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Read these safety tips before hiking with your dog

These pet-safety tips will help your hiking trip go smoothly.

Whether you're swimming with your pup, bringing them along for a hotel stay or hiking your favorite trails, there's seemingly endless inspiration for dog-friendly activities. But, when planning out these adventures, it's essential to consider all the ways to keep your dog (and you) safe — especially when it comes to hiking. 

How can I prepare for a hike with my dog?

After mapping out your ideal hiking adventure, here are some ways to gear up for the big day: 

Consider your dog

Before committing to bringing your pup, think about if hiking is the right type of adventure for them. For example, suppose your dog doesn't do well while heavily exercising or is aggressive or anxious in new environments or around new people. In that case, hiking may not be the best activity for them. And if it's your pup's first time hiking, Dr. Emily Singler, Fetch's on-staff veterinarian, recommends looking for a relatively flat trail before choosing a more challenging terrain and ensuring your pup walks well on a leash, so they don't get lost. 

Say your pet struggles with some health conditions, like a heart or respiratory disease, asthma, pneumonia, obesity or arthritis — or maybe they're recovering from an injury. In that case, Dr. Singler says that you shouldn't go on a hike without consulting your veterinarian first.

Research the trails

Do your homework if you've never been to the trail you're traveling to. "Pet parents should learn about the area they intend to hike around," Dr. Singler urges. "Like the type of terrain, whether other people or dogs are likely to be present, what the rules are regarding bringing dogs, how long the trail is and any wild animals that could be in the area."

Look up the weather

The weather is a major factor when hiking. Before you land on a day, it's a good idea to check the weather and avoid days when it's extremely hot or cold outside to prevent heatstroke or hypothermia, Dr. Singler says. 

Make sure your pup has the necessary shots for their adventure

If your pup isn't up-to-date on their vaccinations or parasite preventives, you'll want to visit your veterinarian before hitting the trails. 

Visit the store for dog-hiking gear

The right accessories can help the day go smoothly, Dr. Singler says. Here are some items to add to your hiking shopping list:

  • collar or harness that fits your pup correctly (don't buy choke or pinch collars)
  • An information tag that has your most up-to-date information (a rabies tag is a bonus, too)
  • A leash shorter than 6 feet (avoid picking out a retractable leash, as these can be dangerous)
  • Booties 
  • A collapsible bowl or water bottle and plenty of fresh water for your dog to drink 
  • First aid supplies 
  • Your pup's favorite treats
  • Reflective or glow-in-the-dark accessories depending on when you hike 
  • A bear bell depending on the area you're going to

RELATED: These tips will help keep your dog safe at the beach

What safety hazards should I be aware of before hiking with my dog?

Each hiking trail is different, but there are some universal elements you should prepare for before heading out. Dr. Singler encourages you to be aware of the following safety hazards and try to prepare as much as possible:

  • Rough terrain
  • Trip-and-fall risks from rocks or tree branches
  • Broken paw nails or cuts on paw pads
  • Injury from uneven footing or falling
  • Attack or injuries from other wildlife or other dogs
  • Your dog getting lost if their collar or harness isn't on properly
  • Exposure to fleasticks or parasites
  • Upset stomach if your pet eats something along the way
  • Risk of overheating, heatstroke or hypothermia

"Depending on the emergency, pet parents may need to provide first aid to their pet by bandaging a wound, carrying small dogs if they become injured or tired or helping support larger dogs if they are having trouble moving," Dr. Singler says. "In most cases, an emergency warrants aborting the hike and possibly driving to the nearest veterinary clinic."

Pay attention to any signals your dog gives you that it may be time to head home. For example, signs like heavy breathing, slowing their pace, lying down or even refusing to walk any longer means that it's time to offer some water, let them rest and likely head back. 

Hiking is a great way to make memories with your pup (and get your steps in, too). But it's best to plan accordingly before hitting the trails to ensure your adventures go off without a hitch. If you don't think your pup is up for hiking, don't fret. There are plenty of other activities you can do with your best friend.

The Dig, Fetch Pet Insurance's expert-backed editorial, answers all of the questions you forget to ask your vet or are too embarrassed to ask at the dog park. We help make sure you and your best friend have more good days, but we’re there on bad days, too.

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