Come winter and all some people may want to do is sit in front of a fireplace with a dog curled up at their feet. For others who love the outdoors, winter can do little to keep them locked inside their homes.
If you and your pooch are craving some winter adventure, a hiking trip can mean a lot of fun and excitement. If you haven’t done it already, here’s what you need to know before you hit the trail.
Is Your Dog Cut out for It?
Not all dogs can adjust to low winter temperatures or extensive workouts. If you have a short-haired canine, he won’t be able to handle the cold well. On the other hand, you won’t have to worry about the cold getting to your husky or shepherd as these breeds can cope with such weather easily.
You also need to consider if your dog is fit for strenuous physical activity. Young puppies and older dogs will not be able to hike long distances. They also have less body mass and lose their body heat quickly, and are unable to warm themselves up. Furthermore, if your pooch is sick, taking him on a winter hike is a big no-no.
Regular veterinary visits are a must so you can treat any illnesses as soon as the vet detects them. Apart from regular check-ups, take your dog to the vet as soon as winter approaches for a thorough check-up. This will help you take better care of your pooch during winter. Your vet will also be able to advise you on going on a winter hike with your furry friend.
Is Your Dog Well Trained?
It’s important for your dog to be well-trained for his own safety. Additionally, you don’t want him to be a nuisance to other hikers. Your pooch should be able to respond to important voice calls. Train your pooch to come when called, and drop objects down or lie still when told to.
If your dog has an aggressive streak, forget about taking him in the wild. Remember that different breeds have different temperaments so you might have to train your dog accordingly. If you have a Maltese, a Yorkie, or a Shih Tzu, you’ll have to train it not bark incessantly.
If your dog tends to wander off and doesn’t heed to your commands, keep it on a leash at all times.
Gearing up for the Winter Trip
You and your pooch need to be well prepared for your adventures so you can have all the fun. If you’ve never taken your dog hiking, you’ll need to start out small. Again, very young and very old dogs won’t be able to hike longer distances. You can ask the vet what’s best for your pooch and plan your trip accordingly.
Just as you’ll be needing food and water while hiking, so will your furry pal. But you can’t obviously carry your dog’s stuff in addition to your own. Doing so will make your backpack too heavy and you may end up leaving behind some important things. Worse, you might pack less food or water for your pooch assuming he’ll be okay. As such, it’s best to get a backpack for your dog.
Have your dog put on the backpack for a few hours every day to get him used to it. Add weight to the backpack gradually. Make sure to have the straps fitted securely at all times. It’s also important to have the weight evenly distributed so your pooch doesn’t hurt his shoulders.
Your dog can easily carry up to 1/3rd of his body weight. As such, you can accommodate his food, water and maybe some small dog accessories into his backpack. You and your pooch require more calories during winter so be sure to pack extra food. Don’t cut down on the water intake as it’s equally important to keep hydrated in the winter as it is in the summer.
Make sure that you don’t over-fill your dog’s backpack. While hiking, keep checking your pooch’s shoulders for any signs of strap burns or discomfort caused by the backpack.
While out in the Snow
- Check if your dog is taking well to the temperature. You may need to put on a sweater or jacket on him to keep him warm.
- Have your dog put on dog shoes to protect his feet from the rough terrain.
- Let your dog take risks and use his navigation skills to tackle obstacles at times. However, if you feel he is in a potentially dangerous situation, take control of it yourself.
- Be wary of predators and other dogs, and keep an eye on your dog at all times.
After Coming in from the Snow
Always remember to:
- Wipe off your dog’s paws and tummy. These body parts can pick up salt or anti-freeze that your dog can lick leading to inflammation in its digestive tract.
- Check between your dog’s paws for ice or snow and remove any bits that you find. Bits of ice and salt can hurt your dog’s paws and can cause lameness.
Dogs love the outdoors and going on a hike can be the best way to get some exercise and bond with your pet. Just take note of the important things mentioned here and you and your pooch are sure to have the time of your life.
Don’t forget to follow trail etiquette!
(Photo Source: http://www.pinterest.com/pin/554224297864739716/)