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Benefits and Safety Tips for Hiking or Running With Your Dog

Helpful Preventative Measures When Hiking or Running With Your Dog

Arizona’s warm climate is ideal for hikers and runners. Sometimes, it’s nice to bring a friend along. Hiking with your dog – or even running with your dog – can be great exercise, as well as a bonding experience. Here are some key tips for how to make your run or hike with your dog a tail-wagging good time for everyone.

Vaccinations & Preventative Medicines: Before you begin running or hiking with a young dog, be sure they’ve built natural immunity, the bones are sufficiently developed, and are up to date on vaccines. One year, give or take a few months (depending on size, breed, and other factors) should be a safe age for you to hit the trail with your trusty sidekick. Make sure they’re also protected from heartworm, fleas and ticks. Consult your vet about recommended preventative measures for dogs participating in outdoor activities like running and hiking.

Is Your Hiking Trail Tail-Friendly? We understand the urge to take your dog with you, especially when you’re enjoying a run or hike and taking in the Arizona sights. The problem? While the number of dog-friendly places is growing, unless you have a service dog, your furry sidekick is not welcome everywhere. Always check the regulations posted for the areas where you’ll be hiking or backpacking. Many national parks actually prohibit dogs on the trail, even when they are leashed! However, many national forests, as well as state and local parks, do allow dogs on their trail systems, though rules vary. Leashes are mandatory almost everywhere.

Bone Up on Trail Etiquette: When hiking or running with your dog, you must maintain control at all times. Yield the right of way to hikers, horses and bikes, so step to the side of the trail to allow them to pass. Also – having your dog on a leash isn’t enough. If your dog is distracted or becomes agitated as other people and pooches pass by, further training is in order. Obedience training establishes you as the leader of the pack.

Leave No Trace: Pooper Scoop! Going for a day hike? Don’t leave your pooches’ presents by the trail for someone else to pick up (or your own, for that matter!). Always pack out filled poop bags. Double bag for extra protection from unpleasant smells.

Protect the Paws: There are lots of protective pet shoe options for dogs of all sizes. While they’ll need to adjust to the strange sensation of wearing shoes, as well as walking or running in them, it’s worth it to protect your dog from harm – especially during Arizona’s long, hot summers. Hiking and running shoes made just for dogs can help prevent cuts, bites, and burns on tender paws and pads that will require veterinary care.

Remember the Sunscreen: Pets can get sunburned or develop skin cancer, so it’s important to take precautions when hiking or running with your dog. Breeds like Boxers, Bull Terriers, German Shorthaired Pointers, Pit Bulls and Staffordshire Terriers are very vulnerable to sunburn and possible skin cancers. Severe burns may also cause skin infections. Ask your vet about sunscreens formulated especially for pets. Caution – what’s safe for dogs may not be for cats. Look for pet safe products that contain NO ZINC OXIDE (a common ingredient in many sunscreens) – it’s toxic to animals.

Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate: Pets can dehydrate incredibly quickly. It’s vitally important to bring along plenty of fresh water – for both of you – when running or hiking with your dog. Remember, flat face breeds cannot pant effectively, so they’re more susceptible to heat stroke. Leave them at home. Older dogs that are overweight or have medical conditions should be kept cool, so best to pick another form of exercise.

Rattlesnake Avoidance Training: For frequent hikers, or if you live in an area with lots of desert around, we recommend you and your pet attend Rattlesnake Avoidance Training with a professional trainer. There are several different methods involved in this type of training, so be sure to ask a lot of questions before you decide on a trainer and training system. We also recommend repeating training annually – as the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

The Best Time for Running or Hiking With Your Dog: During the heat of Arizona’s summer months, take walks early in the morning when it’s cooler, or later in the evening after the cement or ground has had time to cool down. Remember, the pads on your dogs feet are not the same as shoes, and can burn and blister very easily; so if you can’t be barefoot on the ground, then neither should your pup.

Regular hikes or runs can also help ensure your dog gets appropriate amounts of exercise and stimulation. Make sure you run through the above checklist, then get outside with your pooch and have a wonderful time! Still not sure about taking your dog on a run or hike? Talk to your vet for additional guidance.

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