What’s better than reaching the summit of a trail? Taking in the view with a happy panting pup by your side! But before you pull on your boots and grab the leash, consider how you can ensure a safe hike with your dog.
Before setting out, it’s important to research the trail you are planning to hike. Visit the park’s website or use an app such as AllTrails, to download and print out a map. Some things to consider:
- Are dogs allowed on the trail and are there any restrictions?
- Where is the trailhead? Is there parking?
- How difficult is the trail and how much time should you set aside to hike it?
- What is the weather forecast and sunrise/sunset times for the day you plan to hike?
When hiking with your dog, you will need to pack a few extra items. Most importantly, bring more water than you think you need for yourself and your dog. Pack your backpack with the following: snacks for you and dog, collapsible water bowl, first aid kit, poop bags, hand sanitizer, trail maps, compass, an extra shirt for layering, and a light raincoat. Wear comfortable, non-cotton clothing and sturdy hiking boots or sneakers.
In the summer months, it is important to watch your dog for signs of heat exhaustion. It can come on quickly and looks like rapid panting, bright red gums, or stumbling. If you see signs of this, wet your dog down, rest in the shade and get them into some air-conditioning. To avoid heat exhaustion, start early in the morning and choose shorter, less challenging trails.
Keep your dog safe in the car
Dogs who are unsecured in your car are distracting and can be seriously injured if you have to brake suddenly or are in an accident. When I travel, Ollie is confined to the backseat with a car hammock and buckled in using his harness and seat belt converter.
There are several products available based on size and weight so you can find one that works for your dog.
Be mindful of trail etiquette
Most dog-friendly trails in Maryland require you to keep your dog on a leash. These rules are not just for keeping your dog and other hikers safe, they also protect the park’s fragile ecosystem.
Did you know that it’s proper trail etiquette to pick up dog poop? You may think that leaving it in the wilderness is fine because wild animals poop in the woods. However, dogs are not wild animals and their leave-behinds introduce foreign pathogens into the natural order of the ecosystem. I know picking up poop and carrying it with you for miles is not fun, but make a plan for how to carry or dispose of your dog’s waste.
Keep your distance from wildlife and stay on the marked trail. When meeting other hikers on the trail, pull over to the side so they can pass safely, and remember, not everyone feels comfortable around dogs.
Now you know how to enjoy a safe hike with your dog. Want more hiking tips? Check out our guide to family hiking in Maryland!
Lead Photo: Hannele Lahti