Want to hike with your dog? Dog-friendly hikes are all around us with our state’s beautiful trails, lakes, and natural areas. Hiking with a dog is one of the top recreational activities enjoyed by many Michanganders. Adding your Fido friend to the mix is a wonderful way to give your dog exercise and fresh air while enjoying some serious bonding time. 

There are dangers along the trail that every dog loving hiker should know about, though, and ways to make your hike better for your dog. Here are Oakland Veterinary Referral Services’ top 10 tips on how to have safe, dog-friendly hikes

10 Tips for Safe Dog Friendly Hikes

Hiking is a popular way for dog owners to get out and about with their special pooches. Fresh air, sunshine, nature’s beauty, and some cardio make for a great day for you and your bestie. To help make the trek a safe and amazing one, be sure to follow our tips to protect your pet on the trail.

  1. Do some test runs first – If your dog has never hiked before, make sure they are up for the challenge. Instead of a 5-mile hike, go for 1 or 2 miles and see how they do. Gradually increase the length and difficulty of the trail based on your dog’s fitness level, energy, and health.
  2. Make sure they are vaccinated – There are several diseases that lurk in the outdoors that come from wildlife and parasites. Have your dog fully vaccinated and consider additional vaccines, such as those for leptospirosis, a protozoan disease that affects the kidneys. Your dog should also be protected from heartworm, fleas, and ticks through the use of monthly preventives.
  3. Always bring water and snacksHiking with a dog requires a lot of hydration to keep your pet safe and healthy. Bring water for you and your dog and a few treats for them, since they will be expending several calories on the trail.
  4. Avoid hot days – If the temperature is slated to be above 92 degrees, stay at home or hike in the early morning hours. The risk of heatstroke is high among our four-legged friends because they have a limited mechanism for cooling off and only sweat through their paw pads. It’s safer to hike on cooler days.
  5. Pack a Pet First Aid Kit – Running across sharp rocks and through vegetation sets a pet up for the occasional boo-boo. Have a First Aid Kit designed for fur friends on hand that includes tweezers, bandages, antiseptic ointment, and other necessary things for treating wounds and scratches.
  6. Avoid wildlife run-ins – Affix a small bell to your dog’s collar to warn any wild animals of your presence. When you do encounter wildlife, back up with your dog or find another path. Never let your dog chase or aggravate wildlife. While walking, scan the area ahead of you to avoid encounters.
  7. Don’t let your dog eat plants or drink from standing water – Natural areas are lush with plants, fungi, molds, mosses, and other things that might pique your dog’s interest. Some of them can be poisonous, too. Keep your Fido from eating anything outside, including drinking from standing water like ditches and ponds. Giardia and other forms of water-borne illnesses are found in these stagnant pools.
  8. Choose dog-friendly trails; know the trail rules – First, look up dog-friendly hiking trails in your area. BringFido.com is one place to find nearby dog-friendly trails. Check what possible risks you and your pet might encounter. Read the trail rules around dogs and make sure to bring plenty of waste bags, since dog waste spreads contagious illnesses. 
  9. Monitor your dog’s behavior – If your dog seems uncomfortable, such as panting more, slowing down, acting restless, or any other unusual signs, stop. Hydrate your pet by giving them more water and some food. Consider turning around and heading back if your dog has lost pleasure in the hike.
  10. Check your pet when you get home – Look for signs of injury to the skin and paw pads. Check the fur, ears, under the tail, in the armpits, and around the groin for ticks or other parasites. Ensure your furry one is looking and feeling great after your big day out.

We hope this overview inspires you to explore a new trail or natural area with your dog. Our aim is to keep your pet as safe, and happy as possible while giving them the chance to have a grand adventure. If you would like more tips on safe, dog friendly hikes, please contact us

Happy Trails!