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Essential Tips for Outdoor Adventures with Your Dog: Hiking, Camping, and Canoeing

Updated: May 7

How to prepare for outdoor adventures with your dog to ensure a safe and fun time!

Dog Trainer, Brad Pattison and his friend and their dogs are looking out over a turquoise alpine like on an epic hike. Outdoor adventures with your dog are extremely rewarding.
Dog Trainer, Brad Pattison, and his friend, Kathy, & their dogs are looking out over a turquoise alpine like on an epic hike in British Columbia. Outdoor adventures with your dog are extremely rewarding.

When is the ideal time to get prepared to go hiking with your dog?

 

Immediately, exposure to sights, sounds and landscapes is critical. Most dogs are lacking in confidence when dogs come across obstacles such as logs, boulders, crossing streams and thick brush terrain. A dog performs best and feels most comfortable when they have had more experience navigating different terrain.

   

Dogs naturally love the outdoors and enjoy sniffing and exploring. A happy dog is a dog who is not confined to routine. Keep your dog active and excited by exploring everything and anything outdoors. Find other dog hikers who can help teach and show new dogs the right way to navigate the landscape. When a dog is learning about new challenges (boulders, large logs, steep terrain) and overcomes a challenge, celebrate with a happy pitch tone and lots of physical praise. Tone of voice is impactful for the dog to feel confident. Combined with a physical firm pat to the shoulder or chest. This type of praise resonates well with dogs.


Your dog’s endurance is very important to consider when preparing for outdoor adventures with your dog.

 

Most dogs can handle hiking 10km. Long nosed dogs have an easier ability to breathe on a hot day compared to short nose dogs such as a boxer or pug. This is not to say they are not able to hike or travel this distance. The doggie in the window when first going out for a hike depending on breed is good to start with a 5km outing, including elevation gain, obstacles and breaks. Exploring trails, paths and the great outdoors in your city is a fantastic way to introduce your dog to fresh sights, sounds and smells. When possible get off trail and do bushwhacking. This is surprisingly exciting for the dog and allows the dog to embrace the natural environment not the human designed environment. A simple and effective tip it to take your dog on a different outing every second day, explore and create a variety of opportunities to see the world with fresh experiences. Dogs are living mundane lives, and this is an easy way to connect and enhance your dog’s outings.

 

Breed plays a role in travel endurance and distance; a Border Collie can easily outperform a Great Dane in distance and endurance. Important to exercise a dog with a variety of distances to best prepare them for a day of hiking.


  •  When increasing endurance keep in mind dogs generally will happily travel twice the distance you travel when off leash and frolicking. Incorporating swimming, bushwhacking, up and over fallen trees, boulders, picnic tables keeps your dog’s paws’ confidence and coordination at par. Dogs embrace these moments where they get to move naturally. This then allows your excursions much more adventure. Most dogs comfortably can travel 8 to 12 km without any issues.

 

  • Physical exhaustion is very real, the go-to task I have clients do is stop and see how quickly the dog lays down, if it is immediate, they need to rest and slow the heart rate, resting in shade, cool ground cover or wading through a cool stream is helpful to assist the dog during a tiring hike. Early morning or late evening hikes are safer than traveling during the day during peak heat times. Shade is a dog's best friend. Ground which is exposed to sunlight with no shade will have a ground temperature up to 20 degrees hotter. This is particularly dangerous for dogs because they are prone to heat exhaustion. The under belly is not protected from ground radiant heat. 

 

Signs to watch for on the dog’s tongue - a few faded white lines, dog could use a few licks of water, gummy thick white lines, the dog needs to rest, drink cool water and slow pace when traveling, low hanging head is STOP the hike immediately, cool the dog in air conditioning of a vehicle, apply cool water on forehead, penetrate to the skin and keep fur on head damp, do not place dog in cold water this can create heat exhaustion internally. The body will internally work harder to warm the body while raising internal temperature. Faint clicking sound when dog is panting, rest, water and continue. 

Allow a dog to access water to self-monitor during a hike such as creeks, lakes, and ponds. Do not allow a dog to drink from an algae pond green in colour. 


Border Collie dog, Kya, wades in a cool creek to regulate her temperature. Access to water to cool down and drink is critical to safety when on outdoor adventures with your dog.
Border Collie dog, Kya, wades in a cool creek to regulate her temperature. Access to water to cool down and drink is critical to safety when on outdoor adventures with your dog.

Canoeing with your dog


Preparing a dog to ride in a canoe is easy to teach. Place a cushion or yoga mat inside the bottom of the canoe so the dog has something to grip to minimize slippage. Secondly, load your dog into the canoe while the canoe is on grass. Rock the canoe now back and forth, teaching the dog about the type of movement it will encounter while on the water. Once a dog is comfortable, take the canoe to shallow water and have the dog jump in and walk around in the water with the dog riding for free. The next step is to bang the paddle against the canoe to teach the dog about the types of sounds and vibrations which may startle the dog. If you have a dog ready to go, load up and begin your adventure.


Australian Shepherd dog, Rocket, wears a PFD life jacket for pets while out canoeing. Safety is so important when you are out on outdoor adventures with your dog.
Australian Shepherd dog, Rocket, wears a PFD life jacket for pets while out canoeing. Safety is so important when you are out on outdoor adventures with your dog.

Mustang Survival has the best design for PFD (Personal Flotation Device) - life jackets for dogs.


For the bored dog in the canoe, allow time to hit the shoreline and allow the dog to swim and play fetch or explore the landscape. Many dogs will enjoy watching the shoreline, while some may bed down and have a nap. On hot sunny days bring an extra towel to shelter your dog’s head so the dog has relief from the sun.

 








Camping with your dog


Dogs should never walk between a campfire and a person; dogs should always walk behind. A wagging tail can easily catch fire and a dog is prone to injury and burns with live embers crackling out of the fire. Dogs should be kept away from fire if food is being cooked on the open fire. Feed the dog dinner before the campfire is engaged as the main food focal point. Treat-trained and food motivated dogs are at high risk of injury, when they snatch food from an open fire or camp stove. 


Backpacking with your dog


Backpacks on dogs should not be used during hot weather as the dog is working much harder and runs a higher risk hitting heat exhaustion. Many people believe the dog should carry its own water, dogs certainly can, but they must be monitored for excess physical exertion. The size of the dog and weight of water should be taken into consideration. Remember heat will be locked in between the dog pack and the back of the dog. This in turn adds additional physical exertion, caloric burn. Just because we can put a pack on our dogs doesn’t mean we should. Dogs are not designed for this type of expectation.  It is the sole responsibility for the hiker to choose smart dog safety hikes, crossing streams, and hiking beside lakes or sources of water. Water and shade are a dog’s friend, don’t make your dog go through undue stress. The minimum amount of water to pack for each dog is 2 litres.


Border Collie Blue Heeler dog Bodhi, gets some rest in the shade of a tree while on a break on a hike. Shade is very important when on outdoor adventures with your dog.
Border Collie Blue Heeler dog Bodhi, gets some rest in the shade of a tree while on a break on a hike. Shade is very important when on outdoor adventures with your dog.

 Winter outdoor adventures with your dog


Dog boots can be worn in cold weather -20 and colder. In order to prepare a dog to wear boots it is best to start in the home and yard. Leave the boots on for a few minutes at a time, put them on and take them off. Extend walking and running to the point the dog becomes used to the boots, like a second skin. It is not advisable to put boots on during the warmer months. Dogs sweat through their feet and need the breathability to help stay cool. House dogs who are not active in the hiking activity should be taken out for hikes on dirt paths and trails to condition the paw pads. A variety of surfaces for dogs to exercise on is important for the pads to become better conditioned to manage a lengthy 12km hike.


 

Want to learn more about Outdoor Adventures With Your Dog?

Purchase this online video course bundle here for more essential dog training knowledge that will ensure your outdoor adventures with your dog are fun and safe!

This bundle includes both Hiking With Your Dog and Mountain Biking With Your Dog!





 

About the Author

Written by Brad Pattison, World-Renowned Dog Behaviourist, Dog Trainer & Puppy Trainer

Author of four dog training books, National Best Seller, "Brad Pattison UNLEASHED"

Host of three television shows including, "At the End of My Leash" & "Puppy SOS"

Follow us on socials, IG: @hustleupdogs & Facebook: Hustle Up Dog Training

Email us anytime with questions & comments at info@hustleupdogtraining.ca

For further information call CA +1 (250) 317-0274


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