Hiking with dogs
Hiking with your dogs can be a great way to give you and your dogs exercise. Nothing will make your dog more happy than a trip into the mountains. There are so many sights and smells that will interest him/her, that they will barely be able to contain themselves. But there are a lot of hidden dangers and things you should avoid before heading out with your pet. There are also a lot of things that your pet will need to keep them comfortable in the mountains.
Your pets Needs
Your dog will obviously need some water. If you are hiking in the mountains in the west, you need to keep in mind the dry air. You and your pet can become dehydrated quickly, at higher elevations especially. Chances are if you get thirsty, your pet will likely be at least as thirsty as you are. Chances are your dog has been running circles around you the whole time. There is a great way to avoid carrying extra water for your dog though, have them carry it themselves! Dog packs are available at your local pet store for relatively inexpensive. Don’t plan on always finding puddles and streams on you hike for your dog to drink. That stream that was there last summer could easily be dry this time..
If you are hiking on a well used trail where you expect to possibly encounter other hikers, you should be aware if your dog is not on a leash. If your dog is not leashed it might run up and frighten other hikers. Sometimes if they have been running freely for a while and suddenly come upon a human, they can get defensive even if that is not typically the nature of your pet. You should also consider the possibility of other dogs being on the trails. If your dog is not friendly to other dogs you might want to keep them on a leash, until you are in an area where the encounter of another dog is minimal.
Another thing to consider is the possibility of encountering wild animals. You should make sure that your dog will behave and come back to you when it is called if you do have such an encounter. Large members of the deer family such as deer and moose will usually run off before you ever see them. But once in a while moose will stand around unconcerned. This could pose a big problem for you and your pet. A mother moose defending her young will charge, or kick without a second though if your dog gets too close. You should also pay attention during the fall when moose are in breeding season. An upset rutting bull moose is nothing you should mess around with. I have to admit I have had my dog chase more than one moose. She has been fortunate that the animals just ran off without facing off. Things could have been much worse.
Smaller animals like possoms, skunks, raccoons, etc. are known carriers of rabies. Do yourself and your dog a favor and make sure your pet is up to date with their shots. Porcupines? I am not even going to go there..
Hiking in some mountain areas of the Rockies, it is possible to find cacti, and thorns that can easily damage your dogs feet. Don’t forget that your dog is barefoot. If you have even had prickly pear cactus spikes in you you will know how much they hurt and they are very hard to get out. My dog stepped in some prickly pear last year and it was more than a week before she stopped liking her foot. Learn to recognize these threats and minimize exposure. This might be a good area to have your dog leashed so that you can control where they step. You should check your dogs feet often. Some of the lava rocks in the mountains can be very hard on your dogs feet as well. Be careful out there!