I’m Azrael, a rescued Czech Shepherd living in West Texas. I was born to work, hike, and play hard. I can catch 100s of bubbles in one playtime. One of my favorite things to do is travel with my mom even if it’s to the post office, but mostly I love hiking with her.
One of my favorite places at the moment is Caprock Canyons State Park near Quitaque, Texas. The beauty of these canyons is breath taking, except on 100-degree days when the sun is baking the dirt and making you sweat.
On a recent day of hiking at Caprock, we enjoyed a beautiful day of about 80 degrees. The streams were running and it was a tad cloudy with a cool wind blowing. We stopped along the trail at a favorite spot that has a bend in the stream. Here we enjoyed our lunch snack, while my Aunt June did some watercolor painting. Days of hiking like this simply go down in our memory book. Honestly, I don’t have enough of them with my mom.
However this day was spoiled to a certain degree because of other dogs and their owners. There are people who don’t know how to act with their dogs or keep their dogs in check on a hiking trail.
On this trip I had two dogs bark and snarl at me and pulled at their leashes while we on the trail. We even moved to the side of the trail and still these dogs kept snarling and pulling. The owners were struggling to keep them in check. My mom taught me not to bark or growl and if I do she corrects me in German. Thank goodness my Aunt June was there to run potential interference just in case. Later we encountered a geology professor who said he ran into an unruly boxer on the trail. Even after we when got back to the parking lot from our hike another dog started barking at me. None of the owners corrected these dogs.
This spoils it for all dogs that know how to act outdoors. I can understand now why so many places are not dog friendly, because other dogs who have not been trained to act well around others makes it miserable for all of us.
I’m offering some of my tips on hiking with your dog(s). For me personally these are important rules to heed to keep everyone safe so all hikers enjoy their hiking days.
Azrael’s Rules of Hiking with Your Dog
1. If you meet another dog with their hiker on the trail move over off the trail in a safe manner to allow that dog and hiker to pass.
2. If you encounter a hiker(s) without a dog move over off the trail and let that hiker(s) pass. Why? Because that person you just met might be potentially afraid of dogs or they might have kids who are afraid of dogs.
3. If your dogs are not well mannered at home – then guess what they are not going to be well mannered while hiking. Simply put your dog needs basic training of walking on a leash and not reacting to other dogs or hikers on the trail.
4. Don’t allow your dog to bark at other dogs. Seriously, I’m out there to enjoy the outdoors – I don’t want to be barked at by your disobedient dog.
5. Take water for your dog. I don’t know how many times we’ve encountered dog owners who don’t have water for their dogs. Mom bought me a training backpack and now I’m carrying my own water. Most dogs we’ve met on the trail neither the owners nor the dog had water. My Aunt June came up with a good idea – put the water bottles in the freezer to help your dog keep cooler on hotter day hikes. Also, add a bandana to the pack to wet down to place around the your dog’s neck to keep them cool.
6. Treats and food – if you’re hiking with you dog bring them treats and food. Make sure that some of your food is dog friendly too. Freshly ground peanut butter or sun butter are my favorites.
7. Hikers don’t walk up to me or other dogs and start petting us. Ask before you pet! I or other dogs might not like you.
8. One of mom’s favorite things to do is to take photos of other dogs. Always ask if it’s ok to take photos of another person’s dog.
9. Create a pet first aid kit to carry to cover any pet related injuries. One important item to always include: tweezers especially if prickly pear cactus or other cacti are present.
10. Enjoy your time with your human. Life is short. There is nothing I love more than just being with my mom in the outdoors.
Another important tip I didn’t mention is cleanup after your dog. I’m weird so I don’t go to the bathroom when I’m out hiking. But no hiker wants to come across your pet’s waste.
My one last bit of advice is don’t take so many damn breaks. We are your companions and we love being with you. We want to explore. We want to go.
I hope my dog hiking tips will help those who hike with their dogs, as well as families who just want their companions with them. Don’t let your unruly dog spoil it for the rest of us. Hiking is an enjoyable activity, even when you’re sweating in 100-degree weather. Keep it enjoyable for all us.
Get outside and explore the trails.
Photographs – © Christena Stephens Photography
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