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Hiking with dogs: 5 tips for beginners

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Image courtesy of Jen Sotolongo

Walking your dog is a great way to enjoy nature and exercise outdoors. Sometimes it makes sense to take your dog with you while he’s on the road instead of leaving him at home. Dogs can make great walking companions (depending on your pup’s breed and age) and can help you create lasting memories together.

Hiking is also a great way to help you and your dog bond while spending more time with your furry companion on the trail. The time you spend together strengthens your relationship and can help build mutual trust, creating an even stronger bond than you had before. Hiking with your dog is also an inexpensive activity that you can enjoy on your own schedule.

In theory, your entire hiking experience can be amplified with a furry companion as you watch them interact with nature by taking in the sights, smells, and sounds. It can also help to expose your dog to different social situations. But for some people, walking their dog can be stressful, especially if they (or other dog hikers) don’t have the proper gear or don’t understand basic dog-walking etiquette.

Before you hit the trail with your dog, here are five tips from Jen Sotolongo, a dog trainer in Portland, Oregon, who is the founder of Long Haul Trekkers, an award-winning multimedia brand featuring a blog, store, and courses for dog training. adventure. dogs and their humans.

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Jen Sotolongo, founder of Long Haul Trekkers, with her rescued Red Heeler Sitka mix. (Image courtesy of Jen Sotolongo)

Train your dog before going out on the track

“If your dog pulls like crazy or is reactive, I promise you walking won’t be much fun!” said Sotolongo, who recommended hiring a professional trainer before taking your dog for a walk.

There are a variety of dog training programs available. Check your local area and see what dog training programs are available near you. Sotolongo said that whether you do a board and train program or private lessons, they will give your dog the skills he needs to be the best companion on the road.

Related: 7 tips for finding a professional dog trainer

Boarding and training is a dog training service offered by a trainer where they keep your dog overnight at their facility (or at home) for a certain period of time. This type of training allows the professional trainer to work on commands with your dog several times a day, and he will receive a lot of personalized attention.

Develop your dog’s resistance

“Don’t go for an eight-mile walk if your dog has only gone for leisurely hour-long walks around the neighborhood,” said Sotolongo, who recommended starting with shorter trails and gradually building up to longer distances to set your pup up for success.

For example, you might try going half a mile on a trail and then turning around. See how your dog is doing on the trail. See how they react. See how they are physically the next day. Then repeat. Over time, you can build up to one mile, then two, and so on. Building stamina can make your dog stronger and more athletic, leading to a healthier, happier dog.

Learn basic dog first aid and prepare a dog-specific first aid kit

“The most common injuries and problems for hiking dogs are torn pads and heat exhaustion,” Sotolongo said.

“If your dog begins to limp, look for broken paw pads. If he plans to hike on a warm day, start early and bring plenty of water. Know the signs of dehydration and stop and rest when your dog needs it.”

You never know when an emergency will arise and you want to be prepared. More information on what to include in your dog’s first aid kit can be found on the American Kennel Club website. The list includes things like gauze, duct tape, cotton balls, hydrogen peroxide, a pet emergency pocket guide, and more.

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Sitka directs his energy toward safe outlets like trail running, snow rolling, and swimming. (Image courtesy of Jen Sotolongo)

Keep your dog on a leash until you are ready

“Walking off-leash is a privilege that your dog must earn through training,” Sotolongo said.

“When you’re building memory, the strap is your best friend. If your dog doesn’t come to you while he’s on a leash, why would he come to you off-leash? Again, this is where a trainer comes in handy!”

Sotolongo learned this the hard way while 15 miles down on a trail run with his dog who had a good memory.

“We ran into a group of bird watchers, with dogs at each end. My dog ​​didn’t come when I called her and she pounced on the two dogs in the group. He was beyond mortified.”

Prevent your dog from greeting every dog ​​he comes across

As you walk, not every dog ​​you meet along the way will be friendly. It is best to always ask the dog’s owner for permission before letting your dog near another dog.

“It doesn’t matter if both dogs are off-leash or on a leash, a combination of both, or following leash rules or not, always ask the owner’s permission before allowing your dog near another dog.” Sotolongo said.

» Additional resource: The Essential Guide to Hiking With Dogs: Trail-Tested Tips and Expert Advice for Canine Adventures by Jen Sotolongo

He stressed that hiking trails are not like dog parks, so allowing your dog to run or greet other dogs without permission is considered inconsiderate and can be potentially dangerous.

“As someone who has a reactive dog, hiking makes me very anxious at times, the exact opposite of what it’s supposed to do! I am very concerned that other dogs will rush into my dog’s space. We’ve put a lot of work into training and I advocate space for him. All of that can be undone with a bad encounter.”


Suzanne Downing is an outdoor writer and photographer in Montana with a background in environmental science journalism. Her work can be found in Outdoors Unlimited, Bugle Magazine, Missoulian, Byline Magazine, Communique, MTPR Online, UM Native News, National Wildlife Federation campaigns and more.

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