Is My Dog Ready for a 14er?
It’s 14er season in Colorado! The unparalleled views and scenery these treks offer are the perfect setting for unforgettable memory-making with your dog. Whatever your favorite part of the hike is, it’s no wonder these trails only get more popular every year.
So, is your dog ready to hike a 14er? The easiest way to tell is to remember that you and your dog have basically the same hiking needs. We suggest you remember Off-Leash K9’s three P’s of 14er preparedness: Permission, Provisions, and Practice.
First and foremost, always ask your veterinarian if your dog is healthy enough to hike. Young pups and senior dogs might not have the stamina, or maybe your pet needs his shots updated before you go. Checking in with a professional will help ensure both you and your pup are starting off on the right foot– er, paw.
Once your vet gives you the go-ahead, do some research to ensure that both you and your dog are authorized to hike your selected mountain/trail. This isn’t just for legality (though that’s important) but it’s also for you and your dog’s safety. Trails that don’t allow dogs are most likely off-limits for everyone’s safety, not just as a buzzkill. Local government websites usually list this information, or you can find it on various phone apps (like this one). As a bonus, many apps provide recent, personal testimonies about the conditions and experiences the hike offered them and their pet.
Finally, and this one may seem obvious, make sure you check with Mother Nature before you hit the trail. Those late afternoon thunderstorms could show up mid-morning and further, they could become all-out hail storms. For you and your dog’s comfort and safety, check the weather before you begin your hike.
After obtaining all these types of hike clearance, it’s time to go down your checklist to make sure you and your dog have all the necessary gear. Here’s a brief list of those necessities:
- Water, including a way to drink it – we recommend a collapsible bowl and experts recommend bringing a minimum of 8oz of water per hour of hiking. Dehydration and heat are extremely dangerous (see our blog about it here).
- Proper Clothing, including a reflective collar and ID tags and a leash/harness. Depending on the weather, we recommend packing sweaters, sunglasses, and/or booties too. This is rocky terrain with only somewhat predictable weather conditions.
- Nutritious snacks are encouraged frequently and in small amounts.
- First Aid, including materials you might have in your own kit like gauze, tweezers, and tape, but also pup-specific materials like veterinary phone numbers and a muzzle to keep them from licking injuries. Most sports shops sell dog-specific first aid kits, so they’re easy to pick up before you head out!
- Baggies or a Small Shovel, to dispose of waste.
When in doubt, bring the extra piece of equipment you’re on the fence about. It’s better to have it and not need it than to rely on luck or other hikers. We’ve seen pups cut their pads at the summit, and a well-prepared first-aid kit helps ensures these more common hiking occurrences don’t derail the entire experience.
When you ask yourself if you’re ready to climb a 14er, don’t take your physical health and stamina lightly. If you’ve been an immovable couch potato for years, you’re most likely not going to attempt a six-hour climb without any practice. Your dog is the same! Don’t expect your pup who only enjoys a daily ten-minute stroll around the block for a potty break to take that same potty break at the summit of a 14er.
We recommend mastering the first two Ps of this list on a simple hike and then working your way up in both altitude and difficulty. Take each hike an hour at a time, increasing the difficulty, until you reach the length and time of your average 14er (by this we mean your average, not the time in which an experienced hiker might complete it).
Finally, and our personal favorite part of the practice P, is making sure that your dog is well-practiced in obedience and responding to commands. That’s where Off-Leash K9 comes in! We offer both basic and advanced obedience training as well as a two-week board and train program. We’ll make sure that your dog is engaged and honed in to your commands at all times, even if they’re off a leash.
So, once you’ve ticked off the three P’s of preparedness, it’s time for you and your best four-legged friend to embark on your next greatest adventure. We hope these tips help you along your journey with your favorite canine! See you on the trails!