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  • Writer's pictureSLV Pet Care LLC

Tips for Hitting the Trails with Your Dog

With the weather finally warming up, more people than ever are flocking to the trails in and around the San Luis Valley. Here are some helpful tips to maximize your (and your dog's) enjoyment:


  • Remember to maintain your distance: Keep a minimum of 6 feet from other hikers/trail users during this time.

  • Wear a face covering: The face mask/cover prevents you from spreading germs to others, and is especially important because you may have the virus without showing any symptoms. BONUS: it helps protect your face from the wind and keeps bugs away from your nose and mouth!

  • Stay close to home: Here in the valley we are close to so many trails without having to go very far. However, you should try to stick to trails closest to your home.

  • Know your capabilities: If you've never hiked a fourteener before, now is probably not the best time to give it a shot. Inexperienced hikers could easily injure themselves, possibly requiring already-strained emergency services. The flinty rock at the top of many of these mountains is very sharp and can tear up your dog's paw pads if their feet are not protected.

  • Keep an eye on surface temps: Asphalt, concrete, rock, and sand can get pretty hot; a good rule of thumb is the 5 second rule - place the back of your hand on the surface, and if you can't hold it there for 5 seconds, it's too hot for your dog to walk on.

  • Have a properly fitted collar and make sure your dog has an ID tag: Whether you walk your dog using a collar, harness, or leader, make sure that it is fitted appropriately. For collars, this means it should be snug enough that you can only fit two fingers between the collar and your dog's neck. For harnesses and leaders (head halters), follow the manufacturer's instructions.

  • Make sure your dog's vaccines are up to date: Rabies is a concern anywhere wildlife is present! In addition, make sure your dog has their distemper/parvo combination vaccine, as well as a Bordetella vaccine (aka kennel cough vaccine) if it is a trail that is popular with other dogs. Depending on where you will be hiking, your veterinarian may recommend additional vaccines (like the one for Leptospirosis).

  • Bring plenty of water: General guidelines are to bring a minimum of 1 liter (32oz) of water per 2 hours for you, plus extra for your dog (minimum of 1oz water per pound; 20lb dog = 20oz water). Offer water frequently during and after hikes.

  • Watch for heat exhaustion: In humans, symptoms include dizziness, fatigue, muscle cramps, and heavy sweating. For dogs, watch for increased panting, drooling, wet paw prints on the ground (dogs sweat from their feet), breathing distress, and vomiting/diarrhea. Avoid hiking during the hottest parts of the day (usually between 2-5pm here in the valley), take advantage of shady rest stops, and drink plenty of water!

  • Pick up after your dog! Not only is it common courtesy, your dog's waste could potentially spread disease to other dogs or wildlife.


After your hike is over, it is also a good idea to check your dog for any souvenirs they may have picked up along the way. Check for stickers, thorns, and foxtails in any crevices (between toes, ear flaps, skin folds, etc.) and in long and/or curly fur. If you are hiking in the woods or have an encounter with wildlife, it is also a good idea to check for fleas and ticks after every hike.


Enjoy the trails, and stay safe out there!


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