Trekking or hiking is one of the best ways to give your dog access to its natural pastimes of digging, shredding, and sniffing. Not to mention, a great way to decompress from urban stressors and the pressure of being a gentleman/lady dog all the time.
Here are a few things to keep in mind before heading out:
- Recce the spot or trail first with a few friends, preferably someone who has been there before. You may need someone to pull you out of a ditch.
- Check if there are other dogs around, and how friendly they are. You might need to go through a pack of intimidating strays, so strategise where to park and your route.
- Always go in daylight: Early morning or early evening, so that you are not lost in the woods at night.
- Ask around about natural predators. Speak to those who live around the area and scan news reports. Some predators are seasonal (crocodiles appear in some mangrove-connected water bodies around Mumbai); leopards abound in city forests.
- Carry about 1.5L of water per creature for a 1.5-hour hike, and the right shoes with grip. This may seem obvious, but dehydration can affect decision-making skills and balance in humans; dehydrated dogs can collapse. Can you carry your rottweiler downhill? Will Rottie carry YOU downhill if you twist an ankle?
- Invest in a detangle long line. Even if it trails behind your dog, it’s much easier to step on it to stop him/her, than chase after it.
- Renew recall a week ahead. Carry high-value, smelly treats to get pooch used to coming back to you when called. Continue this on the hike, and up the value of the treats (liver, sausages).
- Keep asking your pooch if it wants water, preferably after every climb and when the tongue sticks out longer than usual.
- Take it easy. Climb up a rock and chill. Let him uproot grass. Play fetch with a branch. Stop for a swim. Let it roll in the weeds and smell EVERYTHING. It’s about the depth of the hike, not the length. Four-legged hikers also enjoy birdsong, breeze and galloping through a flock of (non-migratory) birds.
- Communicate all the while. Encourage it up tough climbs, under low branches and to jump over hurdles. Wedge your shoulder under a drooping doggie bum to give it a leg-up. There’s bonding in overcoming hurdles together.
- Carry some energy snacks (bananas, sweet potatoes, etc) and first aid (an antiseptic, bandage, cotton, gauze and tweezers).
- Carry back your waste.
- Don’t let pupper chase exotic wildlife.
- Keep an eye out for broken glass, and faeces.
- Do it again, every season