Getting in Shape for Hiking with your Dog

This week, Canine Camp Getaway hiking instructor Bob Dealy is guest blogging for us with some tips for getting your dog ready for hiking season.

The past couple of days it’s gotten unseasonably warm in the northeast, which got me to thinking that my dog Shadow has to start getting in shape for the hikes we’ll be taking at Canine Camp Getaway of NY in June. Black lab (ops) training, ha-ha!

Camp owner Janice Costa has informed me that we’re expecting record numbers for this year’s camp. That means lots of new folks for morning hikes. These walks can be the highlight of camp for many guests. A good walk gets the juices flowing; you and your dog make new friends, as you get ready for daily activities. It should be a fun and carefree activity.

Having this forum allows me to talk about common sense things you will need to make those morning sojourns more enjoyable, whether you’re joining us at this year’s Getaway, or planning hikes of your own in the coming months.

First and foremost, let’s talk about you and your dog. I did say common sense! For our hikes at camp, we generally walk for 45-50 minutes. So if your normal dog walk is only 20-30 minutes, you need to stretch this out a little longer until you’re spending about 45 minutes to an hour walking together at least once a week. Not only will this build up your and your dog’s endurance, but as you progress, you’ll get better at recognizing signs of fatigue for each of you. Being able to read your dog’s body language (and paying attention to your own bod) will help to keep you from overdoing it in your hiking trips.

The same basic concept holds true if you are planning a two-hour hike or longer; build up to it gradually by extending the time you walk together a little each day, paying attention for signs of fatigue. It’s okay to push a little, but don’t overdo it; doing too much too fast can lead to injury or soreness.

As many of our camp walks will be on a wooded trail, there are insects – and this is generally true wherever you’ll be hiking this spring. Where I live on Long Island, it was a very mild winter and the bug and tick population is very healthy. I assume it was much the same throughout the Northeast. So it’s advisable that you and your dog have protection.

Your vet can advise you on the best care for your dog, dependent on where you live and what types of parasites are common where you’ll be hiking. For you, there are many personal bug sprays on the market; my advice if you don’t have a favorite is to try some out before hand to see how well they work. I’m personally trying out a product by Eco Smart, which claims to be pet friendly.

There is a product by OFF, the clip on which I don’t recommend for hikes. If you read the instructions you will find its best use is to create a barrier around you if you are in one place for a while. This means seated or standing. It’s not a bad product to use for other times you are on vacation, but not ideal if you’re going to be in motion. So take a couple of minutes and read the instructions and uses for these products before purchasing. For hikes, try to stick to a spray-on or lotion. It’s also been said that consuming a little apple cider vinegar can make you less attractive to bugs; dogs can benefit from this as well. Add a tablespoon to their water, and add a tablespoon to a bottle of water for you, as well. Do this for several days and you’ll likely notice yourself getting fewer bug bites.

Next, we come to hydration. As we all know, it’s important to drink up in warm weather. It’s important for our pups to do the same. So while you’re walking the dog and getting ready for camp, keep an eye on him/her for signs of thirst. As a runner, I’ve learned that a belt that can carry a water bottle is a beautiful thing. It helps to keep both hands free and it’s always available. Giving your dog clean water is better than having them find a muddy puddle because they are thirsty.

Remember, if you’re enjoying a few cocktails in the evening, drink some extra water before bed and when you wake up. Alcohol acts as a diuretic and you need to replace fluids after drinking. I know it sounds weird, replacing fluids after drinking, but trust me on this one. Grab an extra piece of fruit from the dining area. Fruits contain gobs of water.

The turnaround point at our favorite hike is a clearing with a pond on the other side of the woods. Dogs are not allowed in the pond. However, this is a great place to stop and regroup. It has become a favorite photo op site. So have your camera or personal device ready to take pictures.

As far as what to wear, we’ve had people wear shorts, tee shirts, long sleeve T’s, long pants, boots, sneakers, sandals. The choice is yours. We will be walking in the woods, the trail has been wet in the morning, sometimes muddy and there are some rocky parts. So office shoes are not advisable. Be comfortable for the conditions.

Recall is important if you like to hike with your dog off leash. So practice having your dog come back to you when you call him or her. If you aren’t confident in your dog’s ability to come on command, you may want to keep your pup leashed to be safe. This is a decision only you can make. The area off trail has a lot of brush and you can lose sight of your dog easily.

Always carry poop bags! Whether you’re hiking with us at Canine Camp Getaway or hiking in your own neck of the woods, it’s important to leave the trails as you found them. As responsible dog owners, that’s important! So be smart and bring an extra bag, just in case.

Don’t worry; I’m not going to ban you from hikes because you didn’t walk enough, forgot water or bug spray. That’s not what we’re about at Canine Camp Getaway. These tips are just that, tips to make your experience more enjoyable. See you in two months. Is it really that close already?

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One Response to “Getting in Shape for Hiking with your Dog”

  1. John says:

    As long as you are used to walking good distances, taking a dog isnt too much harder unless it is a really big dog. Try hiking by yourself first so you build up some stamina.

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