The first day of spring has officially come and gone! I don’t know about you but, while I love all the seasons, there comes a point in each when I’m ready for the next one to arrive. And while I’m sure in a few weeks I will be moaning about the 90+ degree temps out, I’m ready for warmer weather! The longer daylight hours have me itching to get out and enjoy nature without having to bundle up or risk frostbite. And there is nothing better than hitting the trails with your furry friends! If you’ve never hiked with your dog before, I’m here to share not only some of my favorite gear but a few tips to make it easier. Read on for my list of gear for hiking with your dog.
First things first, trail manners! It’s always important to make sure you’re doing your part and teaching your dog manners all around, especially if you plan to take them out in public. While you don’t need a perfect heel to take to the trails with your pooch, there are a few key things you might want to brush up on. First, good recall is important. There aren’t many places around Missouri where you can let your dog off-leash to roam, but you never know if a leash might break or it could slip out of your hand. Making sure your dog is going to come back to you in this event is crucial. Second, on our manners list is leave it. This is important if you need to pass another dog or person while out on the trail (though I always like to step to the side and let them pass me). Or when you might be passing a pile of, for reason we will never get, a super tasty to-your-pup pile of poo. Leave it helps keep your dog safe and you poo-kiss-free. The third is wait. Teaching your pup to wait keeps them from getting too far ahead of you. It also gives you those extra minutes to get that Instagram-worthy shot!
Other helpful tips? Remember that your dog is just like you! While you might be used to walking and climbing rough terrain or long trails, it didn’t happen overnight. Dogs, much like humans, need to gradually build up their distances. While they could go for miles and miles right out the gate, it’s not always safe and healthy for them to do so. Easing into the distance will keep everyone happy. Create a bin for your dogs hiking gear so you can either toss it in your car or have it in a handy place so you won’t forget anything. Nothing is worse than getting to the trailhead only to realize you forgot a critical element of your setup.
Now, on to the actual gear!
- Harness-while hiking with your dog can be accomplished with a regular collar, I highly recommend getting a harness. Especially if you live in an area where your dog can’t be off-lead. Hiking isn’t the time for perfect loose-leash walking or keeping your dog at a velcro-like heel. It’s a time for them to engage their brains and noses to explore! This can mean pulling and pulling in a collar can lead to damage and strain on your pup’s neck and throat. My current favorite harness? The Ruffwear Front Range harness. With two attachment points (one on the back and one on the front to assist with those full-steam-ahead dogs) this is a great option for hiking and everyday walks. Plus, it comes in several color schemes so you’ll always have your pup decked out in their best shade.
- Leash-I will forever be a huge advocate for a waist-worn leash when hiking or running with your dog. Especially if you have more than one pup along for the adventure. Trust me, nothing is more frustrating than trying to navigate trees, mud-slop pits, and rocky, rooty steps cut into the trail with one or both hands occupied with leashes. Also, with the leash around your waist, it gives you a bit better control for balance. Instead of getting your arm yanked out of its socket or worse, pulled down by the sudden urge to chase a squirrel, you have the advantage of bracing for impact. The leash is closer to your center of gravity and worst case scenario? You’ve got both arms to grab a hold of the nearest tree to stop you and your dog! Again-my top pick here is a Ruffwear item. It’s their newly released Hitch Hiker leash. The climbing-inspired setup features 12 feet of freedom that is controlled with their trademarked HitchLock belay-inspired braking system. With an attached storage pouch and a strap that can be let out as a waist belt, anchor point, or coiled up to fit comfortably in your hand, it’s a solid winner!
- Backpack (for the humans)-Personally, I like to carry a small backpack on my hikes no matter the length. I can keep water, dog treats, my keys, phones, etc all secure and within reach. There are tons of great options out there, though I am partial to the Dajo packs I got in Albuquerque. Here’s the link to their website if you want to take a gander.
- A pack for your pack-Dog backpacks are also a great way to get your adventure partner in on their share of the load. Just remember to keep the weight in their packs to under 25% of their body weight. Having your pooch carry their own water and let’s be honest, full poo bags, saves you room in your bag for more snacks. Added benefit? You don’t have to worry about that poo smell that even the sturdiest of baggies can’t quite contain.
- Poo Bags-on that note, I’ll wrap this list up (lol) with the least favorite but the possibly most important item on the list, poo bags. While it’s not the most glamorous task, it’s a fairly important one because no one wants to step in a hidden surprise. Earth Rated has some of the best bags I’ve found. Plus they’re biodegradable. So this means the bag isn’t going to sit in landfills for ages waiting to break down.
Hiking with your dog can be so rewarding when you’re prepared and manage your expectations. It’s also a great way to bond with your pup. Just remember to have patience with not only your dog but yourself as well! Everyone starts somewhere and this list will definitely get you and your favorite adventure buddy off to a great start.
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