For all of you dog-loving hikers, a day hike or weekend trip can provide the best bonding experience for you and your pup while getting the exercise you both need. But hiking with a dog isn’t as easy as going out and hitting the trails by yourself. They need some special gear and supplies to stay happy and healthy when outside in nature. We want to make sure that your canine is as prepared as possible for the outdoors, which is why we put together this helpful guide of hiking tips and essentials for a dog-friendly adventure.
First things first, you’ll need to pack all the right gear for the trip. If you’re hiking with a dog, we assume you know what you need for yourself, so here’s a list of hiking gear for dogs you’ll need before embarking on your journey:
Download PDF: Dog Hiking Checklist
Hiking with a dog requires a lot of care and attention because they can’t talk, so they can’t easily tell you if there’s something wrong. Here are 10 hiking tips to keep in mind when out on the trails with a dog.
Before taking your dog out into nature, it’s important to set up an appointment with your veterinarian so they can evaluate your dog’s health before you head out into the middle of nowhere. Make sure to ask questions like:
Your vet may also recommend certain hiking durations, distances, and difficulties depending on your dog’s breed, age, size, and health. Some breeds are better at hiking than others. For example, hiking with small dogs generally will require shorter and less intense hikes. Generally, sporting, herding, and working dogs are the best companions for hiking. These breeds include:
It’s crucial to make sure that your dog is prepared for the active task ahead, so training them first should be a priority. Start off with smaller hikes closer to where you live and increase the distance each time to build up their stamina. If you’re more the backpacking/camping type, try sleeping together in your backyard so your dog can get comfortable with sleeping outside of a house. Make sure that your dog knows their obedience training and trail etiquette. Preparing your dog for the trails can take a lot of work at first, but eventually, they'll become conditioned and ready to follow your lead.
RELATED: Everything You Need to Know About Backpacking with Dogs
When picking the right trails for your dog’s skill level, check their pet regulations before setting your hopes on anything. Most U.S. national parks have banned dogs completely, even if they’re on leashes, however, many national forests and state parks will allow dogs as long as they’re on a leash. There are even a few hikeable places with off-leash areas, but triple check before letting Fido go.
Put all that training to good use! Practice excellent trail etiquette when out hiking with your dog. This means staying in control of your canine at all times, especially when you’re passing other hikers and dogs. Step off of the trail as you yield to people, bikes, and horses. Don’t let go or lose sight of your trail buddy. The best way to keep control while on the trail is with the Wonder Walker Body Halter Dog Harness. It’s a harness, so it moves your control around their center of gravity instead of around their neck. This is safer and more comfortable for your dog, especially when walking for long distances.
Hiking with a dog is all about building up strength to take on bigger challenges at a reasonable and safe pace. Because you’re going to be out in the woods, away from any real population hotspots, make sure that you know where the nearest emergency veterinary clinic is. To prevent needing to take a trip there, keep an eye on your pup to make sure they’re getting everything they need. Here are some tips to help you take it easy on the trails:
After each hike, monitor how active your dog is. If they’re still pretty active, you know that next time you can make your hike longer—this may be the case if you’re hiking with a puppy. Increase the mileage and difficulty slowly in order to condition them and toughen up their paws.
Dogs can’t talk, so it’s critical that you pay attention to their body language while hiking. Taking regular breaks is a great idea especially if you’re just starting out hiking together. Try to aim for shady patches and always offer your canine-friend water when you’ve stopped. How do you know if it’s time for a break? Here are some signs that your dog may be overexerted and in need of a breather:
Being the best hiker you can be is really easy when you follow the Leave No Trace protocol. Dogs also have to follow Leave No Trace, and luckily their rules aren’t much different than those that apply to humans. You can either pack out or bury your pet’s waste. If you want to bury it, make sure that it’s in a 6- to 8-inch hole at least 200 feet away from any water, camps, and trails. Urination is a bit harder to regulate, so it’s recommended that you just avoid areas near water. You can also pack out pet waste using poop bags. It’s frowned upon to leave poop bags along the trail for pick-up on the way back, so just keep them in your bag. If you’re worried about the bag ripping, double bag it just to be sure.
Hiking during the spring and fall can be easy to handle from a temperature standpoint, but summer is a different story. Hiking in the heat requires extra precautions, especially when traveling with a canine in tow. Staying cool is the most important part of hiking when it’s warm and it’s important to have a game plan to avoid overheating. Here are some tips on how to keep a dog cool on a hike in the heat:
If your dog is panting excessively, sporting a dry nose, or frequently laying down along the trail, it’s time to cool-off before heat exhaustion takes over.
The outdoors is full of hazards that can hurt you and your canine-friend while on your hike. Be careful and know what wildlife and wild plants are around you at all times. Some creatures can hurt your dog while others may avoid you. Depending on where and when you go hiking, you may have to deal with predators like bears, cougars, and coyotes; or smaller dangers like snakes, porcupines, and ticks. Make sure to keep your dog close and under control if you spot any wildlife while on your hike. As for wild plants, there are some plants that are ok for dogs to come into contact with, and there are some that are toxic. Watch out for poison ivy, oak, and sumac in addition to nettles and belladonna. You should also all together avoid areas that allow hunting, just to be safe.
When you get back to your car or your home, check your dog for ticks and/or fleas. These tiny pests are bad news if you get them in your house or they settle in for the long haul. While you’re checking for ticks and fleas, grab your Dexas Mudbuster Dog Paw Cleaner and clean the dirt and mud off of your dog’s paws before they sit down on the upholstery. If they’re still damp after a swim, grab your dog towel and dry them off.
Hiking with your dog can be an extremely rewarding experience for both you and your pup. Here at King Duke’s, we want to help you prepare for your next outdoor adventure so your dog can be happy and healthy while exploring the great outdoors. Visit our website to find everything you need and before you know it, you and your trail buddy will be on the road and ready to hike!
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No matter how small your pup or how large your pack, there is nothing better than a road trip! To help make sure you end up on the happy hound highway rather than the Boulevard of Broken dog Dreams (shout out to my fellow Gen Xers!), we have a ton of tips; so many in fact, that this guide is a two parter! In this first installment, we’ll cover what you need for the car and the trail, and next time we’ll do all you need for everything else, including eating, drinking, and sleeping. The open road awaits…