Trail hiking is not only an exciting outdoor activity, but it is also an opportunity for dogs to socialize in an open setting and explore new environments. In Southern California, the mountains are right around the corner, so many people may think that they can head out without being fully prepared. Make no mistake that just because you can see the Hollywood sign, doesn’t mean that you won’t run into danger when hiking with your dog.
Avoid these dangers when hiking with your dog
Before you hit the trails with your pup, consider these 5 things your dog might encounter and how to be best prepared.
Living in Southern California, we’re used to the warm weather for 8 months of the year. However, in the summer months, temperatures can reach up to 100 degrees in the sun and dogs don’t regulate body temperature as well as humans. Overheating can lead to heatstroke and potentially death (yes, we said it, your dog can die from heatstroke). To keep your pup cool, bring lots of water, stay in the shade, take breaks as needed and use a cooling vest (like this one from Ruff Wear).
Mountain biking is a popular weekend sport and some trails have more bikers than others. If you notice bikers flying down the trail, always yield and move to the side of the trail. A simple sit-stay with a treat will quickly teach your dog to move over when bikers approach. However, if your dog is not responding to you or moving quickly enough to avoid an accident, it’s best to put them on a leash to physically move them aside, then practice the sit-stay on-leash. The last thing you want is for your dog to be tangled up with a pack of bikers.
You may be hiking on a dog-friendly trail, but remember that not all dogs are friendly. If your dog is off-leash, they should always be by your side when other dogs approach. Always ask the other owner if their dog is friendly before allowing your dog to engage. This is particularly true for dogs that are being hiked on-leash on an off-leash trail. Remember, just because your dog is friendly, doesn’t mean other dogs are friendly. Protect your dog from dog bites and altercations by being cautious.
Hiking happens in nature and nature is full of the unexpected (well for us city slickers). Common animals in the Santa Monica mountains include rabbits, coyotes, quail, rattlesnakes, and mountain lions. If you notice a coyote or mountain lion eyeing your smaller pup or targeting your larger dog, it’s best to turn around and head home (and also pick up your small dog). Stay clear of rattlesnakes by keeping your dog from wandering off the trail. If you’re super proactive, you can sign up for rattlesnake avoidance training.
Then there is the matter of bugs and plants that your dog will encounter. Your dog should be on flea medication and keep from venturing into grassy areas to avoid fleas and ticks. Foxtails always find a way to snag your dog’s fur. Dogs may have allergic reactions to certain pollens and grasses on the trail as well. We recommend a full body check after the hike to get rid any foxtails or ticks, note any scratches or cuts that need attending to, and then wipe down paws to remove pollen and debris.
In our experience, the SoCal trails are kept in fairly good condition. However, your dog’s paws may get worn out from grass, sticks, and rocky terrain if it’s not something they’re used to. In addition, high temperatures may make rocks and gravel too hot for your pups paw pads. Using a simple wax such as Musher’s Secret can help prevent paw irritation and burning. If further reinforcement is required, companies such as Ruffwear and Kurgo sell socks and booties.
Hiking makes for happier dogs!
With a little preparedness, your dog will be able to safely enjoy the trails and be a happier pup for it.
This post was originally from July 28, 2018 and updated on July 23, 2019.