What better way is there to enjoy a Saturday afternoon than with your four-foot friend on a hiking trail! Dogs love to be in an environment rich in the scents of the outdoors and you will feel the tension in your body dissolve as you assimilate your surroundings. But most important of all, you and your dog will be spending this special time together, further building that extraordinary bond the two of you already share. Of course, your pet’s safety during your hike must always be in the forefront of your mind and so adequate preparation is essential. This preparation needs to include what you might have to do if your pet is injured while on the trail. I offer a list of what I always make sure to prepare for our day in the woods. Admittedly, I am a person who always plans for the worse yet expects the best. So you may decide a few of my preparations are not necessary, but it is what always puts my mind at ease before we begin our day of adventure.
1. Pack a hiking day-sack. Mine includes a soft-sided or collapsible dog crate. There are several soft-sided dog crate styles that fold into a package that can easily be placed inside of your backpack. Should your dog become injured on the trail and you need to carry him to safety, a potentially daunting task becomes quite easy with a collapsible dog crate. There are even a few soft-sided dog crates that also double as a backpack. Now how perfect is that! My day-sack also includes bottled water, dog biscuits, a protein bar for myself, and few first aid items such as antibiotic ointment, bandages, gauze and tweezers.
2. Make sure the regulations for the trail permit dogs. All trails typically require all dogs to be on a leash. But even if this is not required, placing your dog on a leash is the wisest practice in protecting your pet when in an unfamiliar environment.
3. Make certain all of your pet’s vaccinations are current, especially the rabies. You never know what critter the two of you may run across on the trail.
4. Make sure your pet’s collar has accurate identification tags with includes your contact information such as a 10 digit phone number, home address or e-mail address. An ID microchip might be something you may want to consider. But the downside of this is that the person who finds your dog would need to take your pet to a place who knows to scan for the chip and be able to match it with the database. So I personally prefer a collar and tags, but any vet would be able to insert an ID chip if this is what you prefer.
5. Of course, it goes without saying that your pet must be completely healthy before you even think of taking him on a hike. The uneven terrain will only aggravate an existing injury, and it would also place an unnecessary physical strain on him if he is showing any signs of being “under the weather.”
6. Use flea and tick prevention on your pet about 3 days before your adventure. As often as my dog and I have been hiking, I have not yet found a trail free of ticks or bugs.
7. Lastly, make sure you keep your pet safe in your vehicle while traveling to and from the trail by using a pet crate. There are a wide variety of dog crates, but for the purposes of car travel I recommend a plastic dog crate. Plastic dog crates provide both durability and maximum safety.
The only thing left to do is simply enjoy your day. There’s little doubt that some of my most treasured memories with my four-footed pal of 7 years has been while we have been on the trail. With a just few preparations, you too can have a worry free and memory filled day.
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