This article was written by a guest blogger, Bonnie Y. Learn more about them below
As a family, we love to get outside and enjoy the beauty of nature. One of the ways we do this is by hiking on nearby trails. It’s a great way to unwind and refresh ourselves plus, it’s one of the few activities we can do with our dog.
But hiking with a dog can have an adverse effect on nature.
While hiking itself is not harmful, our collective actions can have a considerable impact over time. Problems can arise when hikers don't fully understand how to care for the environment. This can lead to erosion, disturbing wildlife, or littering.
This is why we choose to practice low-impact hiking with our dog. Low-impact hiking helps prevent these issues and preserves nature's beauty for generations to come.
So how does someone practice low-impact hiking with a dog? Here are eight simple ways you can protect the environment while hiking with your dog:
1. Plan ahead
Before you go on a hike, determine where you want to go and what you should expect once you get there.
For example, you should know what the weather will be like when you are there, what kind of terrain you'll be walking on, and if there are any rules or regulations you need to follow.
This includes checking to see if the trail you plan to take is dog friendly. Not all trails or parks allow dogs. Most of the time, dogs are restricted from trails for their own safety or for the safety of wildlife.
Also, check the trail's difficulty rating to ensure you and your pup can handle the hike.
2. Prepare for your adventure
What you bring with you on the trail will depend on where you’re going and for how long. You also want to be prepared for possible weather changes once you are there.
These are the types of items we bring along with us for short day hikes.
- Enough water in reusable bottles for the whole family, including our dog. Plus, a collapsible water bowl for her to drink from.
- A dog and people-friendly first aid kit.
- Up-to-date rabies and identification tags.
- Snacks for both people and our dog in reusable bags.
- Layers of clothing to accommodate changes in the weather.
- Lightweight backpack to carry everything in.
3. Stay on the trail
Staying on the designated path protects the fragile ecosystems that often exist just beyond the trail. When you go off trail, you may inadvertently stomp on plants damaging them, possibly contributing to erosion. You may also harm small creatures that live in the ground.
4. Keep your dog on a leash at all times
Dogs, even the friendliest ones, are predators by nature. Always keep your dog on a short leash to ensure they don't chase or disturb the local wildlife. This will also prevent them from getting lost.
We prefer to use a harness for our dog. This allows us to remain in control without the potential issue of hurting her neck.
If your dog is prone to slipping out of their harness, a dog safety strap might help.
5. Observe from a distance
Be sure to respect wildlife when hiking with your dog. It's crucial that you view animals from a distance, avoid feeding them, and strive to minimize any potential stress on them.
Did you know that the scent, sound, or sight of a dog can distress wildlife, sometimes causing them to alter their natural behavior or even abandon their homes?
Ground-nesting birds are known to flee their nests at the sight of a dog, leaving eggs or chicks exposed to other predators.
6. Leave what you find
As tempting as it might be to take a beautiful rock or to pick a pretty flower as a keepsake, we need to leave it for others to enjoy. Just imagine if everyone took a souvenir from nature. Eventually, there would be nothing left.
Instead, take a picture. Not only is it easier to carry, but you can keep it forever.
7. Be considerate of other visitors
Everyone has a right to enjoy the tranquility and beauty of nature. Maintain a low voice, yield to other hikers on the trail, and ensure your dog is well-behaved.
8. Dispose of waste properly
When hiking with a dog, pick up and carry out any packages your dog might leave behind.
Unlike wild animal waste, dog poop is not a normal part of the ecosystems on trails and can introduce harmful pathogens and parasites into the environment.
Biodegradable bags are great for cleaning up after a dog, ensuring that we leave the trail as clean as we found it.
In essence, low-impact hiking with a dog is all about the balance between our desire to explore and preserve the natural world.
By keeping our dog on a leash, ensuring they stick to the trail, picking up their waste, and being mindful of wildlife and other hikers, we can ensure that we preserve the beauty and integrity of our outdoor spaces for future generations.
Bonnie is a freelance writer and main contributor at HappyOodles.com. She has over 20 years of experience caring for, training, and traveling with dogs. Join Bonnie and her family to learn what it takes to care for a dog and a busy family. You can also find them on Facebook.com and Instagram.