Hiking with your dogs can be intimidating whether your a newbie or a pro to desert livin'. But there's no reason to be overly anxious about what could go wrong on a desert hike.
There are lots of creepy, crawly things that survive in the extreme desert temperatures that you need to be aware of when taking your pooches on a hike. I'm going to provide you with 5 of my most helpful tips for taking your furry friends out into the desert. Of course, always be aware that I am in no way a professional and not the only source you should consult about desert hikes! Always use regular hiking basics, such as letting someone know where you'll be, bringing a compass/GPS, etc.
Plan for the season.
Know how the weather and climate behaves in the area you're planning on hiking as the desert is quite finicky. For instance, it can be blistering hot during midday in the high desert and the sun's reflection in the lighter colored sands can damage your dogs eyes or burn their toe pads. Always research what the weather is forecasted to look like for the entirety of your hike. It may be better to hike on a cloudy day or early in the morning/late in the evening.
Bring plenty of agua.
Always bring more water than you think you'll need. I have one of those nifty collapsible bowls with a carabiner so I can carry my dish for the pups without having to think of it. In fact, it's always clipped onto my backpack so I'm sure I look really cool walking around with it when my dogs aren't with me...
Plan and scope out your route.
Know where you're going and maybe even walk the route beforehand alone to make sure there aren't any dangers you can't see from a distance. This will also help you plan how much water you need to bring and when you will be able to take shade breaks. One of the amazing things about camping/living out West is there is a lot of public land to explore, but not having a plan can lead to exhaustion and dehydration among other things.
Keep your kids on a short leash.
Like, as close to you as you can. And try not to ever let them off-leash. Like I said before, there are SO many dangerous critters in the desert: rattlesnakes, scorpions, and tarantulas to name a few, so you'll be better able to see where everyone is stepping if they stay as close as possible to you. Rattlesnakes will often tell you if you're getting to close, and you can modify your path appropriately if your dogs are nice and close to you. Otherwise, they may charge ahead and think they have a new friend.
Work on your dog's recall.
Recall was always one of the hardest things for me to train. Make sure your dog's instinct isn't to run away from you when the leash drops. Use positive reinforcement to make them understand that coming back to you is the best thing they can do. Contrary to my point above, depending on what landscape you're hiking in, there are times you may have to drop the leash for a moment to climb up a rock or some such feat that won't be possible with a dog that doesn't have good recall. Also, "sit", "stay", & "come" always come in handy as well.
The first time with my girls in the desert, I was a paranoid mess scoping the ground constantly for any sign of snakes or other creatures. Make sure you always keep your eyes and ears open and that you're confident in your and your dogs' abilities. Planning ahead will help you be more relaxed and everyone will be more likely to enjoy the outing.