Ready to hit the trails with your furry sidekick? Discover the joy and excitement of hiking with dogs with our guide! It's not just a great way to stay active but also an opportunity to create unforgettable outdoor experiences. Remember, safety is our top priority, and we're here to give you all the essential tips for a fun and secure adventure with your beloved pup.

Key Takeaways:

  • Check your dog's health, train them, and choose suitable trails.
  • Respect the B.A.R.K. rule - Bag waste, Always leash, Respect wildlife, Know where to go.
  • Bring a dog pack, safety kit, form of hydration, paw protection, towel, and weather gear.

1. Pre-Hike Readiness 

Start by taking your dog to the vet for a checkup to ensure they're fit for hiking. The vet can advise and recommend how to keep your pup safe and comfortable. 

Get Your Pet’s Health Checked Out at Home

Say goodbye to stressful vet visits and hello to a comfortable wellness exam in your pet's favorite spot.

Also, it’s a good idea to brush up on your dogs training and manners. Ensuring they listen well and behave around other hikers and wildlife can make the experience more pleasant for everyone.

Additionally, choosing suitable trails is crucial for a successful hike. Consider your dog's age, breed, and fitness level when picking a trail. Start with shorter hikes and gradually increase the distance to prevent overexertion and keep everyone in good spirits.

2. Understanding Trail Regulations 

Always make sure to check the specific rules for the area you’re about to explore, as these can vary from location to location. A helpful set of principles to remember is the B.A.R.K. rule:

  • Bag your pet’s waste
  • Always leash your pet
  • Respect wildlife
  • Know where you can go

Here’s a breakdown of what these mean:

1. 'Bag your pet’s waste'. It's crucial to keep the trails clean for everyone's enjoyment. This means we should always be prepared with bags to pick up after our dogs, ensuring we're not leaving any unpleasant surprises behind.

2. 'Always leash your pet'. Leashing our pets keeps them safe from potential dangers and ensures they don't disturb others on the trail. Even the best-behaved dog can cause concern for people who are uncomfortable around dogs or potentially scare off wildlife.

3. 'Respect wildlife'. We should always view wildlife from a distance and never let our pets chase or interact with them. This includes awareness of potentially toxic plants that our dogs might be tempted to sniff and nibble. Educate yourself about the flora in your hiking area to keep your pet safe.

4. 'Know where you can go'. Not all trails or regions are dog-friendly, whether for wildlife protection, cleanliness, or safety reasons. Hence, it's necessary to research ahead and stick to trails where dogs are welcome.

3. Dog Hiking Gear 

Make sure to prepare your furry companion for a safe and enjoyable hiking experience with a dog pack, safety kit, hydration, paw protection, towels, safety lights, and weather-appropriate gear.

Take a look at why you need these essential camping supplies below:

  • Dog Pack: A well-fitted dog pack is ideal for carrying essentials like water and snacks. Ensure it's comfortable and doesn't restrict your dog's movement. Introduce the pack during short walks with it empty, then gradually add weight as your dog gets used to it. Remember, avoid overloading your dog; they should carry no more than 10 to 25% of their body weight, depending on their age, size, breed, and fitness. If unsure, consult your veterinarian.
  • Safety Kit: Prepare a first aid kit for handling minor injuries or tick removal. Diphenhydramine can be useful for bee stings or insect bites.
  • Hydration and Paw Protection: Carry a collapsible water container to keep your pup hydrated and booties to protect their paws from rough terrain or hot surfaces.
  • Dog Towel and Safety Light: A dog towel is handy for cleaning them up before returning to the car, and a safety light makes them more visible during dusk or dawn hikes.
  • Weather-Appropriate Gear: Depending on the weather, consider a dog coat for warmth or a cooling collar to help them stay cool in the heat.

4. Food and Water Planning 

Hiking is an active exercise that can increase your dog's calorie needs. This means they'll need more food than on a regular day, especially for longer hikes. Bring enough food and some dog-friendly trail snacks for energy boosts.

Hydration is equally important, as dogs can't sweat like humans and rely on panting to cool down. This makes having enough water super important when we're out on the trails.  On average, a dog should drink one ounce of water per pound of body weight per day, but this requirement will increase when hiking so make sure to pack extra. Don't wait for your pup to get thirsty before offering water. Regular breaks for a water check can help keep them hydrated throughout the hike.

Look out for signs of dehydration in your dog, like excessive panting, dry nose and gums, and tiredness. If you notice any of these signs, ensure your dog rests and drinks water before continuing.

5. Trail Hazards for Dogs 

Hiking is a wonderful activity for both us and our furry friends, but it's crucial to be aware of potential dangers to ensure our pups stay safe and happy:

  • Overexertion: Overexertion is a risk, especially for dogs who aren't regular hikers. Monitor your dog's energy levels and take plenty of breaks. Watch out for signs of fatigue such as heavy panting, lagging behind, or loss of interest in their surroundings.
  • Wildlife and Wild Plants: Dogs are naturally curious and might want to sniff or eat something harmful, or provoke a wild animal. Keep your dog on a leash and be aware of your surroundings to avoid this.
  • Heatstroke: Dogs can overheat quickly, especially in hot weather. Avoid hiking during the hottest part of the day, provide plenty of water, and watch out for signs of heatstroke such as excessive panting, drooling, and weakness.
  • Waterborne Pathogens: Not all trail water is safe for your dog to drink, even if it looks clean. Always carry plenty of water for your dog to drink.
  • Water Safety: Not all dogs are good swimmers, and even those that are can get swept up in a current. Avoid letting your dog swim in fast-moving water, and consider a doggy life jacket if you're going to be around water.

6. Training Tips for Hiking with Dogs 

Hiking with our dogs is more fun and safer when they've mastered basic obedience skills. Essential commands like "come," "sit," "stay," and "leave it" can help manage your dog's actions on the trail, ensuring they, fellow hikers, and wildlife stay safe. 

Here are these key training tips further explained:

  • "Come" Command: Use the "come" command to call your dog back if they stray too far from you.
  • "Sit" and "Stay" Commands: Teach your dog to "sit" and "stay" to keep them calm during encounters with other hikers or animals.
  • "Leave It" Command: Use the "leave it" command to prevent your dog from munching on something they shouldn't.
  • Verbal Recall: A reliable verbal recall is critical to ensuring your dog understands and follows your command to return, even in distracting situations like encountering wildlife or exciting scents.
  • "Quiet" Cue: Teach your dog a "quiet" cue to curb excessive barking, allowing everyone to enjoy the tranquility of nature.

Enjoy the Adventure 

Getting ready to hike with our dogs involves a few important steps. Ensuring our pups are fit for the adventure and understanding the trail rules is crucial. With these in mind and a little preparation, we're all set to create unforgettable memories in nature with our dog companions!

For more tips on making the most of your outdoor experience, check out our camping guide for dogs. Happy hiking!

Frequently Asked Questions

Are dogs good for hiking?

Yes, most dogs love hiking. It's a great way for them to explore new environments, exercise, and spend quality time with their owners.

How many miles can a dog hike a day?

A dog's hiking distance varies, with some dogs able to handle 10+ miles per day while others may only handle less than 1. Factors like breed, age, health, and fitness play a part. Always monitor your dog and consult your veterinarian if unsure.

How much is too much hiking for a dog?

If your dog shows signs of fatigue, like excessive panting, slowing down, or limping, the hike might be too much for them. It's best to consult a veterinarian for advice tailored to your dog's breed, age, and health.

At what age can my dog go on a hike?

Puppies can start going on short, gentle walks as soon as they're fully vaccinated, usually around 16 weeks. For longer, strenuous hikes, it's best to wait until they're at least a year old. Always check with your veterinarian first.

What temperature is safe for dogs to hike?

Safe hiking temperatures for dogs generally fall below 70°F (21°C). However, this can vary depending on your dog's breed, age, and health. Continuously monitor your dog for signs of overheating and provide plenty of water.