If you hike often, there are undoubtably moments where you catch yourself wishing your furry goofball was by your side.
Hiking with dogs can be great fun both for pet parents and canine companions alike. However, many new pet parents are afraid of hiking with their dogs, especially on longer routes. What if something goes wrong?
Well, if you are prepared, there is no reason for your pooch not to enjoy the hike with you! Follow these simple tips and you’ll be all set.
Tips for hiking with dogs
Understand the impact
Dogs can have a significant negative impact on wildlife in Australia if taken into the bush. They can chase, attack, and kill native animals, including endangered species. They can also spread diseases to native animals.
Here are some of the specific impacts that dogs can have on Australian wildlife:
- Predation: Dogs are natural predators and can kill a wide range of native animals, including mammals, birds, and reptiles. Some of the native animals that are most at risk of predation by dogs include small mammals such as possums and bandicoots, ground-nesting birds such as magpies and curlews, and reptiles such as lizards and snakes.
- Disease transmission: Dogs can carry diseases that can be fatal to native animals. Some of the diseases that dogs can transmit to native animals include parvovirus, canine distemper, and leptospirosis.
- Habitat destruction: Dogs can damage native vegetation by digging, trampling, and barking. This can lead to the loss of habitat for native animals.
- Disturbance: Dogs can disturb native animals by chasing, barking, and running around. This can cause stress and anxiety in native animals, which can make it difficult for them to find food, reproduce, and raise their young.
In addition to the direct impacts that dogs can have on wildlife, they can also have indirect impacts. For example, the presence of dogs can cause native animals to become more fearful and reclusive. This can make it difficult for them to find food and mates, and can also make them more vulnerable to predation by other animals.
It is important to note that not all dogs will have a negative impact on wildlife. Some dogs are well-trained and can be controlled by their owners. However, even well-trained dogs can chase or attack native animals if they are not properly supervised.
There are a number of things that you can do to minimise the impact of your dog on wildlife:
- Keep your dog on a leash at all times when you are in the bush.
- Do not let your dog chase or attack native animals.
- Pick up after your dog to prevent the spread of disease.
- Be aware of the presence of other animals in the area and keep your dog away from them.
- Educate yourself about the local wildlife and the threats that dogs can pose to them.
Know before you go
Before you set out on a hiking trip with your dog, make sure to plan where you are going. Many trails and parks in Australia actually aren’t dog-friendly, so check before you go in order to avoid unpleasant surprises. Moreover, it’s always a good idea to plan your route and know exactly how long it will be. If your dog gets tired, or something happens, you’ll want to know exactly where you are.
If you haven’t been hiking with your dog before, make sure to start slow. Just like us, dogs need training to increase their strength and endurance. However, they can’t communicate as well as us when they are tired. Moreover, some dogs can get so excited by the adventure that they will overexert themselves to the point of exhaustion if you don’t set the pace.
Start with longer walks and then move on to shorter hikes and see how it goes! Some dogs were basically born for long hikes, but some were not, so you should give your dog time to get used to long walking stretches.
Pay attention to your dog
More important than any rule about hiking with dogs is to pay attention to your dog and know how to recognise the signs that something is wrong. Never hike when it’s too hot outside – high temperatures can be very hard on dogs, plus the ground can get very hot and they are stepping on it with their bare paws. If you notice the dog is tired always take a break and remember to offer water every hour or two!
Practice trail etiquette
The basic principle of trail etiquette is respect for others and for nature. That means – if dogs off-leash are not allowed, respect it. If it is allowed, do it only if you are confident your dog knows how to respect commands such as “come” and “stay”. Respecting the trail also means leaving no trace: and this includes your dog’s poop.
Essential gear for hiking with your dog
“Preparation is key. Having an enjoyable hike with your dog starts with the right gear and an understanding of your dog’s physical limits” Sharon Elber – Professional Trainer at Gentle Dog Trainers.
Even if you trust your dog completely to obey your commands, bringing a leash is always a must. On some trails a leash is required, and even when it’s not, it’s considered good manners to keep your dog on the leash if there is a lot of traffic on the trail. You know your dog, but other people don’t!
In any case, if you are in the wilderness, you never know what could happen and when you will need to take control of your dog. For this reason, always bring a good strong leash that is easy to clip on and off and you’ll be all set!
A leash could be attached to a collar, but a harness is way more comfortable for your dog! Especially if you are going on a long hike, a good, comfortable harness is a must as they distribute the weight more evenly than collars which helps prevent injuries in the case of pulling.
Portable water bowl (and drinking water)
Bringing enough water is one of the most important considerations when hiking with your dog. When calculating how much water to bring, make sure to factor in both you and your canine companion. While there could be water sources along the way, it’s never a good idea to count on those. Better to be over-prepared than sorry!
Of course, dogs can’t really drink from a bottle, so you’ll also need a water bowl. Any kind of lightweight bowl will do the job, but you can also find cool collapsible dog bowls designed specifically for hiking.
Hiking with your dog is really not much more complicated than hiking by yourself. However, ensuring you are prepared and know what to do in any situation will give you peace of mind at the very least. We hope this short guide has helped you get the courage to go on your first hike with your doggo.
Most hiking areas in Australia are generally divided as such: National Parks, State Parks, State Forests & other (scenic parks and reserves, historical areas, etc). In general, dogs won’t be allowed in any National Parks or most State Parks. State Forests will generally allow dogs (even off-lead, assuming they are ‘under control’). Dogs in other parks are determined on a park-by-park basis so make sure you check before you go. I have included below, links to key land managers in each state. In some instances, you may need to search for the actual park you plan on visiting.