the day, be extra cautious and take lots of breaks.
- Take advantage of nearby rivers or lakes to pour a little water over their belly and back to help them stay cool.
Tip 5: Check Your Pooch Before You Wreck Your Pooch
Once you’ve returned to the parking lot, but BEFORE you get in the car, conduct a complete physical examination.
Post Hike Look For:
- Sticker burrs
- Any injuries
If you find a tick, gently remove it with tweezers or a tick remover, put it in a plastic bag, and throw it away. A bath is always a good idea for cleanliness and removing any pollen or plant oils that could cause irritations, like poison ivy.
Bonus Tip: Training for Hiking with Your Dog
Your dog should master a few basic training behaviors before hiking with you. These commands need to be so deeply ingrained that the sound of them overrides the dog’s instincts.
(e.g., if there is a dead animal on the trail, and your dog bounds up to sniff and examine, it may not be safe. But, on the other hand, a dog that heeds the Stop/Stay command is safe from any poison or illness that carcass might have.)
Basic Dog Training Commands Needed for Safety on the Trail:
- Leave It
- Drop It
Mastering these cues keeps your dog safe during your adventures. If you’d like help preparing for this summer’s outdoor activities safely, consider learning more about our dog training programs or reaching out for a complimentary phone consultation.