As man's (and woman's) best friend, it isn't uncommon for a dog to become a favorite hiking or camping companion. If you are like many that take your dog on your adventures, you also want to make sure they remain safe while you are away from civilization. The following tips can help you protect your dog from harm while you are on the trail.
Tip #1: Remember that nothing replaces training
For many hikers it is common to allow the dog to run off-leash while in the woods. First, make sure this is allowed on the specific trail you're hiking. Second, only dogs that are highly responsive and fully trained in basic commands like "come," "stop," and "drop it" should be allowed off leash. Finally, only allow your dog off leash if you are completely assured that they won't be violent toward any other hikers or dogs they encounter on the trail.
Tip #2: Know when to use a leash
Don't leave a leash at home just because off-leash is allowed and your dog is well trained. It's a good idea to always use a leash when hiking in cougar or mountain-lion country, since a dog is just the right size for prey. You may also want to consider leash use in the spring and fall when bear activity is high. Finally, leashes are a good idea on steep cliff sides, since you don't want your dog to accidentally fall or run off the edge.
Tip #3: Double up on identification
Most pet owners depend on microchipping to identify their pet, which works well when you are in your own neighborhood and city. When you travel outside of the city to hike or camp, a microchip may not be sufficient. In rural areas people may just assume your dog is a stray if there is no collar and tag, or the microchip may not be checked right away. Make sure your dog is also wearing a collar with a custom dog tag that lists their name, your city, and your cell phone number. If your dog is lost on the trail, you may be notified by someone that found them – even before you make it back to the trailhead!
Tip #4: Bring dog-friendly health items
A collapsible water bowl and some food are musts for your dog. You should also bring along some packable dog booties. It's not uncommon for a dog to suffer foot injuries, and booties can mean the difference between your dog walking back or you having to carry a 50 lb. dog. A tick removal tool should also be in your first aid kit. Also make sure your kit is stocked with antibiotic ointment, a bandage roll, gauze, and a pain killer recommended by your vet so you can treat any minor injuries as you hike.