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How to Start Hiking Outdoors with Your Dog

Spring has just begun, which makes it a great time to start hiking with your dog. Hiking is a favorite pastime for many people in the Pacific Northwest, and for many people, bringing their dog on their favorite hike just adds to the fun. It’s also an easy way to incorporate some extra exercise into your dog’s life.

Shoreline Store Manager Lizzie Humphries is an avid hiker who loves to take her dog, Sodo, hiking, camping and snowshoeing as often as she can. They also ride scooters together, which she admits isn’t much of a workout but is incredibly fun. Sodo is a dachshund, which may not be the first dog you think about when you consider choosing a hiking companion. However, Lizzie, Sodo, and her boyfriend have conquered dozens of trails together, and Lizzie has plenty of hiking tips to share.

MB: Hiking with your dog is a popular recreation in the PNW. How do you recommend people get started?

LH: Before you start your first hike, it’s important to make sure that you’re prepared to face any obstacles or elements you might encounter when you’re hiking. Even if I’m a bit overpacked, I’ve always found that I’m going to be in the best position out in the wilderness when I have everything I might possibly need.

In addition to the equipment you’ll need for hiking, I have a list of equipment I’ll need hiking with Sodo. We always take a portable water bowl, plenty of extra water and treats or a dehydrated raw meal depending on the length of the hike. I also pack a ton of poop bags, a leash, and natural flea and tick repellent.

If we’re hiking in the snow or doing some snowshoeing, I bring a heavy waterproof jacket for Sodo and an extra wool sweater. Because he’s so low to the ground, Sodo gets drenched in the snow. You might not need to pack extra clothes if you have a taller dog with a thick fur coat.

We also bring along Musher’s Secret to make sure his pads are protected from any rough terrain. It also guards against snowballing or ice between his toes.

MB: Do you have a special hiking dog leash that you use, or do you use your regular leash?

LH: We use a 6-foot recycled climbing-rope leash when we’re hiking. It’s durable, easy to clean, and it doesn’t retain that outdoorsy hiking smell. I like to use a longer leash to let Sodo explore a little bit. But he’s still on a leash, so I can pull him away if there’s a situation with another dog.

I believe that it’s important to always keep your dog on a leash when hiking. Even if your dog is friendly with other dogs, not all dogs are social. But all dogs deserve to enjoy the outdoors. So, keeping your dog on a leash keeps outdoor spaces safe for all dog personalities. You also never know who or what you’re going to encounter while hiking or camping. And you never know what could trigger your dog to run off the trail.

MB: Having you ever tried dog hiking backpacks? How have they worked for you?

LH: We use a K9 Sport Sack. It’s also our main backpack for scooter riding. And it can be used for so many different activities. I like it because it’s ventilated, and it’s secure so he can’t hop out. There are two little spots for his paws, and part of the bag clips around his neck.

Sodo is a really long boy and being conscious of his back is really important to me. So, it may not work for every dog owner, but I like to tighten the straps of the backpack so he’s curved up over my shoulders and the curve of my back. When I use the backpack, I’m usually leaning forward, so I know that his back is curved along my back.

We just went snowshoeing this past weekend, and even though Sodo’s great in the snow, the trail was really steep. Sodo started walking up the trail, but he made me slip three or four times at the beginning. So, I put him in the backpack, so we could continue the rest the way.

MB: For those people who don’t already hike, can you recommend any beginning hiking trails for dogs?

LH: There are so many wonderful, short hikes off Highway 2. They’re great for beginners who really want to get their dogs out on the trail, and who really want to spend some time outdoors. Also, moving slowly is never a problem. Hiking shouldn’t be about speed. It’s all about taking care of yourselves and working step-by-step up that trail.

My store is just outside of Seattle, so I feel like I ought to mention that there’s a lot of really great urban hiking here. We don’t always have time to drive out to the mountains. Greenlake is a perfect starter walk. It’s a three-mile flat walk that goes all around the lake, and we do that all the time if we’re not making our way up to the mountains.

Also, Magnuson Park has some excellent beginner hiking trails. If you live in Seattle, you don’t have to travel too far to get there, and it’s a great introduction to trail hiking in an urban environment.

MB: As an advanced hiker, do you have a favorite hike in the area?

LH: I do! It’s the Lake Serene and Bridal Veil Falls trail and it’s off Highway 2. It’s about 7 miles round trip. That was Sodo’s first long hike where he did not have to be picked up at all. And I really like it because it’s a good mix between flat and steep hiking. Plus, getting to Lake Serene is a huge payoff. It’s just gorgeous up there.

Although Sodo was the star of this article, Shoreline Store Manager Lizzie Humphries has two other dogs at home who aren’t fans of hiking. So, whether you have a canine homebody or a fearless adventurer at home, Lizzie is happy to discuss how to incorporate more exercise into your dog’s life.

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