It’s time to hit the trail this summer — don’t fur-get to bring your furry friend along! We’ve put together a list of ways to prepare for safe and fun adventures in the great outdoors.
Pets need to be healthy enough to be active on a trail, so be sure to assess their fitness level before going on a long hike. Start with shorter walks through your neighborhood to build fitness first. When your pet is ready, you can begin more strenuous hiking on mountain trails. If you’re not sure that your pet is healthy or strong enough, always check with a veterinarian for a professional opinion. Bring along a first aid kit—not only for yourself, but for your pooch or kitty too, including any medications they may need.
Watch out for wildlife
There’s always the chance of running into wildlife during a hike – even if it’s close to home. Snakes and other reptiles are often present on mountain trails and pack a poisonous punch that can be deadly. Make sure that your pet is vaccinated in case you run into animals that might be sick like raccoons or rodents. Check for ticks on both your skin and your pet’s to avoid Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.
Be aware of other threats
In addition to wildlife, be aware of other potential hazards on the trail or in the wilderness. Waterways can be infected with bacteria, viruses, or parasites, so either bring a purifier or pack water from home. Plantlife can be harmful – dogs suffer the same fate as humans when exposed to poison ivy! Keep them leashed and on the trail to avoid exposure to noxious plants. Finally, protect your pet from the sun. Pets, especially those with shorter hair, can get sunburned. Bring along a pet-friendly, all-natural sunscreen, and be prepared for heatstroke by knowing the signs, symptoms, and treatments.
Going the distance
Determine the length of your hike ahead of time, which will affect what you need to bring along in your pack. Always check the weather before you go on your hike in case of high temperatures or storm warnings. For day hikes, you only need to bring the basics – food, water, leash, harness, and waste baggies. For longer hikes and overnight camping trips, you will need to bring other gear to keep your cat or dog warm and safe – like booties, sleeping bags, and more. Research what experienced backpackers bring along for their pet for overnight or multi-night stays.
Follow the rules
Make sure you’re familiar with trail regulations. Pets aren’t allowed on every trail or may be required to be leashed. Plan on calling a park ranger to ask if necessary. Pets are also often not allowed in the backcountry for longer, multiple-day trips. Avoid fines by leaving Fido and Whiskers at home. These rules not only protect your pet from potential dangers, but also protect the natural environment.
Obedience and training
Day hiking trails are often busy, so make sure your pet is well-trained. Dogs should be able to interact well with other pets and humans, and you should be able to maintain control over them at all times. If you’re unsure of your pet’s ability to play well with others, visit a dog park or practice on less-populated trails to get them up to speed. Cats should know how to walk on a leash and have some exposure to trail life. It’s likely that you will need to pick up your cat if you encounter dogs or other animals on the trail. Make sure your pet responds when you call — Primal treats can help train them to listen to you.
Leave no trace
Prepare to carry out pet waste with baggies — do not leave them there for other trail-users to find. Double-bag pet waste if you are worried about any leakage, and then dispose of it either at the trailhead or when you get home. For cats, plan on using baggies or a collapsible litter box!
Blaze the trail
With these factors in mind, you’re ready to get going. Remember — this is supposed to be fun, so enjoy the outdoors with your dog or cat!