Although the weather is changing to winter temperatures, I have friends who are still hiking with their dogs. As a matter of fact, they enjoy hiking in all types of weather. A lot of people do.
Years ago, my parents went to Alaska on vacation. They met a young woman at breakfast who was sitting with her golden retriever named Max. When they had all finished, the girl and dog stood up from the table. She put her backpack on and then put Max's dog pack on him. The dog was wiggling and circling, happy to be going.
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Mom commented on the dog's excitement about leaving and the young woman said, " Max goes to work with me. It's a two-mile hike, but he always wants to go further."
How lucky to walk with your dog to work and then have him stay with you all day.
My dog and I are new to trail hiking. Like any other activity done with a dog, it's good to learn from other people's experiences. I found hikewithyourdog.com, as well as the hiking with dogs group on Facebook and the hiking with your dog blog, which offer suggestions for hiking and dog-friendly trails.
Planning a hike that will match you and your dog's capabilities is the first step in starting your new adventure together. It's important not to plan a route longer than your dog is ready to walk, because your pet will keep on walking in an effort to please and never let on to any pain.
Your dog needs to be outfitted for hiking just like you. Canine basics are identification tags, one with your veterinarian's phone number, and a bandanna to distinguish him from game during hunting season. A dog pack is warranted if you're planning a long hike.
Taking small steps to get your dog used to the dog pack will result in his eagerness to wear it and his associating it with outdoor adventures. To start, drape a towel over your dog's back and have him wear it around the house. Then have him wear an empty pack on short walks, progressively adding crumpled newspapers and small items of clothing.
Fill the pack with treats, rewarding him from the pack. Since a dog can carry 25 percent of his body weight, low density items such as poop bags and food are good items to put in his dog pack, as well as bottles of water and a doggy first aid kit consisting of gauze pads, topical wound disinfectant cream, cling-type bandages and tweezers.
Including water for your dog while hiking is important. With only panting available to disperse body heat, dogs are much more susceptible to heat stroke than humans. A bright red tongue and/or rapid panting are symptoms of heat exhaustion in your dog. A good rule of thumb is to carry eight ounces of water for every hour of planned hiking.
Be aware of trail hazards. Rough terrain and weather must be considered. Dog bootees can be worn if your dog has tender paws to protect his pads from cracking as he moves over rough surfaces or through thorny areas.
They also can be worn if you hike trails in the winter. They will protect your dog from forming ice balls between his toe pads while hiking through the snow and provide warmth to his feet.
There are nuisance plants on the trail, including stinging nettle, which will transfer needles into your dog's fur just by brushing up against it, and poison ivy. While your dog won't get poison ivy, he can transfer it to you.
While the presence of your dog will keep wildlife deeper in seclusion, animals are there. You may encounter squirrels, deer or shy creatures such as rattlesnakes, which are found in every state in America, skunks or porcupines. Skunks don't run from dogs and neither do porcupines.
An encounter with a porcupine may result in your dog being impaled by quills, which will work into the skin and cause infection.
Hikewithyourdog.com notes we should practice low impact hiking with our dogs.
"Every time we hike with our dogs on a trail, we are an ambassador for every dog owner. Some people you meet won't believe in your right to take dog on a trail. Be friendly to all and make the best impression you can."
Low impact hiking with our dogs includes: packing out everything you bring in, not leaving dog scat on the trail, hiking only where dogs are allowed-staying on the trail, not allowing our dogs to chase wildlife nor bark, and stepping off the trail while other hikers and horses pass.
One of the best ways we can practice low impact hiking is to use a leash, guaranteeing our dogs will not disturb other people on the trail and our dogs will be safe.
I'm looking forward to getting on the trail again with my dog. Join us?
You can also join us as we get our photos taken with Mr. and Mrs. Claus and the elves at The Buddy Foundation photo event. Photos will be taken from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturdays, Nov. 30, Dec 7, and Dec. 14, at the Buddy Foundation, 65 W. Seegers Road, in Arlington Heights. Bring your pets and children and enjoy the bake sale and craft items. Donation is $7.50 per picture.
• The Buddy Foundation is a nonprofit (501c3), all volunteer, no-kill animal shelter dedicated to the welfare of stray, abused and abandoned cats and dogs. The shelter is at 65 W. Seegers Road, Arlington Heights. Call (847) 290-5806 or visit thebuddyfoundation.org.