What are the basics for taking your dog on a hike? Collar (it should not be so loose as to come off but you should be able to slide your flat hand under collar), identification tags, bandanna (can help distinguish your dog from game in hunting season), leash (leather lasts forever but if there is water in your future, consider quick-drying nylon), and water (carry 8 ounces for every hour of hiking).
If you want your dog to help carry water, snacks and other supplies on the trail, opt for a dog pack. To select an appropriate dog pack measure your dog's girth around the rib cage to determine the best pack size. A dog pack should fit securely without hindering the dog's ability to walk normally. The pack, typically with cargo pouches on either side, should ride as close to the shoulders as possible without limiting movement. The straps that hold the dog pack in place should be situated where they will not cause chafing.
Wearing a dog pack is no more obtrusive than wearing a collar, although some dogs will take to a pack easier than others. Introduce the pack by draping a towel over your dog's back in the house and then having your dog wear an empty pack on short walks. Progressively add some crumpled newspaper and then bits of clothing. Fill the pack with treats and reward your dog from the stash. Soon your dog will associate the dog pack with an outdoor adventure and will eagerly look forward to wearing it.
How much weight can you put into a dog pack? Many dog packs are sold by weight recommendations. A healthy, well-conditioned dog can comfortably carry 25% to 33% of its body weight. Breeds prone to back problems or hip dysplasia should not wear dog packs. Consult your veterinarian before stuffing the pouches with gear. Good things to put in a dog pack are low density items such as food and poop bags. Ice cold bottles of water can cool your dog down on hot days. Don't put anything in a dog pack that can break. Dogs will bang the pack on rocks and trees as they wiggle through tight spots in the trail. Dogs also like to lie down in creeks and other wet spots so seal items in plastic bags. A good use for dog packs on day hikes is trail maintenance - your dog can pack out trash left by inconsiderate visitors before you.
Dog booties can be an asset, especially for the occasional dog hiker whose paw pads have not become toughened. Many of the trails involve rocky terrain. In some places, broken glass abounds. Hiking boots for dogs are designed to prevent pads from cracking while trotting across rough surfaces. Used in winter, dog booties provide warmth and keep ice balls from forming between toe pads when hiking through snow.
What should a doggie first aid kit include? Even when taking short hikes it is a good idea to have some basics available for emergencies: cling type bandaging tapes, 4 inches square gauze pads, topical wound disinfectant cream, tweezers, petroleum jelly (to cover ticks), and veterinarian's phone number.
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Run The Planet thanks the Cruden Bay Books' website Hike With Your Dog (www.hikewithyourdog.com) for the permission to reprint the article "Outfitting your dog for a hike". Cruden Bay Books produce books devoted to folks who love to get outside and hike with their dogs, such as "A Bark in the Park" series of local guidebooks, and the national guide "The Canine Hiker's Bible".