Whether trekking a local trail, or just exploring a forested area, a hike through the woods can be quite exciting! If you are taking regular walks to keep you and your dog in shape, or for other pawsome benefits, changing up the location can keep it interesting. There’s a lot going on under that canopy of trees, and your pup will be wagging their tail to sniff and explore it all!
But before you clip on the leash and head out, you’ll need to be prepared. Once you know your dog’s exercise needs and limits, and have planned your forest route, check out these 9 tips for walking your dog in the woods to make sure you both have a fun and safe adventure.
#1 Stay Current on Vaccinations and Preventions
While enjoying the great outdoors, you and your pup are going to encounter a variety of insects and animals that could be carrying potential diseases such as rabies. The best way to protect your furry pal is to get them fully vaccinated. Talk with your veterinarian about areas your dog will be in, as they may need additional vaccines, such as for Lyme disease. Using monthly preventives will protect your dog against ticks, fleas, and mosquitoes that spread heartworm, as well as other parasites that can be picked up in outdoor areas.
#2 Protect Their Paws
While some areas of the woods can be soft from moss, most wooded trails have sticks, stones and hard surfaces, so do your part to protect your dog’s paws. Invest in a good pair of dog booties and take some time to get your dog used to walking in them before the hike. You can also apply paw protection wax, and always do a paw check when you leave to see if there are any cuts or abrasions.
#3 Bring Water to Share
It can be dangerous to let dogs drink from ponds, creeks or other water sources out on the trail, as some could be hiding parasites like Giardia, or bacteria like Leptospira that can make your dog sick. And if you ever see that reddish or greenish scum floating on the top, that’s usually an algae bloom that can sometimes be toxic. Always have fresh, clean drinking water on hand and prevent your dog from drinking outside water. If you must drink from these sources, use a water filter or purifying tablets first.
#4 Watch for Wildlife
Even if your dog is protected against disease and parasites, you still don’t want them to get into a fight with a raccoon, or endure a snake bite, so always be watchful and keep your dog from bothering other animals. In some areas, training is available that uses a dog’s natural ability to sense snakes to avoid them. In other areas, bears are on the prowl, so be sure to know what to do if you encounter one, and carry bear repellent. At the end of your hike, always do a tick check and remove any ticks you find.
#5 Beware of Poisonous Plants
Dogs love to chew and explore with their mouths- it’s in their nature. But on a wooded trail, it’s not always the best way to appreciate the local flora. While some dogs can learn how to hunt for safe mushrooms, other fungi could be toxic, so it’s best to keep your dog from eating them. There’s also mistletoe and autumn crocus that could be poisonous, as well as other local plants you should be aware of. At the end of your hike while you do a tick check, also look for burrs to remove, and foxtails.
#6 Know Your Local Hunting Season
Hunting is pupular in many wooded areas, so always know if there are hunters on the prowl near your local trails. Seasons can vary from county to county, with most activity happening early in the morning and in the evening. If you can’t avoid these areas until the season is over, then avoid them in times of high hunter traffic, and always adorn yourself and your dog with fluorescent orange vests, jackets, hats, bandanas or even pack covers to alert hunters that you are not their target.
#7 Keep Your Dog Leashed
After we’ve scared you with tales of animal, plant and hunter dangers, you may already be leashing your dog up for the hike. But having your dog leashed is also going to keep them safe from getting lost, and from environmental dangers such as falling off cliffs, ledges and ravines. And if the trail is shared with horses, or is near camping areas, you certainly don’t want your dog running off after them. Find the pawfect leash that fits you and your dog’s hiking habits, and keep your dog safe for a fun day in the woods.
#8 Train for Safety
Having a trained dog can make a forest walk extra furbulous, as it takes the stress off you and ensures your dog stays safe. Commands like ‘Sit’, ‘Stay’, and ‘Come’ are essential to keep your dog by your side and under control. But you’ll also want to make sure your dog knows ‘Leave it’ and ‘Drop it’ in case they charge a snake or grab a mouthful of some noxious plant.
#9 What To Pack
Having the right supplies will make your trail walk simply woofderful. Along with your dog’s leash and collar or harness, you’ll want to include these essentials.
- Portable water bowl
- Portable water filter or tablets
- Current ID tags and photo of your dog
- Clean-up bags
- Dog booties and/or paw wax
- Dog brush or comb for burrs, foxtails and ticks
- LED light or lighted collar or vest for nighttime walking
- Sunscreen formulated for dogs
- First aid kit
- Orange/hunter/blaze orange items to wear
- Insect repellent for dogs
- Sheet or towel
- Bear repellent
Armed with a thirst for adventure, and some forest knowledge, you and your dog are sure to have a puptastic time on your walk through the woods! Happy trekking!