Did you know that South Africa is ranked as one of the top countries for outdoor enthusiasts? From our Kruger National Park down to Table Mountain, the country has a diverse ecosystem of forests, mountains, coastlines and deserts.
But if you want to take your dog with on your next outdoor adventure, you may run into a few challenges. Even your well-behaved pup can present a danger to delicate ecosystems: wildlife could be endangered, diseases can be passed on, and even scents left behind can be distressing to the local wildlife.
Instead of leaving your four-legged friend at home, we’ve put together a list of some of the best dog-friendly spots around the country.
But first – is your pup ready for a big adventure?
A dog’s fitness will be influenced by their lifestyle and training, but in many ways, it comes down to genetics. Some pups are simply made to lounge around all day (and there’s nothing wrong with that!), but that doesn’t mean they can’t adventure too – you just need to keep a careful eye on them and not push them harder than their bodies allow.
Some of the most active dog breeds include dalmatians, jack russels, golden retrievers, border collies and viszlas, while some of the least active pups include basset hounds, English bulldogs, chow chows, malteses and shih tzus.
While some dogs can be conditioned to hike over 30km a day, if your pup isn’t trained and healthy, they can struggle after even a few kilometers. Here are some key points to assess before you hit the great outdoors:
- Age: Old dogs might struggle with stamina and strength. Young pups have loads of energy, but they also tire themselves out quickly – don’t give their little legs more than they can handle.
- Health issues: Challenging climbs, altitude changes, and temperature changes can be tough on dogs with health issues.
- Weight: Taking an overweight or obese dog out into nature might seem like a great way to help them become more active, but make sure you build up slowly. No one would appreciate a surprise 15km hike after years spent luxuriating on the couch.
- Brachycephalic breeds: Breeds like pugs, boxers and bulldogs aren’t known for their endurance and are more likely to prefer a gentle walk.
- Prey drive: Dogs with a high prey drive may become overly distracted in nature, so keeping them under control may be an uphill battle. The last thing you want is to turn your hike into a never-ending chase.
- Training: Particularly if you plan to let your pup off-leash, you need to ensure that they won’t be a danger to themselves, the ecosystem, the wildlife, and other hikers.
Get your pup hiking fit
Put your sweatband on, press play on the Rocky soundtrack, and let’s start your dog’s training!
- Socialisation: This is important even if you’re not hiking, but ensuring your dog is calm and comfortable in unexpected situations goes a long way.
- Obedience: A hiking or walking trail is a giant playground for a pup – which means they might get a little too excited. Ensure your dog’s Stay, Leave It and Come commands are solid before letting them off-leash.
- Fitness: Gradually increase your dog’s fitness with neighbourhood and park walks that slowly build up their stamina and endurance.
Ready to go?
Before you pack up the car (and your pup), keep these tips in mind to ensure you have a safe journey:
- Assess your own fitness level before embarking on a hike. If something happens to your dog, you may need to carry them or speedily get help.
- Obey the rules around leashing your dog. Even if your pup is perfectly behaved, those laws are usually there for a reason.
- Leave no trace. Don’t let your pup be destructive to the environment, and always pick up after them.
- For fit dogs, consider a doggy backpack that lets them carry their own water and first aid kit. It’ll take some weight off your bag. Plus, they’re ridiculously cute.
- Take more water than you think you’ll need. The weather can change or you may get a little lost, so it’s best to be prepared.
- Remember to check your dog (and yourself) for ticks after your hike. You don’t want to take any uninvited guests home.
And we’re off!
- Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, Cape Town
- Gifkloof Trail, Greyton
- Blackburn Ravine, Chapman’s Peak
- Silwerfontein Trail, Tulbagh
- Delta Park, Johannesburg
- Struben Dam Nature Resevrve, Lynwood Glen
- Huddle Park Golf and Recreation, Johannesburg
Before you start your adventure, make sure your four-legged friend is in the best shape (and health) of their life with pet insurance. Get an online, obligation free quote.