What to know about Off-Leash Hiking With Your pet dog – 15 ideas
one of my much-loved activities to make with our pet dog Baxter is off-leash hiking.
It took us awhile to work up to being off-leash (see the story here), but now we’re regulars on the trails.
Beyond the initial training we went through, there are a few lessons I’ve learned to make off-leash hiking a lot more enjoyable.
I also reached out to a few of Baxter’s friends to ask for their suggestions, and I’d love to hear yours as well. Please leave them in the comments.
15 ideas for off-leash hiking with your dog
1. ID your dog.
A good collar with tags—city license, her name, your cell and home numbers—is the first step. However, if the collar is lost, make sure your pet dog can still be connected with you through a microchip or other form of identification.
2. carry your phone or a satellite phone.
And make sure it’s fully charged. This can secure you as well as your dog. If you and your pet dog become separated, your cell number on her identify may indicate you’re reunited a lot more quickly.
If you’re hiking with other people, share your cell number with them and make sure you have their numbers too.
When out of cell range, consider carrying a satellite phone for emergencies.
3. Bring a leash.
Even though your plan is off-leash hiking with your dog, there may be times when you need a leash (perhaps the trail comes close to a busy road). trying to walk a pet dog by hanging onto his collar is not fun. Bring a leash.
4. Leash up when you meet other people or dogs.
You never know how people feel about dogs. You never know how other dogs will react to yours. To stop potentially uneasy situations, leash up when you encounter others on the trail.
5. Pay attention to your dog.
If you’re hiking with a group, it’s easy to get chatting with other people and lose track of your dog. keep an eye on your pet dog and know where she is. This will make the experience safer for your pet dog and a lot more kicking back for you.
6. acknowledge your pet dog when he checks in with you.
Even independent dogs like Baxter “check in” every so often. It might be looking back over his carry to see where I am or waiting for me to catch up. other dogs will run back to their owners every so often.
Acknowledging this with a pat or a “hello” strengthens the bond with your pet dog and aids in better recall.
7. encourage a strong recall.
If your pet dog is off leash, you want to be confident that she’ll come when called. work on recall in calm, controlled situations and slowly increase the distractions until your pet dog will come to you even on a busy trail with other people, other dogs, cool smells and lots of things to look at.
See other ideas for training recall here.
8. Leash up if you want to.
I already said you must leash up when you meet other people or dogs, but you must also leash up if your pet dog isn’t behaving the way you want him to. If he’s not coming when called, there must be consequences.
If he’s over-excited and trying to find trouble (aka squirrels, deer, Sasquatch… ahem, Baxter), stop a problem before it starts by clipping him up, even just for a short while until he calms down again.
9. Poop and scoop.
Yeah, it’s not fun carrying a bag of poop as you hike, but a big pile of poop in the middle of a trail is not polite.
If Baxter ventures off trail to do his service in long lawn or thick brush—somewhere it’s pretty much guaranteed not to be stepped on—I will not scoop.
In my opinion, this is one of the perks of hiking in the woods rather than walking through the neighbourhood. but usually, the same policies apply in the woods as they do anywhere else. pick up after your pet.
If water isn’t available on the trail, make sure you carry water for your dog. One woman I hike with totes a small backpack that fits a bottle and collapsible dish.
I use a Gulpy (a combination bottle with built-in dish) that I carry in a waist belt leftover from my marathon training days. In cool weather, a drink at the end of a hike may be enough for your dog.
On hot days, you may need multiple bottles throughout the hike (speaking from experience, trying to cool down an overheated pet dog when you’re out of water is not a fun experience)
11. have a towel in your car.
Some dogs like to swim. Some like to roll (potentially in some disgusting things). Some like mud. A quick rub down at the end of a hike can save you a lot of clean up later.12. consider dressing your pet dog in a high visibility coat.
We hike with a great Dane who is the colour (and size) of a deer. She wears an orange vest on every hike so that she’s not mistaken for a deer. Also, the orange makes it much easier to keep an eye on her in the woods (see #5 above).
13. have a first aid kit in your car.
Being prepared to treat minor injuries when they happen can avoid discomfort for your pet dog and anxiety for you.
14. join a group.
Our trainer’s goal was to set us and our dogs up for off leash hiking. When we completed our classes we joined an email list of people interested in hiking regularly.
Every night someone sends an email to the list saying “My pet dog and I are hiking here at this time tomorrow morning. The address is this.”
Whoever wants can join the hike. consider connecting with people through your vet, doggie daycare, groomer, trainer, pet store, Facebook group—wherever you kind find like-minded people. The social time is good for both you and your dog.
15. help others.
Since everyone in my group went through the same training classes, we all have pretty much the same approach about dogs. This allows us to share recommendations and look after each other’s dogs as we need to.
I’ve learned that off-leash hiking is one of the most satisfying things I can make with my dog—for both me and him. I’ve also learned that with just a little bit of thought and preparation, I can make sure it’s a safe, enjoyable experience for both of us.
Thanks to Patti, Jeremy, Geoff, Nancy and Carolyn for sharing their tips.
Do you the rest of you have any off-leash hiking ideas to share?
Please leave them in the comments!
Julia Preston is a blogger at Home on 129 Acres where she writes about her adventures of country living and diy renovating. She and her husband live on a 129-acre farm in Ontario, Canada.
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