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7 things to prepare for trail running with your dog

For a few years now, we have been trail running, hiking and backcountry skiing with our dogs. It took us several tries, and many mistakes, before we knew exactly what we needed during our sporty walks with our dogs.

What to think about when you go on a trail with your dog?

1. Find out about the route

Before you leave, make sure you know your itinerary so that you don't have any unpleasant surprises. With Saki and Rio, we are careful to always choose routes where there are forests and water points so that the dogs can refresh themselves. We are also careful not to take routes that are too dangerous with slopes, snow (on a glacier for example), or simply conditions where the dogs could get hurt. It is also important to know if you are going to cross bridges, or encounter ladders. It would be a shame to have to turn back because your dog can't follow you. Our advice is to choose routes that your dog is used to and is confident in, especially for a first trail.

2. Watch the weather, especially the temperature

In summer, we are the first to want to run our mountains and enjoy the outdoors. However, too high temperatures can be dangerous for your dog. When planning our trails with our four-legged friends, we systematically look at the outside temperature and also take into account the shaded areas and water points on the trail. In summer, we prefer to start early in the morning in order to take advantage of the cooler weather and not to endanger the dogs. For example, for the Salève and Mont Tendre climbs, we always leave around 8am if the day looks warm and sunny. Avoid hot weather by giving them enough to drink, rest and shade during the trail.

3. Make sure your dog is fit and trained for the distance you would like to go

Even if you are fit and running marathons, your dog may not be. It is important to be able to judge your dog's ability to keep up with you without burning out. Yes, our dogs love us more than anything and some will follow us to until they die. With Saki and Rio, we pay attention to the number of hours spent outside, the kilometers covered, the elevation changes climbed and the soil conditions. For the moment, our dogs are following us on 10km-15km trails that have about 1000 meters of elevation change on fairly hard, not very uneven and snow-free ground. If we were to do longer trails, we would plan a big break in the middle of the itinerary, or we would consider not taking them with us.

4. Equip your dog for the trail

The first question we asked ourselves was how to equip Saki and Rio. After several tests, we put a sport harness on each of them to guide them, lift them or carry them if needed. For Rio, we bought a thin rope from Hornbach that we attach to her harness and that doesn't bother her when she runs because it is very light. For Saki, we have a Ruffwear harness to which we attach a 10m DogCreek lanyard. We don't use paw pads or goggles on our dogs for the sole reason that we haven't had any use for them yet, but both are recommended depending on the terrain and your dog's allergies. Check out our equipment page to see all of our equipment.

5. Take water and food for your dog

Like us, the dogs need to drink regularly during the effort, especially if the days are hot and sunny. With the 12L Salomon vest, we carry about 1L of water and we rely on the water points during our trail to refuel. We also take a collapsible bowl with us in the vest so that the dogs can drink normally. We do not hesitate to wet them as soon as we find a water point to refresh them.

6. Plan breaks during your trail

We all know the "+5 minutes per month" rule when dogs are puppies, but what about when they are adults? We asked this question to our dog trainer who is also a professional rescue worker with dogs on the lakes of Switzerland. The answer is that you have to plan rest breaks (and not only to eat and drink) every hour: after 1 hour = 10 minutes rest, after 2 hours = 20 minutes rest, after 3 hours = 30 minutes rest, etc...

7. Listen to your dog

Finally, for us, the most important thing is to listen to Saki and Rio to know if they are thirsty, hungry or if they are too tired to continue. Several times, we came back in the middle of a trail because we could see that Rio could not follow anymore. We are careful to always wait for them when we run, as going too fast and losing sight of each other can be a stress trigger, especially for our Rio who is epileptic.

Have a good trail with your dog!


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