It's April! The weather is usually more nice than bad, and you're itching to get out of doors! Well, your pet probably is, too! What better way than to go on a hike? We have a ton of great trails in North Carolina that you and your pet can enjoy.
Here are some important tips for you AND your pet before you take that hike!
- Make sure that you AND your dog are in good physical shape before starting out on that hike. Start short and, as you get in better shape, you both can go on more extended hikes.
- Wear the right gear. This means a good daypack to carry your essentials in, and possibly, a good pack for your best buddy to carry. He can carry his own water bowl - you can get collapsible bowls - snacks and a packet of food. Make sure his pack fits him well, and is evenly loaded on both sides.
- You will both burn some calories! Bring snacks for you and perhaps a small Ziploc bag with food and a few treats for Fido. Pack plenty of water for both of you.
- Make sure your dog is vaccinated appropirately, including vaccinating again water-borne Lepto. Treat all stream water before using. Nothing like a good case of Giardia for you OR your pet.
- Check the weather forecast for the area in which you'll be hiking. Heat, quick weather changes and lightning are all possible and could be dangerous to both of you.
- Let someone know where you are going and when you plan to return. Always carry a bright flashlight in case something happens and you end up being out after dark.
- Research the terrain of the trail you are taking. Take a trail map. It is likely that you may not get cell phone reception where you are going. Know how to read the map!
- Know trail regulations with respect to dogs on the trail. You cannot take a dog on a trail in a national park. In North Carolina, you may take dogs on trails in state parks, but they are required to be on leashes. Not everyone loves your dog like you do! Some people are afraid of them, so leashes are an important item to take with you.
- Bring poop pick-up bags. Yes, you are in the woods. However, no one likes to step in piles on the trail - it's just good manners. Whether it's poop or trash, if you take it in, pack it out!
- Make sure your pet has ID tags. Better yet - get him microchipped (a permanent form of identification) AND visible ID tags.
What to watch out for:
- Your pet may be out of shape, just like you might be. Start out on short distances and increase as you gain stamina
- Ticks and fleas can be a problem on the trail. Make sure your pet is on effective flea and tick control, as well as heartworm prevention. Most heartworm preventions also help with intestinal parasite control.
- Keep your pet on a leash. Dogs might be inclined to chase wild animals which, depending on the animal or the terrain, could be harmful to your pet.
- Check your dog for burrs regularly and keep away from plants with thorns or irritating leaves. Thorns hur when embedded in a paw. Know your "bad" plants - Poison Ivy, Poison Oak, Stinging Nettle, Poison Sumac. Don't let your pet eat plants. Nothing like a bout of diarrhea on the way home!
- Watch your dog for signs of heat stroke!!!! Excessive drooling, increased body temperature, decreased or little production of urine, rapid heart rate, reddened gums. Make sure your dog is well-hydrated and that you take plenty of cool-off breaks. When in doubt, rest. Better safe and slow than sorry. Brachycephalic dogs like English Bulldogs, Shih Tzus, Boston Terriers and the like are much more susceptible to heat than other breeds. Best to limit their active times in warmer weather.
- Stream Crossings - Not all dogs swim. They don't all make good choices when crossing streams. They may run into a deeper spot where they lose contact with the bottom. Again - use a leash, and both of you use a safe crossing - watch out for slippery rocks and fast-moving water.
- Know smart practices for humans on trails and the backcountry. Don't make someone risk their life to rescue you becuase you were not properly prepared.
Many of these tips also apply to walking your dog around town, too!
Have a safe, enjoyable hike! Get out there and enjoy our beautiful state!
Kyle Elizabeth Cook/Bear Creek Photography NC, Lauren Gilliland, Adobe Stock