• Fanny Mahìngan Peltier

Hiking with your dog - discover

There are several forms of activities that include harnessed dog sports: sledding, snow scooter, skijoring, canicross, bikejoring, dog hiking ... All have one point in common with few nuances: using designed equipment for the hitch, the dog is in the front and tows a load following the instructions of its owner.


Although dog hiking is often considered the least sporting activity of harness sports, it is nonetheless a very stimulating and energy intensive activity for dogs. Not to mention that there are several levels of difficulty in hiking that could challenge the greatest of sportsmen. The good thing about this sport is that it is for everyone. You don't have to be an athlete or have a large breed dog to get started.


In order to demystify the hike, in this article we will discuss different concepts: equipment and essentials, injury prevention, the prerequisites for going on an adventure with your dog. In short, an article to put in all hands to start the adventure on the right foot!



BASIC EQUIPMENT

First, to limit the risk of injury in the short or long term, you will need equipment suitable for harness sports. Today, we can find in several stores a large inventory of harnessed dog sports equipment made in Quebec and Canada. The expertise is present in our manufacturers, the quality of the materials as well as the bright colors will please you. However, besides the colors that can match your outdoor clothing, there are some important points to consider when making your purchase.


The harness

Choose a model that respects the morphology of your dog. The harness should be stable on his back when he goes into traction.


All straps should clear the shoulders, ribs and hips. The strap that passes over the sternum must be of the correct width, as this is where the dog will take its support and transfer its weight to tow. If the strap is too narrow or too wide, the dog will loose strength and stability.


Getting your dog to shop with you is essential to choose the right harness. Regarding online purchases, you will need to take your dog's measurements according to the supplier's size chart or contact a resource person to order a custom model.


The bungee line

The bungee line is an extensible line which, connected to the harness and the hiking belt, has the function of reducing the impact of shocks when your dog is going to pull or throw himself strongly. This is a part of the equipment that is best to have duplicate, in case of breakage or loss.


There are several models with the possibility of lengthening or narrowing the line to maximize your training. Some offer a rubber band with more or less resistance. If you have a strong and powerful dog, a flexible stretch line will be the best option. For small dogs, some companies offer a lighter model with a less flexible elastic for better comfort.


When properly adjusted to the belt, the bungee line should be parallel with the ground as much as possible. The steeper the angle, the more you'll feel like you're thrown to the ground when the dog pulls. The more parallel the line, the easier it will be for you to use your center of gravity to stay balanced while moving.


The belt

A good belt will provide support, will be light while remaining strong and stable during the traction exerted by your dog.


It is important to recommend a belt of double traction type to distribute the traction between your pelvis and your glutes. A waist belt can pull up over your lower back and cause short or long term injury depending on your dog's strength. The advantage of the double traction belt is that it offers a strap that adjusts to the hips and glutes. Strap to which the bungee line will be attached. So if you have a small to medium sized dog and you are a taller person, this belt will allow you to adjust the strap to achieve a bungee line parallel to the ground. You then earn points to maintain greater stability when moving.





THE ESSENTIALS FOR YOUR HIKING

There are many accessories for all types of hiking. In this article, we will stick to the minimum equipment required for a safe short hike.


Backpack

Choose a suitable backpack for the outdoors, taking into consideration the type and duration of the route. A good backpack with lumbar support is perfect for long distance hike. You can put a tank there to carry your water as well as the essentials of the hiker. Although several models of hiking belt offer large pockets as well as bottle holders, it is better to bet on a backpack. Thus, you distribute the load rather than overloading your pelvis which will already be requested by the traction exerted by your dog. This detail will become important if you have a history of back or pelvic injuries.


Bells and / or horn

Plan to install a bell after your backpack or carry a horn to ward off unwanted people. Some areas are more suitable than others for bears, moose or coyotes. Be aware that you can always bring a whistle rather than the horn.


Hiking shoes or boots

Sure, you can definitely go for your favorite pair of sneakers, but there is nothing better than a good pair of hiking shoes or boots. Again, everything will depend on your objectives, types of hikes and tastes in the matter. In any case, recommend a sole with good grip, as you will have a dog in front of you to pull you.





INJURY PREVENTION AND PREREQUISITES

The majority of injuries are caused by equipment that is not suitable for sport or used improperly. The other injuries relate to the abilities of each human-dog duo as well as the wheel of destiny.


Dog training

A well-trained dog will make a huge difference to the level of difficulty of the hike you choose and your common enjoyment of the activity. Imagine the scene: you go down a steep slope zigzagging over rocks, your dog sees a squirrel and starts pulling with all his might ... Do you see me coming? On the other side, you put so much energy on walking on a leash that you're afraid your dog won't be able to distinguish between walking and hiking ...?


Teaching your dog the basic instructions of harnessed dog sports is an important prerequisite for ensuring the safety of your duo.

Here is an example of the instructions you would like to have in your toolbox to practice this sport optimally:

  • Start and stop: the extremes.

  • Mush - tow: favorite instruction of the hiker to blow on the climbs.

  • Easy - gently: essential for a safe descent or simply to slow down.

  • Right and left: turn right or left.

  • Forward: to go straight ahead, stay focused and in a straight line.

  • Hold on: instruction you'll love when you spot a squirrel as you descend over steep terrain.

Age requirement

Your dog must be at least 8 months old to start this sport. It is strongly recommended that you take it gradually and respect your partner's abilities. If in doubt, especially in large breeds, seek the advice of your veterinarian before starting this sport on a regular basis. Many young dogs have a lot of energy, but do not yet know how to properly regulate this overflow and wear out quickly.


Diet and hydration

It is strongly recommended that you do not feed your dog at least 2 hours before exercising. Recommend a snack, a larger meal the day before and when you return from the hike. In addition, some dogs tend to drink less than others. Make sure the dog can drink enough during the hike. Otherwise, it is always possible to add water to his food to encourage him to drink.


Good hydration will help your dog cope with the temperature. A body uses as much water to regulate temperature when it is hot as when it is cold. In extremes, depending on your dog's abilities and genetics, refrain! Many dogs are intolerant of heat exceeding 25 degrees. Conversely, some find it very difficult in winter. Cooling coat or jacket can be good options to continue your outings in a safe manner. Paw slippers and balms are also essentials to add to your doggie emergency kit.


Genetic problems, postures and other injuries

Like humans, the dog breed has its own physical problems. Certainly, an overweight dog will be more prone to injury. On the other hand, several breeds of dogs have a predisposition to certain conditions such as dysplasia. In short, in all cases, know that your veterinarian is best place to advise you in case of doubt about your dog's ability to practice a sport.


Finally, if you are new to hiking, joining a supervised group is a good option for getting started and training your dog in basic harness sports instructions. Many clubs organize outings and some companies offer coaching services for beginners. In short, hiking with dogs is a complete sport which is very popular with both owners and dogs. It's a great way to keep in shape as a duo or in a group, whether on city trails or trails in the wilderness.