Hiking through the wilderness is exhilarating and worthwhile, especially if you have your furry, four-legged friend beside you. Many dogs enjoy a long run out in the open away from the city. Hence, if you plan to go on a trek somewhere, it’s best to bring your dog along to give them some exercise.
However, hiking with a reactive dog is another story. Anxious pups are often tricky to deal with on hikes. It’s more so the case if they encounter other people, dogs, and wild animals along the way. Despite the challenges, it’s not impossible to go on a hike with your anxious dog. It just entails a lot of preparation, patience, and understanding.
If you want to tag your reactive pooch along on your next hike, consider these tips on how to make the experience hassle-free:
1. Stock Up On Gear
You invest in good shoes and clothing suitable for hiking trips as a hiker, and you should do the same for your dog. A collar, harness, and leash will keep your pup safe on all your walks and ensure they don’t run off unexpectedly. Harnesses, in particular, are perfect for providing a reactive dog with some comfort. Thus, you must find high-quality gear for your dog and try to avoid the cheap-looking ones available in many pet stores.
When looking for wearable gear for reactive dogs, make sure it’s the correct size: not too loose and not too tight. A harness designed for intense physical activity like canicross should be suitable for hiking. It should withstand the tug and pull from larger dogs, especially, and last for an extended period.
You can find proper collars, leashes, and harnesses for canicross and other high-octane canine activities in many reputable dog gear stores. Look for ones with a measurement chart for each product. Always check all the necessary info so you can let your reactive dog wear something comfortable and secure on your hikes together.
2. Know Your Dog’s Triggers
A dog owner needs to know what triggers their anxious pet. It’s different for every dog, much like how it is for humans. As a brief guide for you, here are the most common triggers for dogs:
- Other dogs or animals
- Other people
- Loud noises
- Vehicles or bikes
If you’re aware that your dog has anxiety but have no clue what exactly triggers them, take them on a regular walk around the neighborhood and observe. Sometimes, just staying at home may manifest some triggers. You’ll often know when your dog is having an anxiety attack when you notice any of the following symptoms:
- Panting heavily
- Shaking and shivering
- Excessive barking or whining
Once on the hike, be prepared for those triggers to arise. Stay alert and observant at all times. If possible, stick to a hiking trail that hikers do not frequent. But if you can’t avoid it, do your best to give yourself and your dog enough distance from the trigger. Depending on your dog’s training, you can also do counter-conditioning to help desensitize your dog from the stimuli.
Additionally, hiking with your anxious dog can be fun if you play familiar games with them. Play fetch with their favorite toy or perform basic obedience tricks with them while on the trail. It’ll make your dog feel less stressed about being somewhere new and learn that not all places are scary.
3. Bring Along Some Treats
All dogs love treats. Aside from bringing enough water for your dog to the hiking trail, don’t forget to bring along your furry friend’s snacks. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a homemade treat or something store-bought. It’ll prevent them from getting too hungry along the way and distract them from the possible triggers they’ll encounter on the hike. You could even use treats to reward your dog for their calm behavior.
Make sure only to offer your dog a treat if they behave correctly. That means no treats when they react badly or do something unfavorable on the hike. Doing so will help your dog learn that even if their triggers affect them, they’ll receive a treat if they act calmly or focus on you, not the stimuli.
4. Pause When Your Dog’s Too Tired
While on the hike, check your dog periodically to see if they’re doing well. Dogs can get physically and emotionally drained, too. So, if you notice them acting differently just a few minutes into the hike, it’s best to pause for a breather.
Never force your dog to continue hiking with you if they become too tired to keep going. After all, you wouldn’t want others to do the same to you. Your dog’s well-being matters, too. And it doesn’t hurt to return and go home after a good trek. Even if you’ve only been hiking for a few minutes, you must understand that your dog may not enjoy it anymore.
5. Rest And Decompress
Decompressing is essential after making your dog hike with you. Exploring new places can be mentally taxing for a reactive dog, so it’s necessary to let them relax as soon as you get home. Let your dog rest for a few hours without stimuli, extra activities, and, most importantly, guests.
Ensure your dog rests somewhere comfy and secure. You need your four-legged pal to settle down after a fun day on the trail. After all, you’d also want to sleep after a grueling day at work or school.
Hiking with an anxious dog isn’t impossible. If you genuinely love and understand your furry friend, find ways to have fun together without sacrificing their mental health. It requires time and patience, but your dog will eventually get the hang of things. Soon enough, they may get excited for their next hiking trip with you.
About the Author:
Sophie Moller is a professional pet groomer with over seven years of experience and a dog lover. She writes articles on how to live with anxious pets and make their lives much more comfortable. She enjoys outdoor sports like jogging and biking in her spare time, especially with her Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Blue.