Friday, December 02, 2011

Hiking with Dogs

Guest Post: Hiking with dogs by Jess Spate

Most dogs like nothing better than a nice long walk, and hiking is a pretty popular hobby amongst people too. With a little care there is no reason why your pooch can't join you on a hike and you can both have a great day out. However, it's not quite as simple as clipping on a leash and heading out there door.

If you want to hike with your dog in a State Park or another area with conservation value, do some homework first. Some parks welcome responsible dog owners but others don't, and the last thing you want is to arrive at the trailhead only to find a 'No dogs' sign blocking your way. Those places that don't allow dogs often do so for very good reasons so it's well worth paying attention to signage. Nobody wants their pooch to cause any harm.

No matter where you walk your dog, it's important that they be well socialised and friendly to people and other animals they might meet along the way. They need to come when called if you're going to allow them off the leash, no matter what temptations they might face. Breeds like Labrador retrievers are almost always good with children and other hikers but it takes training to resist running after wildlife, for example.

Chasing deer or other large animals isn't the only problem you might encounter. In many places it's quite common to see snakes sunning themselves on hiking trails in the summer months. In the overwhelming majority of cases they slither away as soon as they catch sight of people, but a curious dog might not want to let this interesting new thing go so easily. Keep your dog close by even when not on the leash and make sure they'll come when you call, every time.

It's great to start training your dog into good hiking etiquette from a young age, but do remember that puppies are just like kids. They might start out with boundless energy but they get tired easily. Start with short hikes and work your way up as your dog gets older, stronger, and more experienced. Special care should be taken when allowing puppies who aren't yet fully vaccinated out on the trail- it's usually best to wait until they're fully protected.

Jess Spate is a hiker, a rock climber, and a dog lover since childhood. When not out on the trail somewhere she works for Appalachian Outdoors (a company that stocks a wide range of dog gear and edits a British outdoor clothing website.

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