Hiking With Your Dog: Prepared = Happy
Hiking With Your Dog: The More Prepared, The More To Enjoy!
Since getting a high-energy dog* over a year ago, our family has learned one thing the hard way: There is no skipping the calorie-burning exercise which he requires every day. Expending his energy is absolutely necessary to keep our dog happy and our furniture structurally sound. As an owner, I have had a new world of hiking in the woods open up to me as one big crash course. Not only is Biscuit my first dog, but I also moved to Vermont as a life-long New York City dweller shortly before he arrived into my life. In essence, it was a pressure-cooked learning curve covering the do’s and the don'ts of daily hiking. I can report has been a win/win ever since our daily morning routine began!
Featured: (1) Neck Warmer (for you or Fido!): Turtle Fur’s Original Turtle Fur Neck in Blaze Orange - (2) Bell: Small zipper bell – (3) Hat: Turtle Fur’s Original Turtle Fur ‘The Hat’ in GloStik – (4) Neck Buff/Neck Tube/Neck Gaiter (for you or Fido!): Turtle Fur’s Comfort Shell Totally Tubular in Blaze Orange – (5) Miniature Air Horn: Shoreline’s Marine 1.4 Oz Air Horn – (6) Squeaker from Dog Toy: (RIP Mr. Sharkie) – (7) Miniature Cow Bell: Warner Manufacturing in Nickel – (8) Whistle: Acme – (9) Gauze, VetRap & Bandaids – (10) Miniature Lighter: In any bright color – (11) Shareable Dog Water Bottle: H204K9 – (12) E-Collar: PetSafe - (13) Mini LED Flashlight Keychain – (14) Treats
Quell Fears of Danger with Preparedness!
As someone who feared my own shadow, I learned that any hang-ups about going into the woods can be eased by the power of preparedness. Learning about the appropriate reactions to various fearful situations helps a hiker feel in control. Depending on where you're located in the country (or world), these situations can vary greatly. In New England, rocky mountainous terrain, hunting seasons, black bears and cruel weather top the list of the worst-case scenarios.
In order to side-step any potential distractions from enjoying these routine hikes, I now have a small pack waiting at the door each morning. My pack is full of things what would be super helpful if I were faced with any of those scenarios.
First, put a bell on your dog (7).
Next, wear a bell - yes, you this time!
What does a bell have to do with wildlife?
Dogs tend to move quickly, quietly and swiftly through forests: all great ways to set the stage for startling an unsuspecting animal (be it a stinky skunk or a hungry carnivore).
A ringing bell on your pup allows for creatures ahead to know that something is approaching so that they can hide.
A simple key ring or mini-S carabiner available at most hardware stores can be used as the means to keep it secure.
Other obvious benefits of adding a bell include your ability to track your pup using sound in place of sight.
Ok - who's training who here?
Let's be clear: your bell certainly does not have to be a huge cow bell! Find something that you know that your dog can hear (2). Keep in mind that your pooch's hearing ability trumps yours by four times in distance. That's the difference between being able to distinguish a sound from 80 feet compared to your 20 ft earshot range! Not only does your bell serve the same purpose of alerting wildlife to your approach, but it also helps Fido track where you are at all times, too.
-Know the protocol for the specific wildlife you might encounter: for example, the correct reaction to an aggressive black bear is the exact opposite of the correct reaction to an aggressive brown bear. You should try and look up what lives in your neck of the woods (pun intended) and follow your state Department of Fish & Wildlife's suggestions.
-Carry a leash with you on your hikes in your pack. A leash can also be something that you can use as something else in the meantime. For example, a lanyard around your neck also makes an OK leash when necessary. Leashing your dog quickly, with strong recall commands in the face of dangerous wildlife is the difference between a great day and the worst day of hiking.
Other easy items to bring on your hike include:
- Mini Air horn (5) – these can be about the size of a coin roll and would help in scenarios where you need to startle an aggressive animal on purpose and in the case that you need to be heard by your dog or person from a great distance.
- Mini bear spray – for the obvious reasons.
- Walking stick – great for slippery slopes, situations in which you need physical lifting leverage and of course, gives you a tool to keep anything you don’t want near you at least your stick’s length away from you.
2. Let Everyone Know That Your Dog Is Not Bambi
Hunting Seasons / “Hi Vis” Colors
Hi-vis (or Hi-Viz) colors are important year-round (not only during hunting seasons) since it increases your chances of being found from above (if for some reason you were to be unable to return from your hike on your own). It's a simple addition that you can easily throw on for your routine.
Biscuit, a vizsla, happens to look exactly like a baby deer in the forest, so we never hike without our neon Turtle Fur.
-The Hat (Original Turtle Fur Fleece) comes in great bright colors including GloStik and Blaze Orange (3). These are perfect for colder hiking conditions, and are pack-friendly if rigorous activity calls for a lighter option.
-Turtle Fur's Hi Viz, reflective hats come in a multitude of neon colors and boast bright, reflective stripes for additional visibility during hunting season.
-A great light weight neon option to have on hand is a Turtle Fur Chelonia 150 headband. These are super light and warm products that keep you visible without overheating
3. Expect The Unexpected
Slip & Fall (or other unexpected delays)
-Always have water on hand! Bring a full bottle, small or large—EVEN if it is a “short” morning hike. Simply put, water is something you shouldn’t leave without if you’re traveling into the woods on foot. In the case of a slip and fall leaving you waiting for assistance, you will be happy you have it within reach.
-Those tongue wagging pups want water too, you know! Drinking from streams opens avenues to ugly and expensive bacterial infections like giardia and leptospirosis for dogs.
-Helpful hint: get a water bottle that you can share with your pup! (11)
Never forget to bring water on a hike. Your thirsty dog will thank you, too!
Shareable water bottles let you lighten your pack with one source of water for you and a means to keep your dog hydrated, too!
Unexpected injuries would make you thankful for bringing a whistle (8) and for wearing bright colors in the case someone needs to come find you. Obviously, we’ll hope your cell phone works first.
In the case a slip and fall resulting in any injury or wounds on either you or your dog, you’ll want to have a simple three piece mini-med kit in your pack (9):--Bandaids
-A small keychain flashlight (13) for pre-evening walks is a great mental safety net in the case that you needed assistance towards dusk. I keep it clipped onto my pack zipper with a mini carabiner all the time (I don’t even have to think about it)!
-A lighter in the case that things get bad and you need to create a signal or a fire -(10) because prepared for everything really means everything!
3.1) Where the heck did my dog go?
Another unpredictable element of hiking with your dog is, well, your dog!
Many dogs have instinctual prey drives, resulting in following anything that gives chase. If your dog is suddenly MIA – or if you worry that it might happen, hikes will not be as enjoyable as they could be!
There are steps you can take to make this situation as unlikely as possible, and in doing so, increase your hiking confidence.
-There's no replacement for a strong recall command with your dog - this takes practice, time and effort on both of your parts.
-Have a whistle on hand (We covered this earlier)
-Depending on your comfort level, an e-collar can provide a huge increase in trust between you and your dog. Not all e-collars are shock collars. There are many radio collars that simply perform the function of making a noise or a vibration to let your four-legged hiking partner know that it is time to turn around and find you.
-Re-purposing on a hike? You bet! Remember all of the squeaky toys that Fido tore to shreds growing up? Well, one of those times, try and extract or pick up the squeaker- and don’t throw it out! Instead, put it in your hiking pack and you will have it as an option to use when getting your dog’s attention (6). If within earshot, you have a great chance of piquing their curiosity. What is making their favorite “squeak” out there in the woods?
-Making sure that your dog is wearing bright colors (i.e. neon neck gaiter) applies here, too. Since our worst fears around dogs running off involve them getting on to roadways, bright colors are only logical. The more they stand out near or on roads, the better their chances of avoiding accidents.
-A squeaker from a murdered toy (they have a use, after all!) is a great way to get a curious dog’s attention from far away without having to yell or shout.
-A bell on your dog gives you something to listen for.
-The whistle (multi use)
-If you can train your recall commands with a whistle, your life will be a lot easier if you are ever far apart. We assume dogs can always use their impeccible sense of hearing to listen for us; but with big ears and fast legs, many of them just hear their own ears in the wind!
-Bright neon colored Totally Tubulars from Turtle Fur keep your dog visible for you and for drivers.
Last but not least, bring some low-odor (dry) dog treats with you (14), and let your dog know at the beginning of the hike that you have them on you. He’ll want to stay close by and return to you when called in hopes of a reward.
Happy Hiking from Whitney & Biscuit!