In Maine, summer is a great season for getting outside and soaking up the sun’s rays. There are a plethora of locations you can go on trails and enjoy a hike with your pooch. Whether you have a hankering for a light-hearted riverwalk, want to see the vastness of the ocean, or you just want to enjoy the warm hug of a colorful forest leading you down winding paths or rocky inclines — there’s not much you can’t find to do from the shores to the mountains.
MeiLi and I like to get out as much as we can to walk or hike. Winters are more challenging because of the snow, but summers do get hot — even in Maine — which means I need to make sure my furry bestie has a way to stay cool on our walks. This summer has been especially hot and humid, so my floofy pal has gone back and forth between excitement and exhaustion on each outing we take. Luckily, we have a few key things we do to stay hydrated, cool and motivated to soldier on.
Rules of the Walk
- Stay Hydrated. Anytime we go out walking I always bring plenty of water for myself and my pooch. I used to carry a water bottle for each of us, and then I found a new way to bring along water that attached to my dog’s leash for her. It is called Spleash. You literally just attach it to the leash and you’re done. It has a nifty built-in tray that pulls down so I can easily let her drink from it. Best thing you can have when you are walking in the heat so you don’t have to fumble around with two water bottles.
- Walk in the Shade. Even if it is hot outside overall, walking in the shade shaves off a few degrees over walking in direct sunlight. Every degree counts when it comes to preventing your dog (or you) from overheating.
- Take Breaks. When walking on trails or in parks you will typically find benches or other areas you can sit and rest for a few minutes. It is good to take a moment and drink water, give your pooch some water, and use that time to pet your pal … maybe give them a treat (not too many) or some words of encouragement. It is best to find a shady area for your break, but if none are available, any spot will do in a pinch.
- Avoid Unsafe Hiking Conditions. There are a few things to consider for this one. If you have a relatively young and unruly pup you will want to avoid areas that are too steep, too rocky or pose any high risk if your excited pup were too pull or try to take off without notice. Even for more well behaved pooches, don’t risk your life or theirs on trails that are too steep or difficult – especially if it is slippery from rain or snow.
- Greet Others with Care. If your dog loves to meet other people or dogs they may gravitate excessively toward those you pass along your walk. That of course does not mean others will want the attention from your pup. Always ask if it is ok to let your furry friend say hello to theirs. Be mindful if your pal seems a little too excited as this can sometimes cause other dogs to become defensive and the last thing you want on a hike is a dog fight.
- Dip Your Paws. If you are walking near a beach, stream or lake, take your shoes off and walk in the water with your pup. Dogs get cool from dipping their paws in cool water (and so do people with their feet!).
- Don’t Feed the Bugs. When you are walking in the woods, even on well maintained and defined trails, bugs are everywhere. It is their domain after all. Make sure you are prepared. First, your dog should be on preventive tick, flea and heartworm medication. You need to dress accordingly as well. Lighter colors will help you see ticks faster so you aren’t bitten. Spray yourself with a bug repellant (after you put on sunscreen) if they tend to find you appetizing. As long as you stay on the trail you should be relatively safe from ticks, but the minute you go off path they will be waiting in the tall grass, weeds, leaves, etc. Mosquitos will find you anywhere…
- Always Bring Poop Bags. You just never know when the urge will strike — even if your furry pal pooped before you left home. Some parks do provide waste bags, but they might be out of bags because other people also forgot to bring theirs. As a rule of thumb, I always have a minimum of three in my pocket. I have needed all of them previously, particularly when she gets really excited from meeting lots of people or other doggos.
- Know Your Dog. Even if a walk or hike is simple, with no steep or rocky inclines, that does not mean they are up for a five-mile trek. Some dogs do not have the stamina for it, older dogs especially. You should also consider your dog’s overall health, and your dog’s personal preferences should be a factor as well because they might not like long walks… So, before you embark on your foot-forward adventure, make sure you choose one that caters to your pup’s capabilities and preferences as well.
- Pay Attention to Warning Signs. If you are out on a really hot day, or your dog has a very thick, heavy coat; make sure you know the warning signs to prevent them from running too hot. If they start panting frantically, start salivating excessively or appear to have labored breathing — these are clear warning signs that your dog is overheating. When a dog overheats many things can happen, from vomiting or diarrhea to coma to death. It is no joke. You need to cool them down right away.
Walking with your pooch can be a rewarding experience as long as you’re prepared. It’s a great way to get in a little exercise, plus it’s perfect for bonding and socializing with those you meet, man and beast alike, on your journey.