Hiking is one of my favorite activities to do with Buddy and Jesse. Being working Cockers, they have endless energy and could go on all day and therefore going on a long hike is the perfect way to tire them out. I love exploring the countryside and taking in nice views and with my two best friends by my side, a long hike is the perfect day out. Living in Somerset, we have many nice walks right on our doorstep but it is always nice to go out on a hike and enjoy nature.
Before taking your dog on a long hike, there are several important factors to consider. Firstly, hiking is not an activity to do with a dog that is under one year of age (older for larger breeds of dogs) as their growth plates need to have fused over before they take part in intensive exercise. It is also important to build up their fitness before taking them on an all day hike so that they do not strain their muscles. Buddy and Jesse lead a very active lifestyle and are usually busy throughout the day. They usually get at least a 2 hour walk everyday and regularly spend the day down the farm and therefore I knew that they would be able to cope with a long hike. Before we did hikes that were 5 hours plus, I made sure to regularly do 3-4 hour walks with Buddy and Jesse so that they were able to build up the stamina to be out for long periods of time doing strenuous exercise. I say strenuous because unless there is livestock in a specific area, Buddy and Jesse are off lead during our hikes and they will run around non stop for the majority of the time we are out and therefore it was important that they built up their stamina in order to cope with long distances. Once they had mastered that, it was just a case of building up the amount of time we hiked for. Our most recent and longest hike was 9 hours and I have made sure to build up to this time slowly so that the dogs are physically fit enough to go on for the whole time we are out without tiring.
Once you have built up the overall fitness of the dogs, my next tip would be to make sure that you are prepared for a long day out. When going out on a long hike, you will likely be in a rural environment and therefore you need to be prepared as possible because you never know what may happen.
Things we take on our hikes:
Sturdy collar that will not come off – We use Lions Country Supply Dayglo Collars as they have an added O ring which allows movement in the collar so that the dog can free themselves if they were to get their collar snagged on everything. The Dayglo collars are also in bright collars which are perfect if it is foggy up in the hills so that you can keep an eye on your dog. The Dayglo collars can also be purchased from Pretty Pointer which is a UK online shop.
Comfortable Hiking Harness – Whenever we go hiking, I always make sure that I put Jesse in a harness. In certain areas there will be livestock and when ground nesting birds are nesting, it is a requirement for dogs to be on a lead to avoid any disruption. In addition to this, if we are walking along a cliffs edge, I will also pop them on the lead for their safety. Because of this, a harness is perfect as it means that it is more comfortable for the dog if they pull on the lead as they may be on the lead for a long period of time. We use a Mountain Paws Dog Hiking Harness (Red harness in the photo above) as it fully supports the dog and also prevents the dog from backing out of the harness which is an important feature for Jesse as she can get spooked very easily. I have been using this harness for nearly two years with Jesse now and it is still in good working condition which I am amazed at as Jesse really does put it to the test.
Water – This is one of the most essential items to bring and it is important to take plenty of it. I usually take 5L of water with us if we are going to be out all day to make sure that the dogs do not become dehydrated. There will be no where to refill the water on the way for human consumption but we often refill the dogs water bottles from the streams that we pass along the way to make the water go even further.
Food – When I take Buddy and Jesse out on an all day hike, I always bring something for them to eat whether this is a meal or several snacks as this helps to give them an energy boost throughout the day. Because Buddy and Jesse are raw fed, I only take a meal with me if we are going to be out for most of the day in order to give them energy to keep going. I usually bring Luna and Me raw patties as they fit easily into a lunch box which I put into a carrier bag along with some ice packs to keep it cool until halfway through the hike. On shorter hikes, I bring some tripe sticks, natural treats and a banana for each of the dogs. Bananas are one of Buddy and Jesse’s favourite treats and it helps to provide them with sodium and potassium which helps to provide immediate energy. I usually give out treats for good behaviour throughout the hike as this will also help to give them energy throughout the day whilst enforcing desired behaviors.
First Aid Kit – This is another really important piece of kit to take with you and we never go out hiking without it. you never know what is going to happen out on a hike and therefore it is important to be prepared in case your dog is to sustain an injury whilst out. It has happened to us before and we have had sliced pads, cuts and other injuries when we are miles away from the car. A first aid kit should include:
- Vet Wrap
- Saline Solution
- Cotton wool
- Disposable Gloves
- Foil Blanket
- Tick Tool
- Blood Clotting Powder
The more stuff you have in your first aid kit, the better and therefore this is only the minimum amount of things that you should bring with you. It is also a good idea to have the numbers of your vet written on a piece of paper inside the first aid kit somewhere – Buddy and Jesse have their vets number on the nameplates on their collars. It just means you can get hold of a vet in an Emergency as you never know what may happen.
Poo Bags– This is an essential item to pack wherever you go with your dog because you never know when they may need to go to the toilet. As a dog owner, it is your responsibility to clean up after your dog and therefore when out hiking, you must bring poo bags in order to clean up their mess. When on a long hike, there may not be bins along the way and therefore you may want to invest in a Dickie Bag which you can put the filled poo bag in to save you from carrying it.
Map – If we are going to a new hiking area, I usually try to get hold of a map before hand because you never know how well the signage is going to be when you are out and there is not likely to be any signal up in the hills so it is important that you are able to find your way back if you do become lost.
Training I would recommend doing prior to going on a hike:
When going on a hike, it is important to have a good level of control over your dog due to the nature of the environment you are going to be walking in. It is essential that your dog has good recall so that you can call them back to you in an emergency. If your dog has poor recall, this does not mean they cannot go hiking but I would definitely advise keeping them on the lead until you are able to control them for their safety. If you are struggling to teach a good recall, I recommend the book Total Recall by Pippa Mattinson. This book provides you with the information you need in order to teach your dog a solid recall so that it is reliable in all situations. I used the book to teach Buddy his recall when he was a mischievous puppy and his recall is really solid now. It is all based around positive reinforcement so is lots of fun to teach too!
It is also important that your dog has good general obedience such as sit, heel and wait in order to make the hike enjoyable for your both. You may bump into other people when out hiking who may not be a fan of a dog coming up to them and therefore by putting them into a sit, stay until they have passed, you will not cause any disruption to them. As well as people, you may also bump into other dogs that are out for a hike with their owners too. This is where good heel work comes in handy as not all dogs will feel comfortable with your dog approaching them and therefore by putting them in a heel, it provides the other dog with space if they require it.
Another important thing to teach your dog before going on a hike is to be calm around livestock. This is important because you need to have some control over them when around livestock in case you do not see the livestock before they do. If you have to pass through farmers fields on the hike, they have the right to shoot your dog if they worry their livestock and therefore it is vital that they know how to behave around livestock. Where we regularly walk, there are no signs saying that there are livestock because the animals up there are wild. However, this still means you have to control your dogs as you do not want the livestock to harm your dog if they feel threatened. In order to teach your dog to behave around livestock, you will need to find someone that has livestock for you to use. If you are in the somerset area then I recommend Diamond Dogz who run workshops to help stop stock chasing.
Finally, don’t forget to have FUN! Hiking is an enjoyable activity for you and your dog so make the most of it and enjoy walking in each others company. There is no better feeling than reaching the top of a mountain and taking in the stunning views with your best friends by your side!
Have fun and stay safe!
Buddy, Jesse and their Hooman xxx