Author: Rachel Harris
Editor’s Note: Rachel Harris is a Yaktrax ambassador and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA) based out of Colorado. As the owner of A Good Feeling Dog Training, she works with dogs daily and shares tips and tricks through her blog and podcast. In addition to training her own pups, she’s fostered a number of “difficult” dogs to help give them the best chance at finding a new life. She helps organizations train their rescue dogs and helps them understand how to best serve the needs of these special friends.
We are so lucky to live in Colorado! Such beautiful mountains to hike and explore! Now that some of the late spring snow is melting, we are getting up to higher elevation for hiking! Here are a few things to keep in mind when hiking with dogs:
If your dog has been sitting at home all spring, it's important that you start with shorter hikes with less elevation gain to give their bodies a chance to prepare. Not only do you want to slowly build muscles and endurance, you also need to consider their paws. Dogs don’t wear shoes so it’s important that they slowly build up their paw pad strength to prepare them for the rocky trails.
If your dog isn’t great on a leash, I suggest you work on teaching loose leash walking as a skill before hitting the trails. If your dog is interested in prey, I also suggest you work on teaching a reliable “leave it” so you can use that for the inevitable prey encounters. If you are going to hike on trails where dogs are allowed off leash, it is imperative that you train a reliable recall before letting them off leash. Some dogs will naturally stay close (and if that is your dog, consider yourself blessed). Not all dogs will naturally stay close so it makes it even more important to train them to come back when called.
If your dog doesn’t have a recall, they shouldn’t be off leash. There are many potential dangers if your dog was to run off including getting injured or lost. My dog Waylon wears a GPS tracker. He has a great recall but it is an added safety net in the case he was to run off. Encountering large predators is also a potential danger. I carry a dog first aid kit with wraps, tweezers, and other supplies in case of an emergency. If you own a large-breed dog that you couldn’t carry down the mountain, I suggest bringing a sling with you so you could carry the dog out.
My dogs wear collars that have my contact information just in case. They also wear harnesses for when they have to be on a leash. I always carry a treat pouch with a variety of high-value treats. We are constantly training, even above the tree line! I have a great pair of Keen hiking boots that I wear and I bring my Yak Trax because there is still snow and ice at higher elevations. I bring plenty of water for me and the dogs, as well as sunscreen and bug spray. I also always carry a raincoat just in case—you never know when those storms will surprise you from behind a mountain range!
Hiking with my dogs is one of my favorite activities and I know it’s one of their favorites too. I hope this inspires you to get out and hike more with your dogs too!---
All photo credit goes to Rachel Harris. Check out more photos of her and her dog's adventures on her Instagram.