How to Hike Safely With Dogs in the Summer Heat

We live in the Deep South where the summers are almost unbearable because of the heat.  Once June hits, I find myself changing the way I hike with Copper.  This summer has, by far, been one of our hottest summers in the South.  Below, I have listed a few lessons learned while hiking with Copper in the heat.

  1. Check the weather before you leave– if its over 90 degrees, we usually will not head out to the trails.  I do not have a scientific reason for why I chose 90 degrees.  I’ve made this decision based on my observations of Copper’s behavior in the heat.  Also, summer thunderstorms are common down here.  We always check the weather app before we plan a hike so that we don’t get caught in a storm.
  2. Pay attention to your dog’s behavior– is your dog panting excessively? Are they dragging their feet and having a hard time keeping up with you? Remember that our pups wear a fur coat and we do not! Missing a critical sign of heat exhaustion can be a dangerous mistake.  One time, Copper was so exhausted that he laid down on the trail and I had to carry him for miles back to the car.  I felt like a terrible dog mama but I learned my lesson about pushing my dog too far.
  3. Scan for snakes (and other wildlife)- when we hike, I am constantly scanning the trails for snakes.  Copperheads and rattlesnakes are common around here and I am not interested in having an altercation with either of them! Snakes look like sticks on the ground and I can’t tell you how many times I have been startled by them.  Be aware of the wildlife around you.  We like to hike in the Great Smokey Mountains and the Blue Ridge Mountains but we don’t take Copper with us because of the bears (and some national parks do not allow dogs for safety reasons).
  4. Pack water and a first aid kit- this goes for both YOU and your pup.  Snake bites, dehydration, ticks, cuts, the list goes on… a first aid kit can really come in handy! No matter how short your hike is, always bring water.  I use a collapsible water bowl for Copper, check it out on my recent post on Day Hike Essentials
  5. Keep it short and sweet– this is the best advice I can give.  Keep summer hikes short to protect yourself (and your pup).  Pick a trail that you know well and understand how long it will take to complete it.  You don’t want to wind up an hour down a trail (that you thought was a loop) and realize that you are out of water.
  6. Take a dip– now is the best time of year to take advantage of any bodies of water near you.  When its particularly steamy out, we hike a short trail along the river. Copper is always eager to cool off in the river mid-hike.  As you can see from this post’s featured image, I often dip my toes in too!
  7. Inform your family/friends- this isn’t just for summer hiking ofcourse! Stay safe by always informing your friends/family of when AND where you are hiking with your dog.  Give them an expected time of return and always keep a fully charged cell phone with you.
  8. Protection against ticks- Before you go hiking, your dog should be on a flea and tick prevention regimen.  Check with your vet to determine the best type of prevention care for your dog.  Copper is on Sentinel (for flea, heartworm, and worm prevention) and Bravecto (for tick prevention).  Protect yourself with bug spray, I am a fan of Burt’s Bees Herbal Insect Repellent and Quantum Health Deet-Free Buzz Away Extreme
Copper cooling off with a sweet treat after his summer hike!

What are YOUR tips for hiking in the summer with dogs? Comment below!

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