We’ve written about getting outside with pets in the past. We wrote about the cat that climbed up the highest mountain in New Hampshire with her owner last July. And we have written about how owning a dog can help your cholesterol levels because they help you get your steps. But, sometimes, when you’re walking in groups, it’s better to leave dogs at home because they set the pace of your walk.
All of this shows that we think a lot about being outdoors with pets! And, at this time of year, people want to go walking and hiking with their dogs. Of course, you want to take your dogs into the great outdoors with you. The national parks recognize that and call pets B.A.R.K. Rangers — dogs or cats can be B.A.R.K. Rangers. Many national parks welcome them as long as you follow an acronym: Bag waste, Always stay leashed, Respect wildlife and Know where you can go. At some national parks, you can get B.A.R.K. Ranger collar tags by completing an activity book with your pet!
Before you head out, be sure the park allows you to bring pets by checking this map. It’s also important to check in with your vet. Taking your dog for a walk around your neighborhood and going for a long walk or hike in a national park are different, especially in the summer heat. Be sure your dog is healthy enough to be out on the trails and pay attention to their health during the trip. Excessive panting or drooling, or vomiting are all signs of overheating.
Before you go hiking, check the weather. In some areas, taking your dog out is illegal if the temperature is above three digits. That’s also just common sense. You shouldn’t be on the trails either if it’s that hot. If it’s over 85 degrees, your dog will need booties. The ground is hotter than the air, even dirt. You might think it sounds silly for a dog to wear shoes, but a long walk is different than playing outside on grass. Just like you wear hiking boots, your furry friend needs proper footwear. It also prevents paw injuries and slipping. Dogs need to get used to wearing boots and often don’t like walking in them to start, so train them at home beforehand.
In addition to protecting your dog’s paws with boots, you should carry a dog first aid kit year-round while hiking. It should have alcohol wipes, tweezers and bandages to patch any injuries your friend sustains. Accidents happen when walking on unfamiliar ground, and you might encounter another animal that bites your dog. It’s essential to be able to help your dog so you can get them to a vet. You also always need extra water and snacks for your dog to keep them hydrated as you go.
When hitting the trails with dogs, you need to start slow. Dogs can burn through energy quickly. If you have ever had to carry your dog home from an overly ambitious walk, you know this problem! Dogs will enthusiastically throw themselves into a hike and then hit a wall. To avoid making your hike harder for yourself and needing to lug your dog back to the parking lot, work up to a full-length hike, starting small and training your dog to enjoy it and be able to go for longer journeys. But, in the summer, remember that your pal is doing it in a fur coat and keep your trips shorter or confined to the morning or evening hours to prevent heatstroke.
Bring sunscreen for a long hike. We’re not talking about for you! Dogs need sunscreen when outside in sunny weather for long periods. That’s especially true for dogs with pale fur, short coats or pink skin. Dogs with skin conditions like dermatitis or hair loss are also at a higher risk for sunburn. You can opt for a sun shirt if your dog hates sprays or balms. If you opt for a spray or balm, go for one meant for dogs — normal sunscreen can contain zinc or titanium oxide that are toxic to dogs.
Following these tips, you can have a great day out with your dog. Dogs can be great hiking companions, and bringing your pal with you can be fun. It just takes some planning and groundwork.