HIKING WITH YOUR GREYHOUND
People are hitting the trails and taking advantage of the great outdoors during this COVID-19 summer. Have you ever wondered whether you could take your Greyhound hiking with you? The answer is “Yes”! Hiking with dogs provides health benefits to us and our dogs, as well as deepening our bond through shared experiences. Before you go, here are some things to consider:
Before trying to hike with your Greyhound, you should be sure your dog knows how to walk on a loose leash. Your dog should also have a good foundation of training and socialization. Otherwise, you could be dealing with your dog's poor behavior or even fear during the hike, and that's no fun for anyone.
Start slowly, especially if you know your hound has not hiked before. It’s best to start with short, easy hikes and take frequent breaks to rest. They will need time to work up to any distance – remember, their races are only 1,600 feet long! Their pads might need to toughen up too if you are not using dog booties. On the trail, rest often and pace yourself to match your dog, not yourself.
Plan ahead. Check out the trails or places where you wish to hike. Their websites usually state the rules as to whether dogs are allowed and will give you information about water availability and other facilities. Try to find out about wildlife typical to the area. A good plan equals a greyt experience!
Be prepared. You will want to have your Greyhound on a leash at all times, and make sure you have tags on their buckle collar, and if microchipped, that the information on file is up to date. If it is going to be cold, you may need a doggie jacket or sweater. Don’t forget the poop bags. You will want to double-bag to prevent any accidents.
Trail Petiquette. You and your dog are both ambassadors for everyone else who hikes with dogs. Follow any posted rules. Stay on the trail and yield right of way to others. Keep your dog under control. Consider the ratio of one person to one dog on your hikes. In other words, if you want to take multiple dogs on your hike, ask a friend to go along. Also, don’t assume that other dogs you might meet on the trail are friendly, even if they are wagging their tails. Practice LEAVE NO TRACE – if you pack it in, pack it out.
Water. Dogs are susceptible to waterborne illnesses. Technically, you should discourage your dog from drinking water along the trail. Giardia poses a threat to dogs that get into contaminated water supplies. Carry enough water for both of you and a water dish for your dog.
Snacks. If you will be hiking for any length of time, take a few snacks for your dog as well as for yourself. Do not give them a big meal before you set out, rather feed low-fiber, high-fat and high-protein dog foods in small amounts every two to three hours. This can include easy-to-pack snacks like dog biscuits, training treats, dog food rolls, jerkies like dried liver, or bars made especially for dogs. If this is getting to be bulky, you might consider a dog pack so your buddy can help carry supplies – you know they love to help!
Avoid heat. It's best not to hike with your dog (or at all) in very hot weather. If you do, take frequent breaks and provide extra water. Stay in the shade as much as possible. Dogs cannot cool themselves by sweating and rely on panting to release heat, which is not very efficient. Watch for signs of distress, such as limping, rapid panting (a symptom of heatstroke) and a dry nose (a sign of dehydration).
Since most Greyhounds have short and/or thin hair, it is essential that you use a dog sunscreen on her exposed skin. Light-coated dogs and dogs with light-colored noses tend to suffer from sunburn on the nose and tips of the ears, as well as other areas that are light-colored or sparsely covered. If your dog is likely to lick the sunscreen off, you will need to use a sunscreen product that is designed for pets, or that that is guaranteed not to be toxic, such as those made for infants and children.
Minimize Risks. Dogs love being outdoors and exploring all the good smells of nature. Do not let your dog disturb wildlife. A snake bite can kill your dog, and skunk spray is unpleasant. Other wildlife creatures may carry dangerous diseases like rabies. Respect nature and you will not be likely to find unfriendly wildlife or toxic plants.
Make sure your dog is fully vaccinated, and if you're going into the wilderness, dogs should be on regular parasite prevention to prevent heartworms, fleas, ticks, and parasites (this preventative will not protect against Giardia).
Familiarize yourself with basic first-aid for dogs. Pack a first aid kit – see my blog https://bit.ly/DIYfirst-aid-kit for ideas to make your own.
Consider a rescue harness for your hound. You can pack them out on your back if they are injured some distance from the car and you do not have help. These devices fold up and are made to fit in your pack. As dog lovers, we wholeheartedly believe that if you are bringing your pup with you into the wilderness, that you should be just as prepared to protect and rescue them. Search online for “dog rescue harness”.
Check your dog’s paws regularly for cracks, wounds or foreign objects. Burrs, thistles, rocks and even insects can embed in a dog's feet, and the terrain can really irritate your dog’s paws.
When traveling to the trailhead, remember never to leave your dog in a closed vehicle. Oven-like temperatures can build up in minutes, even on cool days.
Age. Be aware of your dog’s limitations. Old dogs, like old people, have stiffer joints, arthritis, and other ailments that reduce their physical abilities. Perhaps they do enjoy hikes, just much shorter ones that are walked quickly and which aren’t particularly strenuous. Older dogs may tend to trip on things they don’t see or have trouble climbing certain obstacles. You should change your hiking plans if age is a factor, and take more frequent rest breaks.
Post-hike health check. When you get home at the end of the hike, it’s important to give your dog an all-over health check. Are they limping? While petting them down can you feel any small lumps that suggest the possibility of a tick? Are their foot pads in good condition and not overly sensitive? Have they picked up any burrs or other vegetation in their fur that needs brushing out? Offer water and food to replenish.
If it’s been a long, hot and dusty day then you may even want to give your dog a quick bath or hose-down. And while you’re at it, you’ve created some great memories together so why not join in and cool yourself down at the same time? The perfect end to a great day!
Add booties and coat to hike in the winter too!