fixing the collar on a hike with our dog

7 Tips for Hiking with Your Dog For a Safe and Happy Hike

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You know that excitement in your dog just at the mention of the word “walk?” It’s the same reaction when it’s out for a hike too. All those new sights, sounds, and smells are enough to make your dog go crazy and barely able to contain their pure joy. Follow these tips for hiking with your dog to make it for a happy and safe hike with your fur baby in tow.

Benefits of Hiking with Your Dog

Keeping active is not only important for people, but for dogs as well. Hiking is the perfect way to get active for both you and your dog, getting out for that invigorating fresh air and exercise.

Hiking with your dogs also offers some added protection on the trails. Wildlife often shies away from dogs and are more likely to leave you alone when you have your pet with you. He or she can also give early warning signs of impending (and unwanted) visitors on the trail.

And when you’re looking for new ways to bond with your pet, spending time relaxing at the summit and taking in the views after the climb up the mountain is just what you need.

Preparing for a Hike with Dogs

Research the Trail

There are many dog-friendly hiking trails, but there are plenty that do not allow pets on the trail (many National Parks do not allow dogs on the hiking trails). Before you head out, make sure to check the trail regulations before you go. AllTrails and ProTrails often show dog-friendly hikes and cover many trails across the US, but with user-generated content, it’s not always accurate. The trail management system website is your best bet for up-to-date and accurate information.

Warning: if you reach a trail and find that dogs are not allowed, find another nearby trail. NEVER leave a dog locked in a car, even with the windows down. Vehicles can reach fatal temperatures very fast. 

Leash regulations also vary from trail to trail. Some require all dogs to be leashed, while others only allow dogs to be off-leash with a Voice and Sight Control tag. Even if leashes aren’t required, it’s always safer to keep them on a leash (this leash can be used hands-free or choose a harness for even greater control) – and an excited dog on a leash will ‘pull’ you up the mountain. Leashes are also often appreciated by other hikers. While your dog might not run off while hiking off-leash, some can be intimidating for kids and other leashed dogs. 

hiking with dogs around the lake
A happy hiker!

Check the Weather

Your preparation for the weather (both at the trailhead and at the summit) can make or break a hike. Cold weather may require some layers for your dog, especially when climbing to higher elevations. Warmer weather means packing more water than usual (for both you and your dog).

Give your pup’s paws extra protection from extreme heat or cold ground with these adorable little dog booties. If you frequently hike in warmer climates, keep your dog comfortable in the heat with a cooling collar.

Check with Your Vet

Make sure your dog is able to safely handle the hike by checking in with your vet ahead of time. Too much physical activity too soon can do more harm than good. And proper vaccinations can protect against unwanted health issues.

hiking with dogs relaxing at the summit
A chance to chill at the summit makes a happy dog on a hike

Tips for Hiking with Your Dog

1. Plan for Frequent Breaks

Just like hiking with kids, frequent breaks go a long way – especially on hot days or trails with little shade. Too much too fast may leave you carrying your pup back down the trail.

2. Dog-Friendly Snacks

Refuel with some snacks at the summit, and along the trail. When you stop for your snack break, have a treat ready for your dog too.

3. Water, Water, Water

Even more important than snacks is water, and lots of it. We carry a collapsible bowl and her own supply of water. Taking short breaks near streams lets your pet re-hydrate as they need it.

dog drinking from the stream
Stop at streams to re-hydrate

4. Leave No Trace

Don’t be that guy – pick up after your pet! Pet waste along a hiking trail is gross and spreads disease. Hiking with dogs means being prepared with plenty of dog waste bags. And bring enough to share, in case you do come across that guy on the trail. (These dog waste bags come with a dispenser.)

Leave no trace also means preventing your dog from harming wildlife. Be prepared for dogs to take off after small animals by keeping them on a leash.

Pro Tip:
A dog pack lets your pet carry their own gear. Keep snacks, water, and dog waste bags in the pack.

5. Trail Etiquette for Hiking with Dogs

Keep your pets from getting too close to other people and dogs, especially on narrow trails. Even if your pup is the friendliest dog around, not everyone is comfortable hiking with dogs on the trail.

Many hiking trails are also popular for horseback riding. If they are allowed on the trail, remember that horses have the right of way.

6. Know Your Dog

Even with the okay from the vet, you’ll want to know how much walking your dog is up for. A few short hikes ahead of time will prepare both of you for longer trails and give you a good sense of how much walking he or she can handle. You don’t want to get stuck out on a trail with a dog who lays down and refuses to continue (we’ve been there, done that!).

hiking with the dog on sand dunes
We learned our dog does not like the sand and needed lots of breaks

7. Post-Hike

Do a once over on your pup after your hike to check for ticks under their fur and burrs in the pads of their feet. Even though preventative treatments protect your dog, ticks can jump onto people after living off your pets for some time.

Carry enough water to have some for the end of the hike, especially if it’s a long drive home.

post hike nap for the dog
A well earned post-hike nap

Do you hike with your dog? Share your favorite tips for hiking with your dog in the comments!


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