Hiking with dogs can be fun for you and your pets. Dogs love to be outdoors and explore nature. Before you hit the trails, make sure that you’re prepared. From finding dog-friendly hikes to packing a bag with the essentials, learn what to do step-by-step when hiking with your dog.
Before taking your dog on a hike
- Make sure your dog is able to hike – Some dog breeds make great hiking companions while others do not. Don’t overestimate your dog’s athletic abilities. If your dog is older or brachycephalic (has a squished nose), they may have a difficult time keeping up.
- Stay up to date with shots – Check your dog’s records to make sure that they have all of their vaccinations. You never know what you may run into on the trail, so having your dog receive all the necessary shots is important to prevent diseases. Pathogens can be found in stream water and animal urine, so it’s best to keep your pet protected. Puppies that have not had all their shots should not go hiking.
- Wear a collar with proper ID – Ensure that your dog is wearing a collar with an up-to-date address and phone number. If your dog gets lost or runs off, this information will make it easy for others to contact you. One alternative to consider is having your vet implant a microchip. Microchipping is a safe and reliable way to ensure your pet will always have up-to-date information in case their collar or tag is lost.
- Bring a leash – Many parks and hiking trails require dogs to remain on a leash. Pack a leash that is non-extendable so your dog doesn’t get tangled on any bushes or branches. A leash can also help keep your dog from getting too close to poisonous plants and animal remains.
- Make sure the hiking trail is pet-friendly – Before starting your hike, do some research on dog-friendly hiking trails near you. Typically, trails that have access to water, trash cans, and aren’t paved are good for dogs.
- Pack the essentials – Put a first-aid kit, water bottle, and a handful of dog treats in your bag before hitting the trails. A first-aid kit can help if there are any accidents or injuries while you’re out. If you stop and take a break, give your dog a quick treat!
Hiking with your dog
- Keep your dog hydrated – Just like how you should be drinking plenty of water, your dog should too. Pack an extra water bottle in your bag and bring along a collapsible water dish so your dog can stay hydrated on the trail.
- Leave no trace – You wouldn’t leave your dog’s feces on the sidewalk in your neighborhood, so you shouldn’t leave any behind on the trails either. Make sure you’ve packed extra bags and pick up after your dog.
- Give dogless hikers the right of way – If you encounter other people on the trail that don’t have dogs, put your dog on a leash and have them sit as you step to the side. Other people may be afraid of dogs and this will allow them to pass you.
- If off leash, keep your dog in your line of sight – Some dogs prefer to be unleashed while they hike. Ensure that you are able to see your dog at all times and able to give them commands or put them on a leash if you run into other dogs or people.
- Make sure there is at least one human for every dog – Dogs can be hard to control, especially if one person has to hold multiple dogs. Don’t go hiking with more dogs than there are people. If you run into other dogs or wildlife while hiking, your dogs may get overexcited and overwhelm other groups.
- Keep your dog from disturbing plants and wildlife – Plants can be sensitive to trampling, so keep your dog on the dirt trail and rocks. You want to keep the trail as nice as you found it, so avoid any destructive behavior.
Hiking can be a fun activity with your dog with the proper planning and preparation. Talk to your vet to make sure that your dog is capable of hiking, especially for longer distances or rocky trails.