Hike-A-Bull is an iniative to change the stereotypical, negative image of the "pit bull."
As a responsible pit bull owner, I am angered by the constant bashing of my breed of choice by the media. Negative hype surrounding the breed has led to public opinion that a pit bull is - among other things - a big, scary dog commonly associated with criminals.
As we all know, nothing could be farther from the truth. Hundreds of thousands of people across the country have chosen pit bulls as their beloved family companions. And just like any member of a family, pit bulls love to participate in activities with you. In fact, they live for it!
Hiking is perfect for pit bulls as they are extremely active and agile animals, and they have a strong sense of adventure, as well. My own personal experiences hiking with my dogs has been extremely rewarding. We get to see some of the most beautiful hidden treasures in our state (Tennessee), while at the same time, we get special "bonding" time that we might not necessarily get a home with all the daily distractions. Hiking is also a great for both you and your bully to stay healthy and fit.
More importantly, you can be certain that while you're hiking, you will run across someone who will ask about your dog, thus giving you the opportunity to educate and portray a positive pit bull image. Moreover, it is vitally important for the public to see the pit bull as we see them - as members of our families. Taking your bully hiking shows the world exactly what he is - just a plain old dog having fun with its family. We have a duty to show off our breed ambassadors - their agility, their athletic ability and their love of people - and hiking is an excellent way to do that.
There are a few key things to remember when taking your bully (or any dog) hiking...
First and foremost, respect the rules. It's not a right for your dog to be in the wilderness, it's a privilege. Don't jeopardize that privilege for yourself and others by leash restrictions. ALWAYS LEASH YOUR DOG AT ALL TIMES. Not only is this a courtesy to other hikers on the trail, but imagine your dog spots a deer in the woods and takes off after it. That could be incredibly dangerous!!
Make sure you know the rules for the area you want to hike in. Dogs may not be permitted on National Park trails. National Forests may allow dogs on their trails, but there are exceptions, so check first. Dogs usually are allowed on wilderness area trails but, again, check to be sure.
Health: Dogs are no different than people. They must be in shape before undertaking a strenuous hike. If you're not sure about your dog's fitness level, start off small and then work up to longer hikes. Make sure that all of your dog's vaccinations and medications are current, including rabies, bordatella, and heartworm. If you're hiking in an area with Lyme disease, ask your vet about vaccinations.
Hydration: Staying hydrated is just as important for your dog as it is for you. In fact, because their body temperature is higher to begin with and they typically hike in a full fur coat, dogs are often quicker to overheat than people. Heat exhaustion and stroke can be fatal. It's up to you to bring a supply of clean water (drinking from ponds and streams isn't any better for your dog than it is for you) and to make sure that your dog drinks often. I always bring along a collapsible water dish and a couple bottles of waters. If you notice your dog running from shady spot to shady spot, panting excessively or becoming red in the gums, stop and cool him down. Gently pouring water on the stomach and groin area is a good technique. And don't forget that your dog needs to drink on cold days, too.
Every dog needs a job, and a healthy dog ought to be able to carry up to 1/3 of his weight in a special dog pack. (I found Harlan's doggy backpack on E-Bay). You will defintely want to use the pack a couple times prior to actually going out on the trail as it takes some dogs a little time to get used to wearing it. Don't fill your dog's pack to excess - I don't like to carry a heavy pack, so I'm sure my dog doesn't either. Don't put a pack on a dog on a hot, sunny day if there's a chance it will cause him to overheat faster.
Hiking with your bully can be an incredibly enjoyable experience. Not only are they energetic companions, but they are so keen to their surroundings and notice many things that you might otherwise overlook. This increases your awareness and also appreciation of nature. My dogs have cued me into owls, hawks, and deer that I otherwise may not have noticed an been able to appreciate up close.
It should go without saying, but don't leave trash on the trail and pick up after your dog.
Now...go hit the trails!!