Whether you’re camping or hanging around home, going on a hike with your Lab offers a great excuse to enjoy the summer weather and get some exercise. What should you keep in mind, especially if you have a young one who is still learning the ropes? Let’s brush up on some safety, preparation, and trail etiquette.
- Choosing a trail. Depending on your endurance and that of your Lab’s, choose a trail that both of you can handle. You may need to work up to a goal, such as the hilly three-mile trail across the sand dunes. Start simple and easy otherwise. The point is to be outside, and walking doesn’t need to be strenuous to provide your body with benefits. If you are on vacation or camping or otherwise away from home and familiar trails, then ask the campground manager or a local about which trails they would recommend. Study these trails online to make sure you and your Lab can handle it. Many trails in the United States lead to or around a water feature, such as a lake or stream. This can be the perfect place for your Lab to cool off and take a break. Just make sure the water is safe for him to swim in.
- Bring supplies. A small pack that you or your Lab can carry should hold some essential supplies. One of those essentials is fresh water. Don’t rely on water along the way, as there may not be any and it could make your dog sick. It’s best to carry your own. Bring a collapsible bowl, too, so that your Lab can have a refreshing drink. Just as you need sustenance during exercise, so does your Lab. Treats for both of you will come in handy, especially if you’ll be out for several hours. Your pack should also include some first aid supplies such as wraps, tweezers, ointment, and Band-Aids… just in case. If you’ll be going deep in wilderness, add a flare or emergency items to your packing list. (Oh, and don’t forget the bags for cleaning up your Labs… um… business.)
- Stay connected. Phones have become essential, so make sure yours is completely charged and then kept in a case that is water-resistant and shatterproof. Even if you have a map of the trail on your phone, it’s best to have a hard copy, too, in case your phone doesn’t work. Never rely on electronics. As for your Lab, he should have the proper identification on him at all times. Perhaps a microchip in case he gets lost. Many trails also require that dogs be on a leash when on a trail. This is just being courteous to other walkers and hikers, and ensures that your Lab doesn’t frolic in natural areas that are meant to be preserved and untouched. Going for a walk on a trail with a younger Lab can be great exercise in obedience training. Work on commands as you go. Older Labs should be good citizens and reliable to commands when on the trail.
- Watch the weather. Not just for rain, but for hot temperatures. If you’re going to be uncomfortable or feel uncomfortable thanks to the temperature and humidity, then your Lab will be, too. Choose a time of day when the conditions are the most agreeable for exercise.
- Have fun. Going for walks and visiting new trails are wonderful ways to grow the connection and bond you share with your Lab. Don’t get hung up on the “rules” or how your Lab is behaving. Enjoy the time out together. Don’t sweat the small stuff. You’ll already be doing enough sweating.