7 Tips for Hiking with Dogs That Keep Everyone Safe and Happy

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. So why not explore nature together?

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 dogs for a happy and safe day on the trails with your new favorite hiking buddy.

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fixing the collar on a hike with our dog
These tips for hiking with your dog will make it a safe and happy hiking adventure.

The Benefits of Hiking with Your Dog

There are many reasons why dogs make excellent hiking companions:

  • Keeping active is important not only for people but dogs as well. Day hikes are an excellent way to get active for both you and your dog, getting out for that invigorating fresh air and exercise.
  • Hiking with your dog also offers some added protection on the trails. Wildlife often shies away from dogs and is more likely to leave you alone when your pet is with you. They 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 climbing up the mountain is just what you need.

How to Plan for Day Hiking with Your Dog

In the outdoors, preparation is always key. Here is how you can prepare for taking your dog hiking.

Research the Trail

Make sure your hiking plans include dog-friendly trails to avoid those 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 rules and regulations on the trail website if there is one.

AllTrails and ProTrails often show dog-friendly hikes and cover many trails across the US. The user-generated content isn’t always accurate, however. 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 if under voice command.

Leashes are also often appreciated by other hikers. While your dog might not run off while off-leash, some can be intimidating for kids and other leashed dogs. 

hiking with dogs around the lake
Hiking etiquette is essential when hiking with dogs. It’s always best to keep pets leashed.

Check the Weather

Your preparation for the weather can make or break a hike. Be prepared for the conditions by checking weather, alerts, and even the elevation at the summit, which can be different than the conditions at the trailhead if hiking in higher elevations.

Check with Your Vet

Make sure your dog can safely handle the hike by checking in with your vet ahead of time. Too much physical activity for her fitness level can do more harm than good. And proper vaccinations can protect against unwanted health issues.

a dog resting on a hike depicting tips for hiking with your dog
A chance to chill at the summit makes a happy dog on a hike

7 Tips for Hiking with Your Dog

Whether it’s a solo day on the trails, an outdoor adventure for the family, or even bringing your dog along on a hiking date, it’s important to be prepared. These simple tips for hiking with your dog help to keep everyone safe, happy, and healthy.

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 path.

2. Have Plenty of Water and Dog-Friendly Snacks

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

Even more important than stopping for snacks is taking plenty of water breaks, and lots of them. Bring water and a water bowl for your dog to drink from. We carry a collapsible bowl and an extra fresh water supply for our dog. Take short breaks when you’re near a stream to let your pet re-hydrate as they need it. Avoid puddles of water and make sure any water source is safe to drink from.

dog drinking from the stream
Stop at streams to re-hydrate and cool paws on hot days.

3. Leave No Trace

  • Don’t be that guy – always 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 a dog to take off after small animals by keeping them on a leash.
  • Keep your dog on the trail to prevent digging or interfering with any trail restoration efforts.

Pro Tip: A dog pack lets your pet carry their own hiking supplies. Keep snacks, water, and dog waste bags in a hiking pack for your dog. Don’t overpack it, though, it shouldn’t exceed more than 20% of your dog’s body weight.

4. Prepare for the Weather

Cold weather may require some layers for your dog, especially when the trail brings you to higher elevations. Warmer weather means packing extra drinking water than usual (for both you and your dog) and watching for excessive panting in your dog to make sure it’s not too hot.

And don’t forget their paws. Give your pup’s paws extra protection from extremely hot or cold ground with these adorable little dog booties (these also provide protection on rough terrain). If you frequently hike in warmer climates, keep your dog comfortable in the heat with a cooling collar.

5. Trail Etiquette for Hiking with Dogs

Hiking etiquette isn’t only for people on the trails. It applies to dogs, too.

  • Keep your pets from getting too close to other people and dogs, especially on narrow or busy trails. Even if your pup is the friendliest dog around, not everyone is comfortable hiking with dogs on the trail.
  • Obey the trail rules and leash laws. Some trails require dogs to be leashed, especially when there is a threat to wild animals in the area.

It’s always safer to keep pets on a leash, even if leashes aren’t required. Find a leash that can be used hands-free, or choose a harness for even greater control) – plus, a leashed dog with a high energy level will pull you up a steep trail!

  • Many hiking trails also double as horseback riding trails. If allowed on the trail, remember that horses have the right of way.

You Might Also Like: 11 Effective Tips For Keeping Dogs Warm While Camping In Cold Weather

6. Know Your Dog

Even with approval from your veterinarian, have an idea of how much walking your dog is really up for. A few short hikes ahead of time will prepare both of you for longer trails or more strenuous hikes. It will give you a good sense of how much walking they can handle. You don’t want to get stuck out on a trail with a dog who refuses to continue. Trust us –we’ve been there, done that!

a dog that doesn't want to walk on sand dunes
We learned our dog does not like the sand and needed lots of breaks.

7. Post-Hike Tips for Hiking with Your Dog

  • Do a once over on your pup after your hike. 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 is the best part of taking your dog hiking.

Gear for Your Hiking Buddy

When planning what to bring on a hike with your dog, add these items to your hiking gear to make sure you have everything you need for him or her on the trails:

  • extra water
  • collapsible dishes for water and food
  • dog waste bags (bring more than you think you’ll need)
  • a leash (it doesn’t hurt to pack an extra leash in case something happens)
  • booties in extreme cold or heat, or especially rough terrain
  • a first-aid kit for minor cuts or other incidents

Hiking with your dog can be a fun way to get outside and into nature. To make it a fun and safe experience for both of you, preparation is key. Follow these essential tips for hiking with dogs to ensure you both enjoy the outdoor adventure!

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