You guys. It’s the last month of summer.
HOW did that happen!?!
Winter takes AGES.
Gone in a flash.
But, we still have a month! We love doing stuff outside all summer long… reading on the porch, swimming, wogging (walking + jogging), grilling out…
Most of all, we love hiking.
Why is hiking a family fave?
Well, for one thing, it’s a wonderful way to enjoy the great outdoors without being in direct sun. That’s a big one for me, and it’s especially important now that Violet hikes with us because she can’t wear sunscreen until she’s six months old! Being out of the sun is great for Cooper, too, because he stays cooler than when we’re out in the open.
Plus, it’s a relaxing way to be active!
It’s so peaceful to get out in the woods with Coop. We can walk along, breathe in the fresh air, listen to the birds chirp, and unwind as we get exercise.
We’ve done a ton of hiking–from simple, flat trails to strenuous “what were we thinking” ones–and have gleaned a handful of tips over the miles.
Here are our best summer hiking tips for you and your dog.
(With maybe a baby tip or two thrown in for good measure… like, keep a sunhat in your diaper bag!)
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Get the Gear
You don’t have to spend a lot to go for a walk in the woods. There are a few things, though, that make the activity more comfortable. For you, the human end of the leash, get decent shoes and a hat. That’s about it. For your pup, the list is a little longer. In our experience, a harness is your best bet. We like this Ruffwear harness because it’s reflective and because it has a handle in case we need to assist Cooper over a fallen tree or other obstacle, or a Kong paracord harness for simple, short trail walks (the one he’s wearing in the pic above… this is his everyday harness right now).
We always take one big Nalgene water bottle for us to share on a short, easy walk. More if we’re doing harder/longer/hotter. Then, we have a little pop-up water dish that has a carbiner on it. It clips right to Cooper’s harness for him to carry his own!
Depending on where you live, you might want to consider an insect repellent. Where we are in Indiana, ticks are a major problem, so we double up. Cooper uses a bug spray, but then he also wears an Insect Shield bandanna <—- this one is similar to the one we got in our press kit at Global Pet Expo.
I’d also add squeeze cheese to the list if you have a reactive dog like Cooper and need an emergency reward/distraction on the trails…
Plan for the Worst (But, obvi, Expect the Best!)
This one sounds maybe a bit over-the-top. But here’s the thing: You just never know. Toss a first-aid kit in you car. Throw a towel in your trunk. Stash some extra bottles of water, a tube of sunscreen, and a map. A paper one. (Seriously, I can’t tell you how many times we’ve decided to try some new set of trails only to discover there’s no cell signal in the remote spot, and we didn’t actually write down directions to the trail head because we thought our phones would get us there. We keep a road atlas in my car.) A back-up leash can’t hurt either.
Obviously, hiking is super fun, but you want to be prepared for those just-in-cases. If you never touch any of those back-up plans, great, but you’ll have peace of mind knowing they’re there.
Follow the Leash Laws
That’s it. Seriously.
Oh, and pickup after your pup, too.
Get in Trail Shape
Everyone can (and should, imo!) get outside and enjoy the great outdoors. But if you and your pups are couch potatoes, start at a reasonable pace. Pick easier trails that are close to home and gradually build up to harder, longer, more adventurous hikes.
A big part of being in trail shape–and I feel like we intuitively all know this, but it’s far easier said than done for us humans–is good nutrition. Good nutrition is really the cornerstone of any active lifestyle. You can’t have fun being active unless you’re taking care of your body!
The same goes for our pets, and luckily for them, we’re able to learn about what’s best for them and their bodies. For Cooper, you guys know he has such a sensitive system, and food has always been a challenge for us. Plus, he’s turning 7 in a few short weeks, so keeping him lean and strong while supporting his joints is paramount.
I think that sums it up: Have the right gear, be prepared, follow leash laws, and be in good trail shape!
What are YOUR tips for fun, safe summer hiking with your dog? Anything I missed here or any questions YOU have about hitting the trails? I’d love to share and learn in the comments below!
Finally, I’ll leave you with my current fave pic from a hike we took when Violet had JUST come home from the hospital: