Camping and Hiking With Your Dog in the Adirondacks
Camping and hiking with your dog in the Adirondacks can be a lot of fun! There is nothing like romping in the woods with your dog chasing anything and everything from sticks to squirrels and then jumping into a crystal clear lake to cool off on a warm summer day. Dogs also love to hike and it can be quite an experience to get to the top of one of the Adirondack peaks with your dog at your side.
That is the good part about camping with your dog. There are, however, a lot of precautions and safety concerns before you take off into the wild blue yonder with your companion.
The first thing you need to consider is training your dog for the long hikes you may want to take. It makes perfect sense because you had to train and condition your body for long hikes, and your dog needs the same training.
Your vet can tell you how fit your dog is and a check up should be the first thing you do. Exercise is the best way to get your dog into shape, but you have to start slowly. A dog’s joints can be damaged by too much distance or too much exertion too early. A good rule of thumb is to start with five minutes of exercise twice daily and then build up the time as the dog gets in better shape.
Once you start hiking with your dog, you need to gradually increase the distance. Your dog will let you know when they have had enough, so you need to pay attention to their signals. Some people have reported having to carry their dog if they get too tired, so it’s probably not a good idea to have a Great Dane as your hiking companion!
Some people like to have their dogs carry backpacks, but this is not a good idea until they are fully grown and then start off with a light weight.
You also need to teach your dog how to survive in the wilderness. Basic commands such as your dog responding instantly when you call are a must, even when there are distractions such as other dogs. This is especially necessary when hiking in the wilderness, as you never know if you will come upon a dangerous animal such as a bear or mountain lion.
Another good command is ‘leave it’. You never know what your dog wants to put in their mouth or chase after and that is especially dangerous if it happens to be a poisonous snake or a porcupine.
Teaching a dog to stay is essential, especially if you are parked on a trail head that is on the side of the road. You don’t want your dog darting into traffic in his eagerness to start on the trail.
The most important thing is to start slowly, once you are ready to go on your first hike with your companion. The first walk should be only about a mile. When you reach obstacles, you should see if your dog is able to handle them and figure them out without your assistance. Just as in humans, problem solving can be developed in dogs.
One thing to keep in mind when having your canine companion along is added safety for both of you. Dogs have been known to rescue people, and having your dog with you just may save your life.
Here are some of the supplies you need to take with you on your hike:
1. Water. Purchase a collapsible or light plastic water bowl and a water bottle that is just his. Carry it separately from your own water supply. Dogs can’t sweat and need drinking water in order to cool down. During hikes, give your dog access to water any time you need to take a break.
2. Backpacks. If you are taking a long hike, or even camping out on the trail, the weight of the dog’s food and water can really add up, so putting that on his back can save yours. Dogs can safely carry up to 25 percent of their own body weight and they can quickly adjust to a backpack. Packs with secure harnesses and carry handles are great for helping the dog over obstacles. Make sure the pack is well constructed and well-fitting to avoid any injury to the dog.
3. Lights. Anytime you are outside at twilight or even full dark, you will want to know where your dog is at all times. This allows for other people to see him, too. A flashing red light that hangs on his collar is the best option. Look for one that is sturdy and waterproof.
4. Tether. Although you should never leave a tethered dog unattended, at night it can be a good way to keep your dog from wandering all over the campsite. A braided steel cable, sheathed in plastic is the best because the dog can’t bite through it. A length of around 30 feet will allow you to wrap the tether around a tree and leave enough room for the dog to go to the bathroom.
5. First Aid kit. Most dog first aid is the same as human first aid, prevent bleeding and infection. Most pet stores provide a dog first aid kit with the proper medicines that are not always the same as human first aid kits.
There are some things you need to watch out for when hiking with your dog. Fleas, mosquitoes and ticks can make a dog miserable, and cause a variety of infections, especially Lyme Disease in the case of the ticks. Invest in a good protection medicine for your dog.
As you are hiking in the wilderness, you need to be aware of predators. If you have a large dog, you don’t need to worry so much, but if you have a smaller dog, they can fall victim to a bear or coyote or mountain lion. That is why it is essential that your dog responds immediately to your commands.
Snakes are another problem and there is a rattlesnake vaccine for dogs, but caution should be used if you choose the vaccine. The best thing to do is to teach your dog to avoid snakes of all kinds, even the non-poisonous ones.
Finally, be aware of weather extremes. In the winter, don’t think your dog is immune to the cold just because he has a thick coat. If it’s cold, keep them warm with a dog coat and look for signs of freezing, such as limping and shivering. Get them to a warm place immediately. Also, during the winter the chemicals put down to melt ice and snow can hurt a dog’s paws. Booties for dogs are a great investment, especially if you will be doing a lot of winter hiking.
Also think about hydration and food in the winter. Not all dogs know how to eat snow or want to and like you, your dog will need more calories and more fat to stay warm. A bouillon cube in warm water will get a dog to drink and warm them up before bed. They also need to get off the ground and under something warm just like you do.
Following all these steps and advice will go a long way towards a happy, enjoyable and safe hiking and camping experience and will make for memories that will last a lifetime! Make sure to take pictures of your hiking and camping experience with your dog in the Adirondacks, and post them on our Facebook page!