Tips for Hiking With Your Dog
Getting ready to hike
There are lots of things to consider while hiking, such as parasites (like worms, ticks, and fleas), squirrels, unclean water, and other things that could pose a problem for a dog. Consider getting a canine first aid kit for hiking, and make sure you know how to administer first aid to your pup.
And if you’re hiking with a puppy, make sure they are old enough for the trek. The age at which puppies become trail ready varies among breeds, and dog to dog, so talk to your vet first. A lot will depend on their size and personality.
Finding a dog-friendly trail
Keep in mind that many outdoors spaces require dogs to be kept on leash to prevent them from disturbing plants, wildlife, or other hikers. Follow all local and state regulations when it comes to leash laws and make sure your pup is trained to follow basic voice commands like “come” and “stay,” just in case they slip off their leash.
And don’t forget the principles of Leave No Trace—“pack it in, pack it out” applies to your dog’s waste too.
Gearing up for your adventure
- Waste bags
- Dog pack (optional)
- Dog booties (optional)
- Dog first aid kit (optional)
Consider a collapsible bowl, if possible, so it doesn’t take up so much space in your hiking backpack. Many dog bowls for hiking can even be clipped to the back of your bag. And don’t forget poop bags to “Leave No Trace.”
For dogs who are large enough (and strong enough) to carry their food and gear themselves, a dog pack for hiking can be a great option. Consult your vet to see if your dog is fit to go long distances with weight on their back, and if so, how much.
If you’ll be trekking through areas that are rocky, thorny, or cold, you may want booties to protect your pup's paws. Similar to hiking boots for humans, dog booties will protect their sensitive paw pads. It may take a few walks to get your dog used to wearing them, but dog booties can be real paw savers.
Lastly, make sure you have the right hiking gear. There’s no sense in dialing in Fido’s hiking gear if you’re uncomfortable and want to cut the adventure short. Invest in high-quality hiking pants or leggings, a hiking shirt with UPF-rated fabric, sturdy boots, and a hat with sun protection. This will ensure that you’re as happy and comfortable as your pup.
Setting the right pace
While you’re hiking, you want to be sure you’re paying close attention to how your pooch is doing physically. Dogs love the sights, smells, and sounds of nature and can easily get distracted from taking care of their own needs. Make sure they aren’t too tired and are getting enough water. Remember that just like humans, dogs need snack breaks too, so be sure to check your pup’s appetite by occasionally offering a bit of food or a treat. Once you and your fur baby have gotten used to hiking short distances, you can take off the training wheels and try going for a longer hike.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Is it safe to take my dog hiking?
How far is too far for a dog to hike?
How much water should I bring for my dog on a hike?
How do I protect my dog’s paws while hiking?
What are the best dog breeds for hiking?
That’s not to say that smaller dogs can’t hike. There’s a wide array of small dog breeds that can also enjoy hitting the trails such as Corgis, Jack Russell Terriers, Miniature Dachshunds, Beagles, Whippets, and even Miniature Poodles. But smaller dogs have shorter legs so they may tire more quickly than bigger pups.
The main point to consider when hiking with smaller dogs is the same as with all dogs—start slow and work your way up. The best way to find your hiking companion is to work with a reputable rescue who can help you find a buddy with the perfect athletic abilities to meet your needs.