Hiking is a rewarding, healthy activity that can help people connect with nature. Walks in the wilderness also present perfect opportunities to get the family dog out for some fresh air.
When walking dogs in wooded areas, pet owners must exercise caution to protect their dogs, themselves and fellow nature lovers.
· Confirm leash policies. When walking dogs in public settings, it's always best to keep them on a leash. Many areas even have laws that mandate dogs be kept on leashes at all times. If you hope to walk a dog off-leash, visit the park or wooded area ahead of time or contact your local parks department to determine the laws governing the area.
· Recognize the benefits of leashes. Even if you're not legally obligated to keep the dog on a leash while walking through the woods, the benefits of doing so are numerous. Keeping your dogs on a leash makes it easier for you and your dog to get away if you encounter something unexpected, like a coyote or a bear. It's also easier to keep your dog on the walking path and out of brush or bushes, where ticks or other bugs might attach themselves to the dog and ultimately put its health in jeopardy.
· Apply tick repellant. Even dogs that stay on walking paths in wooded areas are vulnerable to ticks. That vulnerability increases their owners' susceptibility to ticks as well, as ticks that attach to dogs may eventually bite the dogs' owners. Flea and tick collars can effectively deter ticks from feasting on dogs. Owners also should apply tick repellant to themselves before entering wooded areas.
· Bring water and treats. Hikers bring extra water and food along during a hike to satisfy any hunger pangs they have while walking and to ensure they have some sustenance should they get lost. The same precautionary measures are necessary for dogs. Pack a portable water bowl and extra water for your pooch so the dog does not become dehydrated during the walk. Some healthy, energy-boosting snacks can help dogs withstand lengthy hikes as well.
· Recognize signs that the dog needs to turn around and go home. Heavy panting, a slow gait and repeated efforts to lay down are signs that dogs have grown tired. Monitor your dog's energy levels and turn around or return to your vehicle at the first sign a dog is running out of gas.
Wilderness walks provide great opportunities to get dogs exercise and fresh air. Some simple precautionary measures can ensure such walks are enjoyable for everyone.