Some of your most rewarding hikes with your dog will be in the mountains. Oft times you can reach a memorable destination with an elevation gain of less than 1,000 feet. Other times you will be on the trail for hours as you ascend more than 3,000 feet (about the equivalent of climbing the Empire State Building three times). Either way, it is best to plan ahead for your hike with your dog in the hills.
1 - Learn to pace yourself. Don't let your eager dog set the pace in the early going. There is a truism in hiking that you get tired going up the mountain but you get hurt going down. In other words, don't go so fast going up that you will be exhausted and don't go so fast coming down that you will fall. The descent is also hard on your knees and a walking stick can relieve the pressure on your legs on the mountain slopes.
2 - Pay attention to the effects of altitude. Regardless of your physical condition, it is common to begin feeling the effects of low air pressure at altitude at about 10,000 feet; even lower for some canine hikers. As you take in less and less oxygen you can begin to feel nausea, dizziness, headaches or heart palpitations. Never go higher should you encounter any of these symptoms. Take a rest and if the symptoms disappear, continue on. If they persist for more than a few minutes, turn back. You are most at risk for altitude sickness if you climb too quickly.
3 - Rest often. A mountain climb is not a race and not a place for pride. Rest often - for both you and your dog. And resting is not just an option on the way up.
4 - Drink plenty of water - before and during your climb. Always have plenty of drinking water on hand for you and your dog. Climbing burns alot of calories and you will work up quite a sweat, even as the temperature drops. Proper hydration also lessens your chances of suffering altitude sickness.
5 - Be careful of mountain streams. The water in rushing mountain streams is often ice cold and after a quick swim your dog is likely to emerge into cold air. Pack a towel for your dog on mountain hikes to keep him dry.
6 - Protect yourself from the sun. Above the treeline the rays of the sun intensify on a mountaintop. Take along the sunscreen even if the temperatures are bone-chilling. Sunglasses will not only help with the bright sunshine but also with snow blindness.
7 - And a quick word about hiking in canyons. For canine hikers, remember that canyons are simply mountain climbs in reverse. The big difference obviously is that you finish with the climb, when you may already be tired from the hike to the canyon floor.
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