By: Laura Van Zonneveld
There are countless things to remember when taking your dog hiking but these are the top 5 you need to remember from Laura Van Zonneveld- animal behaviour biologist and canine psychologist from Sweden.
Enough water to cover the length of the trip, for both you and your dog! A collapsible bowl is definitely recommended, since dogs drinking from a bottle normally waste quite a lot. A collapsible bowl will easily fit in your bag and is light. If the weather is warmer you are obviously going to need more water. If you are walking past a river or a lake, make sure that the water is clean if you want to let your dog drink from it. During summer, springs or lakes can be contaminated with cyanobacteria (blue-algea), which can make your dog very sick and can even be fatal. Information if the lake you are visiting is contaminated can usually be found on the internet or at a local tourist information office, however, to avoid possible intoxication it’s best to provide your dog with tap or bottled water.
Dry food and a lot of treats! Make sure that the food you bring doesn’t go off over time or in warmer climates, take it with you in an air tight bag or container to keep it fresh. Because your dog is exercising more than usual, they will require more food to keep in shape. The treats you can use for recall or to distract your dog when you come across some exciting smells or sights. I normally carry treats in a treat bag around my waste. This keeps my dog close at my side most of the time.
Normal leash and a longline. Even if your dog is good off lead, you might come across hikers who don’t particularly like dogs or you could encounter a busy road where you have to keep your dog close. I like to use a bungee leash which is loosely attached around my waist. The bungee is a buffer for sudden pulls, making walking more comfortable for both you and your dog. The waist attachment is something I really like, I can keep my hands free to take nice pictures of the surroundings, hold my bag or sweep annoying insects out of my face. Also when my dogs is sniffing around me, the line will move with her and won’t get tangled up around my legs or trees and bushes. The longline we use on our camping spot, we attach it to a tree in a clearing so our dog can walk around, not get stuck on trees too often and is not able to disappear into the forest.
First aid package. You never know what you might come across. Your dog can step in something sharp, get bitten or stung by an animal or trip and hurt a leg. You can buy a pet first aid kit at the veterinary clinic, pet store and sometimes even at a chemist. They typically come with an antiseptic, gauze rolls, tape, tweezers and some other useful stuff. They are usually equipped with a booklet on how to perform first aid for your pet. Reading in to this or even taking a course before you go on a trip is highly recommended.
Make sure that you know what to do and who to contact if something more serious happens and where an first aid kid is just not enough. Be up to date about possible poisonous snakes that you can come across, and ask your veterinarian what to do if you or your dog gets bitten.
Another handy thing for the first aid kid is paw wax. We normally bring homemade paw wax with us as well. After a long walk on rough terrain her paw pads can get a bit dry and sore, and in the worst case even cracked. The paw wax prevents the cracks, but also keeps the pads soft and protected against heat, cold and salt.
Clothing or other gear. This of course depends on the weather conditions, the terrain that you are walking in and the physical appearance of the dog. My own dog has a very short one layered coat, so in winter she can’t keep warm herself. In cold or wet weather we always bring a coat with us in case she gets cold or uncomfortable.
When you are walking in warm weather, it is a good idea to bring something to cool your dog down, overheating is a serious case which you want to prevent at all costs. There are special cooling vests and collars for dogs on the market, which can keep your pet from overheating. For a cheaper alternative you can also put a wet cotton white shirt or towel on your dog. The white colour reflects the sunlight away and by making it wet it will cool down your dog even more.
If you are walking in rough terrain you can use dog boots to prevent injuries, or use them after your dog injured their paw during a hike, this will make the walk back more comfortable for your dog and it keeps the wound clean.