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Taking Your Dog Hiking for the First Time in Colorado

June 27th, 2018 by Cherished Companions Animal Clinic

Lucky, the dog, sits with Carrie in the grass on his first dog hike.

How to get your dog ready for the trail

You’ve searched the web to find an awesome, dog-friendly trail. You’ve filled up your Suburu with a tank of gas. And those Colorado blue skies are calling to you…

But is your dog ready for hiking?

If you’re taking your dog hiking for the first time in Colorado, here are nine tips to get your dog ready and make sure your dog’s first hike is a fun experience.

#1: Build up your dog’s endurance

Dan and his two sons were so excited to take Basil, their two-year-old beagle, on her first Colorado hike. They got up early on a Saturday morning and drove from Castle Rock up to St. Mary’s Glacier.

Basil takes a couple long walks a day, so they assumed she was ready for the hike up and down the mountain.

Like they expected, Basil made it up the glacier without an issue.

But coming down? Basil didn’t want to hike.

Luckily, Basil was just 20 pounds. She was light enough for Dan to carry her down.

A dad and his two sons take their dog hiking for the first time.

Basil offers a good reminder, though. If you’re going hiking with your dog, it’s important to build up your dog’s endurance — just like you’d build up your own.

If you’re taking your dog hiking for the first time in Colorado (or for the first time this season):

  • Start out with short hikes. Don’t start out with a five or six miler.
  • Build your way up to longer hikes.
  • Start with mild inclines and work your way up to steeper, rockier climbs.
  • Let your dog tell you how much exercise is too much. Ideally, your dog should be back to his or her own self the next day: happy and active.

If your dog appears to be wiped out well into the next day and is reluctant to exercise or play, you may have pushed your dog a little too much.

#2: Build up your dog’s paw pads

You know the feeling when you walk barefoot across a gravel path in early summer?

All you want to do is yell, “Ow! Ow! Ow!”

Your feet aren’t ready for summer yet.

Well, your pup’s paws need to get in hiking shape too:

  • Ease into your adventures in nature, so your dog’s paw pads can thicken up.
  • Start hiking on gravel trails around Castle Rock before jumping into rough terrain and rocky trails.
  • Think about getting your dog to wear hiking boots. (Tip: Your dog may need to get used to wearing boots. Try them out in your neighborhood before going on a big hike.)
  • Consider applying Musher’s Secret to your dog’s paw pads once a week. It’s a wax-based cream that can help prevent abrasions, burning and cracking.

#3: Protect against ticks and diseases from wildlife

Ticks aren’t as common in Colorado as they are in other parts of the country. With that said, your dog can pick up a tick from hiking through grasses and wooded areas.

Chat with our veterinarians to discuss your options for preventing ticks.

Plus, make sure your dog is up-to-date on his or her Colorado vaccinations.

The two shots that are most relevant for hiking are:

  • Leptospirosis. It’s a bacterial disease spread by raccoons, skunks and other animals. Your dog can get the disease by drinking or wading into infected water or from sniffing the urine of infected animals.
  • Rabies. It’s a viral disease spread through the bite of infected animals, such as skunks.

If your dog is going to be hiking a popular dog trail and meeting other dogs, you also may want to consider the Bordetella vaccination. It helps protect your dog from many strains of kennel cough, a contagious respiratory disease in dogs.

#4: Make sure your hiking trail is dog-friendly

Use a trail website like AllTrails.com or search on Google to make sure your trail is dog-friendly.

As of June 2018, dogs can hike in a lot of beautiful places near Castle Rock, including:

But there are also places where dogs are not allowed, including the hiking trails in Rocky Mountain National Park and in some state parks, like Roxborough State Park.

It’s good to know before you go!

Two pups in the back seat of a car, waiting to go hiking.

#5: Pack a lot of water

Be sure to take a lot of water for your dog, and stop frequently for water breaks — at least every hour, if not sooner.

Colorado’s low humidity can make it seem like your dog is staying hydrated, but physical activity can take a lot out of your dog.

Basil, the beagle we described earlier on, may have been dehydrated, as well as tired.

(Here are the signs of a dehydrated dog.)

If you have fresh water, avoid letting your dog drink from ponds or streams.

Why?

Because your dog can pick up microorganisms — like giardia. Giardia is a microscopic parasite that lives in your dog’s intestines. It can cause bad diarrhea and be very difficult to get rid of.

Josie, the lab, drinks water while out on a hike.

#6: Carry basic first aid items for your dog

You can buy first aid kits for your dog. But if you’d rather create your own, here are ideas on what to pack for your dog for a hike.

#7: Follow trail guidelines

Many Colorado trails require that your dog be leashed. It helps:

  • Protect your dog from unexpected encounters with wildlife
  • Protect the other hikers and dogs on the trail
  • Protect the ecosystem around the trail

Please be considerate. Follow the leash rules for the trail you’re on and always pick up after your dog.

#8: Watch the weather

Colorado weather is no joke!

We’ve already touched on the importance of keeping your dog hydrated. Hot, low-humidity days can create tough hiking conditions for your dog — even in the fall and spring.

If you’re new to Colorado, it’s also important to know that thunderstorms can pop up quickly.

Typically, thunderstorms start rolling in mid-day. (Though, they’re possible at any time of the day.)

If you’re climbing a mountain or hiking in an exposed area, it’s a good rule of thumb to be off the summit and heading down by noon.

If your dog is afraid of thunder, keep an eye out for those clouds that look like billowing heads of cauliflower. It’s likely that lightning and thunder are not far behind!

#9: Be aware of trail hazards

Colorado is such a beautiful place to hike — whether you’re hiking around Castle Rock or exploring trails up in the mountain.

But it does introduce a unique set of hazards for your dog.

One of the strangest may be foxtail grass seeds that can get into your dog’s paws, ears and nose.

With Colorado’s unique hazards in mind, we have a blog article coming up on how to keep your dog safe on Colorado hiking trails.

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Get your dog ready for hiking

If you live in the Castle Rock area and want to make sure your dog has his (or her) Colorado vaccinations, call us at 303-688-3757 or:

Book a visit 

Cherished Companions Animal Clinic is a veterinary clinic in Castle Rock, Colorado. Specializing in the care of cats and dogs, our goal is to help you and your pet feel more comfortable, keeping your stress to a minimum.

This article is intended to provide general guidance on taking your dog hiking for the first time in Colorado. If you have specific questions or concerns, please contact your local veterinarian. (If you live in or around Castle Rock, we welcome your call.

© 2018, Cherished Companions Animal Clinic

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