Washington Ambassador, Sulee, here! It's summer time, that means Mountain Chicks are out in full force at all the hiking trails. For the crazy dog parents such as myself, you know my dogs go with me on just about every hiking/backpacking trip! However, hiking and backpacking with dogs comes with great responsibilities because it is no longer just about the women who hike.
So, I wanted to take some time to write a little something on hiking safety for your dogs and what signs and symptoms to watch for in case of heat exhaustion. I know you may think this probably doesn't happen a lot, but in truth it happens more often than people realize. I love my dogs and I know everyone else loves my dogs too, haha, I mean I know you love your dogs too so let's make sure they're taken care of! I want to tailor this so that we're more focused on the current hiking season which is summer. Now I'm no professional trainer, these are just things that help me have a safe, successful hike with my dogs, all learned from either my experience or from other hikers and hopefully it'll help a beginner out there somewhere!
First thing I want to mention is dogs are like people, we can't just go off hiking high above the mountains without any PROPER TRAINING, so make sure you start out small. They need to work up to the big stuff just like us.
Second, do your RESEARCH on hiking trails and make sure that it is safe for your dogs. During the summer especially, I look at how much WATER SOURCE is on the trail, if the trail is EXPOSED (meaning not shaded by trees) and if there are OBSTACLES that my dogs cannot overcome.
Third, bring plenty of FOOD AND WATER. Just like yourself, your dog will be burning plenty of calories on the trip so have plenty of snacks and food ready. If there is no water source, carry plenty of water and make sure you take breaks as needed for your dog to snack, rest or drink water.
Fourth, carry a dog specific FIRST AID KIT. You can buy a pre-made one or you can do a home made one that is specific to your dog. It should contain items such as gauze, antibacterial cleanser or ointment, tweezers, and some sort of antihistamine (in case your dog gets stung by something). Of course when making a home made kit you can add what is needed but definitely it is handy to have a kit just in case of an emergency!
If you take the proper steps and preparation you would have an awesome time with your pup! But in case of an event where your dog does end up with heat exhaustion here are the signs and symptoms that you need to watch out for:
Okay, I know that was a lot of information but I promise you these are life changing tips. Being prepared can make your hike that much more enjoyable! For those of you who are thinking about taking your dogs but aren't sure, I hope this helps rather than scare you. I was in that position once where I didn't really know what to expect taking a dog out hiking but you'll learn the more you get out there!
Thanks for tuning in guys and happy adventuring! Woof! Don't forget to pick up a sweet Mtn Chicks Buff!