I want to quickly revisit my last blog. Having just spoken to the importance of knowing your dog and if they are battling illness, Star is being treated for Lyme. She’d tested positive in the past for Lyme and therefore we currently opted out of running the panel. We made the decision to treat due to physical symptoms, as minor as they were at the time. She was lame on her backend, lethargic with NO interest in going to the woods, and she had a slight temperature. Within two days of starting treatment she was back to her old self!
Since Star is back on her game and we’re headed to the trails let’s cover a little more of trail protocol and what your dog needs.
Does your dog play well with others?
As you move along the trails you will likely encounter other people and dogs. Dogs, just like people, have a complex social language ranging from vocal cues to body language. And just like people they will not like everyone they meet. The more you can understand about dogs and their interactions the better prepared you will be to handle both your companion and anyone else’s you may meet along the way. Because it is so complex I don’t feel I can appropriately explain it but I found a website through the ASPCA which has a good outline that shows interactions between dogs.
Interactions can change depending on the situation. Some dogs may feel trapped by being on a leash and therefore their behavior becomes more reactive or even aggressive. Get permission for you or your dog to approach others. Too often I have had dogs run up to Star and cause her to go into a defensive position. In general my dog in non-aggressive but when she feels cornered or threatened she will defend herself. I have spent so much time with her that I often know before she even meets a dog what her response will be. She is a bit prejudice; German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers and a couple other breeds are an immediate switch for her and I do my best to keep her away from them as they make her nervous. There is a great idea out there called The Yellow Dog Project which uses a yellow ribbon on your dogs leash to mark it as a nervous, shy, sick, reactive, aggressive, excitable or new to the handler. If you see a dog with a yellow ribbon on it’s leash please DO NOT approach without permission from the owner. https://www.facebook.com/TheYellowDogProject
It’s not always other dogs on the trail which you should be aware of but people. Remember just because you enjoy snuggling with your muddy buddy not everyone else enjoys it. I personally love MY dog, but I don’t appreciate dogs who jump on me, lean their wet body against me or lick me. Respect other people and their preferences and keep track of your pup.
What does your dog need on the trail?
This will vary depending on the length of your trip, weather, and your dog. I tend to plan for my dog just as I would for myself. I consider what they need to stay energized, safe, hydrated, comfortable, and entertained. There are some items which are necessary whether planning for a day or a year. Bring a leash, some extra water and a small bowl, treats, a bear bell, and a simple first aid kit. A first aid kit for a dog is almost identical to your own, pack smart and bring a universal kit. If you are looking for a basic outline for items in the first aid kit check out these sites:
As you get into longer hikes you may want to bring the comfort items with you as well. These may include a favorite toy or a place for them to lay down and snuggle in. Than there are the items which make you more comfortable. Star enjoys rocking out her hunter orange Track Jacket which allows me to see her when she’s meandering through the brush. For multi day hikes I pack an ultra light towel for her as well. I’d rather a slightly damp dog than one dripping all over my gear.
Nutrition is a very in depth discussion which I’ll be covering later. But for now the basic info on how to pack. You should bring the proper food for an active dog. With extended hiking your dogs needs will increase. A dog who has enjoyed the winter sunbathing on the couch will not adapt well to the trails if their food intake remains the same. Plan enough food for your time out and than throw an extra meal in just incase. Pre-packing their food can be very beneficial. Either ziplock or vacuum sealing meal portions will reduce the risk of having large quantities of food spoil if it gets wet.
Having your dog carry their own pack is a great idea. There are many companies which make packs designed just for dogs. I tend to use RUFFWEAR* gear, I like their designs and their customer service is outstanding. Although many dogs were bred and raised as working animals their bodies are not designed to be load bearing. A dog should only carry between 15-30% of their weight. My beast of a dog weighs in at a whooping 38 lbs on a heavy day, her top load limit would be 11 lbs. I can’t imagine ever putting a full load on her because she is such a dainty girl, and she expects to be treated as such. Fill your dogs pack accordingly, you know what your pooch is capable of.
Are you willing to pick up after your dog?
Speaking of what your dog is capable of… Dogs poop! When out hiking be willing to either carry your dogs poop out of the woods with you or treat it as human waste and bury it 6-8″ deep and at least 200′ from trails, camps, and waterways.
**In no way do I benefit from the mention of any companies on my blog, I speak from my own personal experience**