What dog doesn’t love a long walk? Why not shake things up, get out of the neighborhood and go for a hike? Orange County has fantastic open space and park areas where you and your four-legged friend can spend time on the trail. Today we are going to focus on gear and preparation for hikes with your dog.
Trail Etiquette and Regulations
Not all Orange County Parks or State Parks or dog friendly. We will review local Orange County Dog Hikes in the near future. It is important that dogs be kept on a leash at all times. I recommend that the leash be no longer than 6 feet and that good old-fashioned leather or webbing leash be used (not a retractable leash). This ensures that your dog is close by (for his safety and the safety of others); also, a retractable leash failure on a hike can result in a lost dog.
Always be cognizant of your surroundings. Pay attention and watch for approaching people, other dogs and children (especially if your dog gets excited, nervous or aggressive). Not everyone appreciates a sniff or slobber from a strange dog!
We have a black lab, he may have been a fish in a past life, and I have never seen a dog drink so much water! It is important to ensure that you bring enough water for both you and your dog. Never rely on streams, lakes or ponds for your dog to drink from (unless you bring a filter with you). Dogs, just like humans, are susceptible to giardia. Giardia is a bacterium that causes gastro-intestinal distress. Turner (our dog) was on the receiving end of a nasty bout after drinking from a puddle formed by reclaimed water used for watering grass. Trust me, you don’t want to experience the awful upset doggy tummy that goes along with giardia.
Water filters range from about $50 to $200 depending on the brand, filtration system, model and capacity. Unless you are going for a multi-day hiking trip, packing extra water and a collapsible bowl is probably the best way to ensure your dog has enough water. Alternatively, the Ruff Wear Palisades pack has a built-in hydration system.
Dogs pant to lower their body temperature (one reason ensuring your dog has enough water is so important). However, there are other measures you can take to help your dog keep cool on the trail. The first, and most obvious, is to hike in the morning or evening hours when the sun is not at its peak (be aware that early morning and late evening hours are also the time that predators are most active, so extra vigilance is required). Alternatively, you may consider the kool collar to help keep your pet cool. Also, for dogs who seem very heat sensitive (like Turner) you might try the Ruff Wear Swamp Cooler dog vest which allows for evaporative cooling of your dog.
Paw Protection and First Aid
Dogs paws are pretty tough. But they aren’t always as tough as the terrain you’ll be hiking on. We found this out during one hike after a very long 6 mile hike in Colorado, our dog tore open a pad. Unfortunately we didn’t have any booties for him and he had to limp the last mile back to the car. One option to address this are Ruff Wear’s Dog Boots. Unfortunately, your dog probably isn’t going to like these, so it is best to do some trial runs around the house and neighborhood before trying to use them on the trail.
Just as you should be prepared physically and mentally to deal with an injury to yourself or others on the trail, it is part of being a responsible pet owner that you prepare yourself to treat and injury to your dog on the trail. Consider bringing a first aid kit with you (there are pre-packaged versions on Amazon), ask your veterinarian for suggested supplies and be sure to review a book such as Field Guide to Dog First Aid by Randy Acker, DVM or attend one of Petco or the Red Cross’s dog first aid classes.
Hiking with a dog can be a very fun and rewarding experience. It is also a good way to make sure you both get an uninterrupted nap in the afternoon! With a little bit of thought and preparation, you can be fully prepared to tackle the trails.