There are plenty of good reasons to take your dog with you when you go for a walk in the local State Forest or the nearest open hillside. Aside from the simple companionship a pet provides either at home or on the trail, almost all urban and suburban dogs can benefit from a little extra exercise. A dog also provides a measure of security for lone walkers.
The main thing to be aware of is wildlife. Some designated recreation areas don’t allow dogs and that’s usually the cause. Observe the regulations- they are always there for a reason and the last thing you want is to be responsible for wounded or dead wildlife. Even where dogs are allowed care should be taken, especially during breeding season of any bird that nests on the ground.
The countryside is also host to farm animals- sheep and cattle are magnets for canines and it’s absolutely essential that your dog is either kept on the leash or trained to come when you call, no matter what. Keep a close eye on your pooch and don’t let him or her get out of sight. It’s for their sake too. Angry cows protecting their calves can easily kill a dog, and even friendly curiosity can result in a snout full of porcupine quills.
Some mountain dog walkers like to invest in harnesses rather than stick with an everyday collar. This makes it much easier to hoist a dog up rocky path sections that they might not manage on their own. A good harness is perfectly comfortable for a running dog and it’s much more secure than a collar- it won’t slip off.
A mountain is a big task for most dogs. Terriers and smaller dogs might seem like they have boundless energy but after a few miles they’ll probably start to get tired. Very small dogs can be carried in the top of a rucksack but of course, dogs need to be trained to travel this way. After a while they’ll be more than happy to rest and watch the landscape pass by while you do all the hard work, but it will be scary at first and they’ll probably want to jump out. That’s the last thing you want on a steep mountain path, so lay your groundwork if you plan on doing this.
Bigger dogs will have to do their own walking. Like people, they can make the distance with the right training but it’s always worth starting with short walks and working your way up to a full day in the mountains. Special care should be taken with puppies because making them walk too far can damage their joints.
If approached properly, wilderness walking with your dog can be wonderfully rewarding. Begin with easy terrain and make sure your dog is well trained and stays close, and before long you’ll be able to enjoy some of the best walks in the country together.