While spring hasn’t officially sprung, the time to start picking out warm-weather hikes absolutely has for my dog Baxter and I. With the winter season meeting, its end comes so much excitement! Baxter is a mixed breed, comprised of a golden retriever, springer spaniel, and beagle. He has very long, shiny, shaggy black hair which is especially thick around his neck. Warm weather hikes with a long-haired dog require some additional preparation before hitting the trail to ensure that you and your dog are protected and have the best time on your adventure. This also means being prepared for busy hikes full of more people and more dogs. There are some essentials I always make sure to have with me during a hot day's hike and precautions I always take prior to heading out the door.
Step 1: Planning a Hike
Distance, elevation gain, humidity, and temperature all play a large role in determining where to hike with a long-haired dog. When choosing a trail, it’s also important to consider the time of day and day of the week that you are deciding to go. On a hot day with a long-haired dog, adding any unnecessary stress can only increase your dog’s exhaustion levels. It’s possible that some winter hikes are simply unattainable with your dog given the summer heat, that’s certainly the case for Baxter.
On some trails, there can be long periods where there is no tree coverage at all – something that is no concern in the winter. Baxter’s long black fur heats up extremely quickly. Within a matter of minutes in the sun, you can feel the warmth radiating from his back. Finding hikes that have ample shade is key! I prepare a few different ways. I look for reviews or comments for the trail online and look up the trail in the ‘All Trails’ app or website. I find pictures that others have taken on the hike on Google or Instagram and look at the satellite view of the trail on Google Maps.
These pictures help determine the number of trees and coverage along the trail. I’ll also try to check if the facility has a water fountain or see if reviews mention any access to freshwater. If Google does not provide enough information I will check Instagram’s hashtags and geotags to find more photos, videos, or comments about the trail. If there is a body of water (pond, lake, stream) and your dog is water-hungry like my Baxter, I will research in advance whether that water is safe (or if it is allowed) for Baxter to swim or drink. If there isn’t any information, I err on the side of caution and do not let Baxter near it. In today’s world finding this type of information is at your fingertips and doing so will ensure that you and your dog have the best (and safest) time.
Step 2: Know about Warm Weather Hazards
Heatstroke is a very real concern for hiking with dogs in warm weather. Dogs can’t dissipate heat as well as humans can, so heat and humidity can pose serious dangers. While panting is the main way dogs are able to release heat, they can still become overwhelmed if they are over-exposed to hot weather. Remember- even if you aren’t feeling excessively hot or aren’t sweating yourself, heat feels different to your dog! With warm weather comes a significant increase in foot and paw traffic on the trails, especially on weekends.
Keep in mind that if the day is particularly humid, your dog is hotter than you are! I have made special note of Baxter’s signs of being tired and hot and I know when he is ready for a break or needs to turn around. It’s really important to know your dog’s signs of exhaustion if you plan on hiking with a long-haired breed and even more important to be prepared.
Step 3: Get the tips & tools needed for hiking in the heat
For Baxter, here are the exact items I always make sure that I have with me: a portable water bottle, cooling bandana, collapsible bowl, and first aid kit. I normally carry two water bottles, both the portable bottle for Baxter and one for myself. I really like this type of portable bottle for Baxter because the top of the bottle is shaped like a bowl, and the bottle will conserve any leftover water in the bowl. On a long hike in warm weather, it is essential to have enough water for a long-haired dog and conversing water along the way if needed.
There have been too many times when I have poured my last bit of water for Baxter into his collapsible bowl and he decides he doesn’t want all of it at that moment and I have to toss it… a travesty! I always make sure to have a collapsible bowl with me in the event I need to pour other water for Baxter, if he is getting some food on a break or if the water fountain at the trailhead isn’t small enough to fill up a bottle. This type comes with a carabineer so I attach it to the outside of my bag. Baxter loves this cooling bandana. I will try to wet it and put it in the freezer for a few minutes before we head out. I keep a bottle of cold water in a cooler in my car for when we get back because who doesn’t love some nice cold water after a long hike.
I have never regretted spending additional time preparing for my long summer hikes with Baxter and I have already started my preparations for summer! Happy tails = happy trails!
Want to know more about hiking with your dogs? Read our otherblogs! Be sure to follow our Instagram for more daily adventures & Check out Baxter on Instagram and his hiking endeavors!!