Keeping Your Dog Safe on A Hike

Last week I talked with Karen Bostick about her dog, Tinks. Karen is founder of a place for social pet lovers, and Tinks is her adorably cute maltipoo. Karen and Tinks are huge advocates of keeping dogs safe and happy. We talked about one of Tinks’ favorite pastimes: off-leash hiking. Here are a few tips I would recommend when embarking on this fun outdoor activity with your pet.

We love Tinks

Tinks loves the outdoors!

Legal precautions: Make sure the area where you are hiking actually allows dogs off-leash. Some hiking trails require a 6-10’ leash on certain parts of the trail. Abide by the laws provided.

Good obedience: Taking your dog on a leashed walk is one thing. Taking the leash off requires a higher level of obedience. Be sure your dog will come back when called! Practice, practice, practice. One of my favorite off-leash games to play with my dog is hide and seek. When I’m on a walk with my dog, I will stop and hide behind a tree and wait for my dog to notice I’ve disappeared. I don’t say a word. I just wait for my dog to see I’m gone and he sets out on a quick search to find me. (Note: if your dog never notices you’re gone, then I’d refrain from taking him off leash!) When your dog comes back to find you, celebrate with lots of praise and some treats.

This game is fun to play and will help teach your dog to check in on you while he’s roaming off-leash.

CORE_6oz_ChickenTurkeyProper Gear: Take plenty of water for your dog along with a few treats. Just like humans, dogs need to stay hydrated. Encourage your dog to drink water frequently and offer treats on occasion. One of my favorite treats on a hike are Wellness CORE Superfood Protein Bar. These protein bars are healthy, easy to store and carry, and more substantial than a usual training treat. Plus, my dog loves them!

Safe Dog Encounters: Your dog needs to be well socialized to other dogs if you are going to take him off-leash. However, that doesn’t mean your dog should be allowed to rush up to every dog he meets. Instead, when you see another dog, call your dog back to you and allow the dogs to calm down before letting them meet. If there are multiple dogs that need to greet one another, I prefer doing the greetings one dog at a time. This allows the dogs to get to know each other in a calmer manner and decreases the potential for a fight.

Size matters: One of the potential drawbacks when off-leash hiking is the possibility of encountering dogs of all sizes. I am a big advocate for separating dogs by size whenever they are playing off-leash but this isn’t always easy to control when you are hiking. As mentioned above, dogs should not be allowed to race up to one another to greet another dog even if you know that your dog is friendly.

But I have a special word of advice to Karen and other owners of small dogs like Tinks: Pick up your little dog if a large dog races toward you. I realize this creates the potential for the oncoming larger dog to jump on you while you are holding your dog. But if a dog is so aroused that he will jump up to grab your dog, then he’s probably just as likely to grab your dog while he’s standing on the ground. Which risk would you rather take? I think you are in a better position to protect your dog if you pick him up. For other ideas on what to do when a dog is approaching you off-leash you can check out my blog What to Do if a Dog is Chasing You.

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Karen and Tinks together

If you would like to learn more about Karen and Tinks, check out some of the links below! a place for social pet lovers
Karen Bostic and Tinks facebook page
We Love Tinks

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

5 thoughts on “Keeping Your Dog Safe on A Hike

  1. I’m so glad you suggested picking up small dogs when they are being rushed by a large over-aroused strange dog. I do this frequently with my 18lb cockapoo, and I often get told by other that I should leave him on the ground to “tough it out.” I’ve spent the last 5 years since I adopted him trying to encourage positive interactions with strange dogs, and his fear has lessened tremendously. He still (understandable) freaks out when much larger strange dogs loom over him and pounce on his head, and each time that happens I can see him take two steps back in his conditioning. So I just pick him up if I think there will be a problem. I think it’s a valid concern for people with little dogs, life is more dangerous for them and people should respect their fears.

    • Thanks, Stephanie. This is great feedback. There are times when I say a dog should be on the floor and learn how to get used to the environment around him. At the same time though, when larger dogs are involved, I think it’s much safer for the small dog to be picked up if he’s feeling overwhelmed. I’m glad you are doing that and I think it allows your dog to know you’ve “got his back” too. This is one situation where I don’t think it’s good to have the dogs “deal with it” because the results could be deadly. Thanks for your comment!

      • Thanks for replying Robin! I should have checked back sooner. I really love your blog, and always read all your articles. We went on a mostly off-leash hike today and I only had to pick him up once out of about 20 great interactions with strange dogs. Three unruly puppies were just too much. He’s made so many leaps and bounds since I’ve had him, in large part thanks to skills I’ve learned and topics I’ve read about on excellent blogs like yours. Thank you for all your effort putting out such high-quality information for free.

        • Thanks so much for your kind words, Stephanie. I’m glad things are working out well and appreciate the update.

  2. A trainer posted elsewhere that her dog was recall trained, but ran to see another dog before she noticed, and was hit by a car. For that and dogs who tend to chase, some impulse control conditioning with varied distractions can be very important. Out with my guy I heard a loud whine behind me, turned to see him watching a rabbit running close by. He fidgeted a bit, but walked back to me when called. A behavior that required nearly two months of practice, with a variety of other animals and distractions.

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