Guest Post By Samantha Randall – YouTuber, podcaster and editor-in-chief at Top Dog Tips
It's always a pleasure to share wonderful tips from like-minded dog lovers. Samantha Randall is the editor-in-chief at Top Dog Tips and an avid writer and dog lover. We are thrilled to have her share the most important lessons that she's learned from hiking with her two dogs, a labrador named Saddie, and a boxer named Chloe.
I’ve always been an avid hiker, but hiking with my dogs has taught me a lot about life with dogs that I did not realize before. I used to go hiking by myself; it was a solitary experience. It was my chance to get away from the world and unplug. Thankfully, it became so much more than that once I started bringing my dogs with me.
Now I can’t imagine going on a hike without them. However, this article is not about the reasons why I converted my companions into hikers, but rather what I’ve learned from the process and experience. Here are some of the things that hiking with my dogs has taught me over the years:
- Preparation Matters More Than You May Assume
Before I started hiking with my dogs regularly, I didn’t sweat it if I didn’t have a map or didn’t really have a plan. Having my dogs with me changed how I planned for a hike. Now I need to take into consideration how far they can comfortably travel.
I also need to think about the terrain and what I would do if something happened to one of them while we were hiking. Taking my dogs with me has made me a more careful and prepared hiker, which is great for my safety and for theirs.
- Always Buy Good and Reliable Gear
I’d heard before that you shouldn’t skimp on any outdoors gear when it comes to hiking, but I never really took it seriously until I took my pets with me. After my dog cut her paw pad on a rock during a particularly rough river crossing, it made me re-evaluate how I researched and what type of supplies I needed to buy for hiking.
I always used to think that as long as I had a water bottle and a good pair of hiking boots I’d be fine. But nowadays I always make sure that I have the best quality hiking gear for my canines. In particular, I recommend
- high-quality dog booties
- safety harnesses
- reliable lea
- first aid kit specifically for dogs
Also, depending on the weather, duration of the hike and location, I may need rain covers and towels. It’s likely I’m not the only one who feels they put their dogs’ safety ahead of their own every day, so having my canines along on the adventure has made me a more careful and deliberate hiker.
- Slow Down and Appreciate What Surrounds You
When I hiked on my own I would sometimes get so focused on where I was going that I didn’t appreciate what was around me. I’d get obsessed with knocking off as many miles as possible or reaching a particular destination goal. My dogs don’t hike on a schedule. When they find something interesting they slow down to explore it.
Stopping to let them rest led me to really look around and see the beauty that was all around me. They have taught me that it truly is the journey that matters and not the destination. Now, when I hike with them, I enjoy stopping frequently to look at the beauty of the natural world. I notice things that I never noticed before. They have taught me to really look at what’s right in front of me and stop focusing on things that really don’t matter.
- Bring Plenty of Water for Everybody
When you’re hiking with dogs you need to bring a lot more water than you might think, especially if you’re hiking a long trail or if the weather is hot. The dogs need to stop and drink pretty frequently. If you don’t have enough water with you they might drink water that isn’t exactly clean and come down with some health problems as a result.
Hydration for you and for the dogs is important, so always pack more water than you think you need. Both you and your pooch will be glad that you did. If you don’t want to carry a lot of water with you, you can bring a filtration straw or a small portable filter so that you can filter the water that you find on the trail or water from a nearby lake or stream.
- Allow Yourself (and Your Dogs) to Be Silly
One of the best things hiking with my dogs has taught me is that it’s ok to be silly. Run like a maniac just for the sheer joy of running. Lie down in the tall grass. Roll down that hill. Splash through that river and have fun. Don’t be too dignified to let loose and enjoy yourself. Taking pleasure in the delights of being out in nature is one of the best things about hiking. Act like a kid again and have some fun while you’re out there.
- You’re Stronger Than You Think
On one of our hikes my dog seriously hurt her foot. I ended up having to carry her back to the trail head and get her to the vet. She’s a big dog, and I thought there was no way I could handle hiking with a pack and with my dog in my arms. But, I found the strength because I needed to be strong for her. Loving something more than yourself gives you amazing strength when you need it. Trust that, and trust that you are a lot stronger than you think you are.
- The Natural World Is More Amazing With a Companion Next to You
One of the biggest gifts my dogs have given me is the ability to appreciate the world around me. When we’re out hiking and come across a stream, I tend to just think that it’s an obstacle to be crossed. But my dogs think each stream, or field, or lake, or mountain is the best thing ever.
They splash through streams with abandon. They watch wildlife in the field with wonder on their faces. They climb mountains with me and are gleeful when we reach the top. Their constant amazement at the beauty of the natural world has made me appreciate the stunning beauty of nature more than I ever did before.
- Appreciate Your and Your Pets’ Health
Your and your dog’s health won’t be there waiting for you all the time. With dogs having such a short lifespan, I know I try to take advantage and spend more time with them, doing things we won’t be able to do when one of us gets older.
Every time I go hiking with my dogs I am grateful that I am able to hike with them. I am so thankful that they are healthy enough to go on these hikes with me. And, I’m grateful that I am physically able to hike with them. If you have good health and the ability to move, you should celebrate that every day. Take long walks. Go swimming. Appreciate everything that your body can do because you might not always have such good health, and neither will your canine companion.
- It Sometimes Pays to Trust Your Instincts
Another of the many gifts that hiking with my dogs has given me is the ability to trust my own instincts. Dogs live by instinct. When they sense a situation isn’t safe or that a person isn’t a good person, they don’t question those instincts. Now, neither do I.
One time when we were hiking in the woods in my home state of Maine, I heard twigs crackling close by. I assumed it was just my dogs. As we headed around a curve one of my dogs stopped short, throwing up her head and sniffing the air.
She refused to go any further. I was annoyed because I wanted to keep going. After trying to reassure her that the path was safe, she still refused to budge. So, swearing a little under my breath with annoyance, we backtracked down the trail we were on and went a different way.
When we reached a high point above the previous trail I could see a mother bear and two cubs who were settling into their den just off the path. If we had continued walking down that trail we would have crossed right between them. My dog trusted her instincts and that probably saved all of our lives.
- Long Walks With a Trusty Friend Means More Than You’d Think
Hiking with my dogs has taught me many things. Honestly, the most important thing that hiking with dogs has taught me is that the simple joys really are the most profound. Taking a long walk with my best friends, my dogs, is one of the most special things in my life.
They have taught me that spending time with the things and people that you love really is all that matters in the end. Someday, my dogs will no longer be here. When they are gone, treasuring the memories of our long hikes together will remind me of the special times we shared and all that they taught me.
So, go for a hike with your dogs. Go for a walk with your elderly parent. Take your child for a walk in the park. Just the simple act of walking together and appreciating the beauty of the world together will change your life forever.