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The City Journals

Hike with your dog for a pawsitively fun adventure

Jul 01, 2021 02:33PM ● By Karmel Harper

Joy Marianne White of Herriman and her pup, Penny, enjoy exploring the beautiful Wasatch mountains together. (Photo courtesy of Joy Marianne White.)

By Karmel Harper | [email protected]

Hiking with your four-legged best friend can be a great adventure that provides both of you exercise, companionship and great joy. Preparing your pup for the trail prior to your first hike together is essential to ensure readiness and safety. According to REI.com, it is highly recommended that you visit your veterinarian and ask key questions before venturing out together in the wild. 

-Is your dog physically ready? A young dog’s bones need to be fully developed which is usually a year of age plus or minus a few months depending on size and other factors.

-Does your dog need specific vaccinations and immunizations? Lakes and ponds could be contaminated with Leptospirosis or giardia from infected animals and your vet can provide preventative measures for outdoor destinations. 

-Is your dog’s immune system ready? Your vet can advise you on when it is safe to venture out on the trail by factoring the rate of natural immunity and your dog’s vaccine schedule. 

Additional tips include obedience training and knowing trail etiquette. Respect others’ space on the trail. Not everyone is comfortable with dogs, especially families with young children. You must maintain control of your dog at all times and be able to keep your dog calm as other hikers and pooches pass by. Step off the trail to yield right of way to other hikers, bikes, and horses. If you’re on a trail or the backcountry that allows dogs to be off leash, make sure your dog has strong recall skills and you have voice control over them. This means that when they are off leash and you call them back to you, they will immediately return to you. A solid recall is one of the most important skills you can have to ensure safety and avoid mishaps and danger with certain terrain, other hikers, and wildlife. Carry plenty of poop bags, pick up after your pooch and pack out filled poop bags. It is bad form to leave filled bags on the trail for others to pick up. 

Just as you would carry a first aid kit for yourself, you should also carry a first aid kit for your dog. Alicia Baker, owner “Girl on a Hike” blog (www.girlonahike.com) and organizer of “Dogs that Hike Utah” Facebook group recommends nine items for your dog’s first aid kit:  1) gauze pads to place on an open wound, 2) antiseptic wipes, 3) roll of athletic tape to wrap and secure gauze, 4) dog booties to protect bleeding or wounded paws, 5) antibiotic ointment, 6) disposable gloves, 7) tweezers, 8) cotton swabs and 9) Benadryl. 

Baker said, “I highly recommend taking a pet CPR and First Aid course so you can be fully prepared to care for your pet in an emergency.” You can take these courses from PetTech (www.pettech.net). Additional trainings such as rattlesnake aversion training for your dog are also useful for curious canines. 

Once you and your pup are well prepared to hit the trails, research ahead of time which trails allow dogs. In Utah, both Big Cottonwood Canyon and Little Cottonwood Canyon prohibit dogs, as they are protected watershed areas. Dogs are also prohibited on national park trails. For trails that do allow dogs, also research whether they are allowed off-leash not only so you know if you can unleash your dog but also so you will be prepared and can expect that other dogs will be off leash too. During and after the hike, inspect your pup’s paws, ears and coat for foxtails, prickly goat heads, splinters, ticks and other debris so that you can remove them immediately. 

Despite the few areas where dogs are prohibited, Utah is an outdoor playground for you and your best furry friend. Baker’s favorite dog-friendly hikes are as follows: Beginner, Living Room Trail by the University of Utah; Intermediate: Desolation Overlook in Millcreek Canyon; and Advanced: Mt. Timpanogos in Utah County. Baker’s blog provides detailed descriptions of these trails with accompanying photos. 

Joanne Bolnick of Herriman said: “Hikes with my dog are always exciting. For me, it’s being outdoors and getting exercise. For him it’s finding game birds and bunnies to chase.” 

Natalie Johnson Morrison of Kaysville hikes with her Canine Companions service dog, Davin. “His hiking speed is somewhere between sloth and sea turtle, but he’s a very polite and good hiker,” Morrison said. 

Amanda Lee of Kaysville said: “Seeing our mini goldendoodle, Sully, loves to hike has pushed us to hike together more this past year than ever before. Sully takes to the trails with a spring in his step!” 

If you would like you explore the wild with your most loyal and enthusiastic best friend, visit www.girlonahike.com or join the Utah Facebook group “Dogs that Hike Utah.”