The Trail Hound’s Handbook
By Ellen Eastwood

Published: 2012 by Wilderness Press

Page Count: 71 (including a full index, pages of helpful links and “A Trail Hound’s Journal”)

Wilderness Press is about to release an informative handbook for outdoor enthusiasts with dogs. Marketed as “Your Family Guide to Hiking with Dogs”, we were thrilled to have a chance to check it out before it hits the shelves in the next couple of weeks.

Before I met my husband, and now as a family, we hike with our trail hound, 100 pound yellow lab, Katmai. He is better behaved when he gets on the trail with us and provides a little extra “protection” (or at least warning) for wildlife. Plus, it is great exercise for him. Despite hiking with him for the past seven years (and before that, hiking with my family’s dogs,) I still found plenty of tips within “The Trail Hound’s Handbook” for keeping Katmai safe and happy on the trail.

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The handbook is broken up into different sections addressing subjects such as just starting to hike with a dog (or hiking with a puppy), the reasons why dogs who get out to hike are better behaved, etiquette on the trail, and great “dog gear” to have. It is full of photos of dogs on the trail and traveling, highlighted tips from the text, gear lists and some witty dog humor.

While I do think that any dog owners will take away something from the book, it is more geared towards people just getting started hiking with their dogs. It truly is an entire book devoted to hiking with your hound, and therefore touches on a lot of the basics (like suggesting that dogs love to hike) along with more in-depth topics (like being in-tune to what your dog is tracking and learn from him). Because of all the photos and “extras” the book is an easy-read that definitely lends itself to just being able to flip through and focus on your core interests.

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Pros:

– Very thorough account of what dogs need for safety on the trail (for themselves and from their owners.) As a dog-owner for most of my life, there were certainly things that were addressed in the book that I just hadn’t thought of before (like dogs being susceptible to sunburn.)
– The book covers more than just dogs. It addresses the issue of wildlife while hiking, insects (and their effects on you and your dog), and what poisonous plants to watch for (again, for the sake of you AND your dog).
– The book does not focus necessarily on just one breed of dog, but does a great job of covering the possible needs of ALL kinds.
– Lots of great check-lists to have handy for hiking in general AND hiking with your dog.

Cons:

– In some ways I was put off a little by the layout and some of the wording (especially the titles that play on words to relate back to dogs: “unleash the inner trail hound”, “prepare to walk on the wild side”, “wooly mammoth”, etc.) of the book. It seemed focused more on entertaining the reader than actually informing (though, it certainly IS informative.) I loved that it was an easy-read, but people looking for a more serious sit-down-and-read book may not be drawn to this one.
– There were certainly some aspects of the book that I didn’t think were necessary, but that is coming from my own personal dog-ownership personality. I am a dog lover, but don’t pamper my dogs and there were certainly aspects of the book that I saw as “pampering”. These included worrying about “first impressions on the trail” and encouraging dog-owners to let their dogs wear a bandana on the trail. However, the author does a great job at providing an practical explanation (ex: a bandana will help identify your dog as welcoming and friendly to other hikers on the trail.)

In short:

A great easy-read packed with information for anyone who has a dog and loves hiking!

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