Xander and I went hiking with our friends yesterday. A very long drive up some winding dirt/gravel roads led us to a trailhead that was cleverly disguised as an unassuming wide spot on the road. Two other cars were pulled off to the side, and a younger guy with his baby/toddler and an older dog were just getting out as we pulled up.
“Is this the trailhead for Noble Knob?” We asked. We’d driven past it and had doubled back. Nice Guy indicated that it was. “How did you know this was the place?” Was our next question. “Because this is where the map said to stop.” He said with a slightly bewildered air, as if the answer was obvious.
The ascent was a little steep in the beginning. It was a good workout, and although it was a push, it was well worth it.
Seriously, look at this killer view.
And this one.
Although he looks like a giant white Lab, Xander is in fact half Great Pyrenees. Thank goodness he got daddy’s short coat instead of mom’s glorious long flowing one. However, he did inherit a love of mountains, hiking and long days outside.
Hiking and dogs just go together. Adventure, nature, clean air – it does not get any better.
But – this isn’t your average stroll. Preparation is a must! You are both working more than you think, so bringing supplies isn’t just a nice idea, it’s a necessity. At a minimum you need to bring:
- Water – for both of you
- Collapsible bowl
- Food – also for both of you
- First Aid Kit
- Layers – the day may start hot, then get very cold, very fast.
Yesterday, I did the carrying, but Xander is 2 years old, 100 pounds and very strong. He’s getting a backpack for Christmas and will carry his own weight next year. Yes! Your dog can share the load. On average a dog can carry 25% of his body weight.
However, it will take some training. Xander will need to learn how to wear the pack, then build up his strength carrying. It’s not good or healthy to expect him to carry a full pack on our next trip. He needs to work up to it. But by next spring he should be up to carrying 25 pounds.
Oh look! There’s the sign! In the meadow at the top of the climb.
We even saw wildlife! A mountain goat that we smelled long before we spotted it. Surprising how strong it was even from so far away.
Anticipate that you may encounter wildlife, and not just little bunnies or the birds that fly up and away as you approach them on the trail. Big, and sometimes dangerous animals live out there. You are just a visitor. Hiking with a friend and carrying on a conversation can deter most unwanted encounters. Unless you stumble on a mama bear and cubs, most animals will want to avoid you.
Mr. Mountain Goat up there was clearly unconcerned about the humans passing through his field, but you see how far away he is. Think ahead and prepare! Hiking sticks can be waved to make you look big and scary if you do come face to face with a big critter. Invest in some bear spray and hope you never have to use it.
But what about your dog? The big outdoors calls and you can’t resist letting your furry friend have some freedom off leash. Out there, it is essential you have your dog trained. A reliable recall is critical when hiking.
What’s that mean? If you call your dog, your dog returns to your side. This is basic trail etiquette. Not everyone loves dogs and wants your big happy guy to run up and smother them with sweet doggie kisses. Narrow trails, like this one, make for dangerous encounters if your dog is not under control.
Off to the right of that picture is a steep dropoff to a little bitty lake. Bouncy exuberant dogs are great, but not when you’re passing in a narrow spot. You must be able to control your dog. Trail courtesy says you clear the trail and let other hikers pass you by.
Oh and that wildlife? Dogs and wildlife do not mix. Another reason you must have a solid recall trained if you allow your dog off leash while hiking. An experienced hiker once told me how her well-trained dog came running back when she called – with a bear chasing it! Fortunately the bear was just as surprised to see her as she was and promptly turned and ran back the way it came. But it could’ve been so much worse.
But before you ever head out to wilderness, consider your dog. Xander is young, strong and healthy. Nice Guy at the trail head had an older dog, but she was still fit. How about your dog? Even if your dog has some health challenges, you can still take them out, but choose trips suited to their physical abilities. Don’t pick a hike that requires scrambling over big boulders unless you’re prepared to carry your dog over them.
I cover hiking with your dog, as well as other fun things you and your furkid can do together in my book Dog Care and Training for the GENIUS. It’s a holistic manual for how to find, train, and bond with your dog. Follow the link attached to the title and you can use this code “dct-ftg” (all lowercase!) at checkout for 15% off!