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.

fixing the collar on a hike with our dog
These tips for hiking with your dog will keep them safe and happy on the trail.

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 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.

Preparing for a Hike with Dogs

Research the Trail

There are many dog-friendly hiking trails, but there are plenty that does 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. 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 with a Voice and Sight Control tag. 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) – 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 the trail brings you 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 can 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.

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

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 path.

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 a separate water supply for our dog. 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 a dog 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 double as horseback riding trails. If allowed on the trail, remember that horses have the right of way.

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 and 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.

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


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