Hiking without my dog is not an option. Honestly, it’s not like I could, once he hears me pull out my daypack he’s standing at the door with a look on his face saying “What you not gonna do is, leave me here!”. Even if I could I wouldn’t want to hike without him.
One of the best parts of being outdoors for me is sharing in the moment with my dog. Rocko thoroughly enjoys being on the trail and as his owner I take comfort in the fact that I’m giving him the best possible life. However, part of the fun of taking him on the trail comes with the responsibility of keeping him safe and healthy. Here is my guide to how I find dog-friendly trails, loading a dog pack, and preventing injuries.
The right trail matters.
Before I tackle a new trail I try to do an ample amount of research on what we can expect during our hike. I’m talking ex-girlfriend stalker level research. How strenuous is the hike? Will there be metal stairs? (Item #2 on the list of NOPES for him.) Will the trail be easy on his paws? And most importantly, will there be water for him to lower his body temperature? I’ve used the site hikewithyourdog.com to find the best trails in my area.
Packing his bags
Rocko needs lots of water. Sometimes he just sits with half his face in the bowl for fun. I swear dude is part dolfphin. Rocko is a boxer so his short nose and wide chest make it very hard for him to cool himself. His breed Is notorious for heatstroke and he can drink almost a gallon of water on a strenuous hike so it’s vital that I make sure we both have adequate water. We have a rule for we hike, “You carry your own water, bruh”. Due to this rule Rock wears his own harness & pack. I adjust the harness of his pack before each hike to be sure it’s snug but won’t chafe. The dog harness should fit similar to his collar, you should be able to fit two fingers under it. I then load the bags with water first, a travel bowl and dog food when we have a long hike. It’s important to then make sure both sides are weighted equally, and the weight is suitable for what he can carry. Rocko weighs around a 72lbs. But he never carries more than 10lbs.
Signs to look for
Rocko is a pretty healthy and active boy but you always have to account for your dog’s breed and how they handle heat, stress and exertion. He had a scare with heat stroke a few years ago when he snuck outside on my patio on a 90 degree day to holla at some bitches (smh, corny but I stand by it). He pulled through thanks to an amazing neighbor who drove me to his vet mid emotional breakdown, a caring dedicated vet (who let me call every hour to check on him, and practically sleep in his crate at the hospital), and MEGA bill to my credit card. This episode happened at our home so luckily I was able to get him to the vet before it was too late. It’s important to keep an eye on how your dog is handling the hike at all times, not doing so could hurt your dog and may require you to make some hard decisions.
I now consider myself to be the heatstroke pro based on my credentials of the dramatic episode I experienced with Rocko. His vet described to me which signs I should look for to know if he’s over-heating or just over it and ready to head home and sleep on his pillow. Sometimes Rocko is like, “Nah. Mom, I’m not feeling this hill, so I’m gonna just lay down right now”. But, if his behavior comes with blood shot eyes, heavy panting, and hot and read skin under his ears, it’s time to look for them exits, mayne. If you wait too Long your risk turning a corner to an intersection of oh shit, parentals I need a cool $5,000 loan to save my dog!
Keeping him cool.
For the reasons stated above my main priority for him during our hikes is keeping him cool. Most of our favorite trails feature river crossings so that I can dunk him in the water to cool his body down. Be careful when letting your dog play in lakes in rivers. Dogs can get Giardia, so limit drinking from lakes and streams with voice commands and a ready supply of treated water. He’s grown used to this and will even take it upon himself to dive in, as long as there are no fish (#4 of his list of NOPES). My top three trails in Georgia include: