If you’re anything like me, I am always looking for a fun way to get out and get exercise! And there is no better exercise for both you and your pup than hitting the trail! But before you lace up those hiking boots and grab your pup – here five tips for a safe and happy hike with your pet!
1. Choose a Dog-Friendly Hike
Not all trails are dog-friendly. Typically, pets are not permitted in wildlife sanctuaries, refuges, or preserves to protect wildlife. Not to worry, there are plenty of dog-friendly hikes out there. Before hitting the trail, check out local hiking, park, and ranger websites for rules!
It’s also a good idea to check out the terrain and skill level of hike. And don’t forget to update any vaccinations, heartworm, and tick preventative medications before venturing out!
2. Know and Respect Leash Laws
Ok, so you found a dog-friendly trail. Now it’s time to brush up on leash laws! Here in New Jersey, there are no set leash laws across the state. Instead, laws will vary from park to park, city to city. We love Ringwood State Park, which requires dogs to be on a leash at all time, no longer than six feet in length.
And we’re cool with this – leash laws allow everyone to enjoy the trail safely!
Being on leash protects your own pet. Your pup might be friendly and loves saying hello to all that pass – but not all dogs are socialized and stranger-friendly. Nature is full of fun looking plants, and off-leash pets may be more tempted to munch on something they shouldn’t. Check out this list of commonly found plants toxic to pets before you head out. I keep free handy apps on my phone, like iNaturalist, to help me identify these plants to keep my pets and others safe.
Being on leash protects other humans on the trail too. Not all humans on a hiking trail are at the same skill level. There may also be humans on the trail that do not share your comfort level with dogs. Let’s all have a good time enjoying nature!
Did you know that adventure cats are becoming popular on the trail? Most owners, nor their dogs expect to see a cat on the trail. Don’t take the bet that your dog would be cool and collected if you run into an adventure cat!
3. Be Familiar with Trail Etiquette
Avoid awkward run-ins and safety issues by following trail etiquette! When hiking downhill, a hiker should step aside to allow an uphill hiker to pass on the trail. However, when hiking with your pet, it’s best to let another hiker pass you. Step aside, shorten your leash, and let the other hiker safely pass. If passing another hiker with a dog, I always ask before letting my pup say ‘Hello!’.
4. Pack in, Pack out
Packing any waste out is an important part of keeping nature healthy and happy! If not picked up, pet waste can lead to contaminated water ways and pathogens in the soil. And who has ever had a good time stepping in dog poo? Carry doggy waste bags to pick-up and carry out any poo to dispose of later. Although tempting, it is not best practice to set down and pick up the bag on your way out. Instead, spend some additional potty time at the trailhead before starting your hike.
5. Pack the Right Gear
Now that you’ve found the right hike and know all of the rules, it’s time to grab your gear! There is great gear to keep your pet cool and hydrated on hikes – like portable water bowls and cooling bandanas. If the hike will be on rough
terrain, you may want to try dog booties or have some paw salve at home for after. Always bring poo bags, and your pup’s favorite treats! It is also always also a good idea to carry a pet first aid kit.
Check out our blog here on how to build your own pet first-aid kit!
Hiking with your pet is a fun way for you and your pet to bond, enjoy nature, and get active! A pet can turn a familiar hike into a new experience! Take note of all of the things your pup smells and shows extra excitement about! You may just find yourself noticing new sights, sounds, and smells.