Who’s ready for some summer adventures and hiking with your dog? As the days get warmer and longer you know the first thing we are thinking about is getting out of the house and into nature! And that’s why we’re giving you 17 essential dog hiking tips to keep your pup happy and safe.
Here are some important, helpful, and essential tips for bringing along your favorite four-legged friends on your explorations. Don’t forget your camera!
PS- if you’re looking for fun hikes in your area, AllTrails is a great resource. They even have an app!
17 Dog Hiking Tips
1. Do Your Research
How disappointing would it be to get to your hike, only to realize that your furry friend can’t come along on the hike with you? Do your research beforehand so that you are able to find the best trail suitable for you and your dog.
Many national parks do not allow dogs but will allow them in picnic areas. Also, some state parks will limit the trails that allow dogs. Figure out how long the hike is as well so that you can prepare accordingly.
2. Obey Leash Laws
Many dog-friendly trails require your dog to be on a leash. Sometimes trails will require the leash to be 6 feet or less. So be prepared with the right leash and all the tools you need to make this an enjoyable experience for all involved. Many areas also have off-leash designated areas, but your dog should always be under voice control.
My brother-in-law’s dog would run after any deer, duck, or animal she saw while on a hike, so they realized keeping her on a leash was the best option, after almost losing her. You know your dog’s temperament best, so use your best judgment. The last thing you want is something bad to happen to your dog.
Leash training your pooch is also important before taking your dog out on a hike so that you aren’t the one being taken for a walk. 😉 Our free online class, 30 Day Perfect Pup by Zak George, not only teaches behaviors and tricks like sit, stay, and lay, but also addresses leash training, problem behaviors, potty training and more.
3. Make Sure Your Dog is Wearing Tags
In the unlikely event that you and your dog get separated, having tags for your dog could help you to be reunited easier if found by another hiker.
Along with tags, microchipping your dog is always a good idea and will help shelters, vets, or rescues to get your pooch safely returned to you.
4. Clean Up After Your Dog
I’m sure you’ve heard the rule that what comes in must come out. Leaving no trace means cleaning up after your doggo. Be prepared and pack multiple bags with you as a lot of trails do not have doggy poop stations.
If you can’t handle the smell of your dogs poop too long (honestly who can), try to let your dog do his or her business at the trailhead where you can discard of the waste easily. Then during the hike, you could double bag their poop (we recommend biodegradable bags).
If you are burying your dog’s poop, it needs to be buried 6 to 8 inches underground and 200 ft from water sources and campgrounds, depending on the trail rules where you hike.
5. Bring Water
This might be the most important dog hiking tip of all! Dogs are at a higher risk of overheating because they are not able to sweat like humans. You want to have fresh water so that your pup doesn’t drink out of a stream or puddles of water that could be contaminated.
Bring collapsible water dishes. These will make storage easier and are a great option to put food or water in for your pup.
6. Bring Treats / Food
Depending on how long you will be hiking, you may want to bring them snacks and/or a meal. You will want to give your dog food at least an hour before their hike and wait for 30 minutes afterward to make sure they don’t get sick.
We also love bringing high-value, small treats that are low in calories and fat to give to our dog during rest breaks. Check out these ones. Of all our dog hiking tips, this one can make your adventure the most enjoyable.
7. Bring a Favorite Dog Toy
My dog always loves having a ball with him on a hike. He also loves finding the largest sticks he can get his paws on, but he isn’t always so considerate of others and runs right into the back of our legs. So smaller trail-friendly options are preferable, such as a ball or small toy he or she can fetch. Just remember to not over-do it if playing with your dog on a longer hike.
8. Be Courteous to Other Hikers
Speaking of doggy etiquette, when hiking with a dog, you should yield to other hikers, bikers, and horses. When someone approaches, step to the side of the trail and get your dog into heel until they have passed. If your dog is small enough, you could also hold them while waiting.
9. Bring a Pack for Your Dog
If you want your pup to do their own heavy lifting, you can purchase a dog pack to carry their food, treats, first aid kit, and water bowl. A fit and healthy dog can usually carry up to 25% of their body weight depending on the breed. Here’s a popular option to check out.
10. Make Sure Your Dog Can Handle the Hike
When my dog was a puppy, we took him on a hike in a slot canyon in Southern Utah. After walking about ten minutes he was pooped and we held him the rest of the way. It was okay carrying his 15 pound self then, but now that he is about 80 pounds, that just simply wouldn’t be an option.
Don’t push your young or old friend to go further than they can handle. If your dog is lying down, panting intensely or foaming at the mouth be sure to stop and let them rest and if you see the need, discontinue the hike.
Especially for puppies, you’ll want to mind a general rule for exercise. You can exercise your pup for 5 minutes per month of age, twice a day. So in theory, a 3-month-old dog shouldn’t go on a hike longer than 15-20 minutes. This is to protect their joints and growth plates. For a better guideline for your specific pup, talk to your vet.
It is also recommended to wait until your puppy has all of their shots before taking them out in nature with you, and at a minimum their first round.
11. Bring Proper Footwear
For snowy trails, walking on hot sand or cement, over rocks, or even just on rock salt, dog booties could really come in handy to protect your pups delicate pads. If it is cold and wet bringing a rain jacket could also be a good idea.
12. Bring Pet Insect Repellant
Especially if you live in an area where ticks are prevalent – insect repellant is a must. Dogs can attract mosquito bites that leave them itchy and miserable just like you. Plus, those bites can expose them to diseases as well.
They make collars that can last months at a time to protect from ticks and insects. Consult your vet on what collar or repellant is best for your pup in your local area.
13. Bring Sunscreen
Dogs can get sunburnt like humans, but it often isn’t something I think about because they are covered in a layer of fur. If you’re planning on being out hiking for an extended period of time, sunscreen is something to consider. The high altitude exposes us and also our furry best friends to harmful UV rays. So better safe than sorry.
14. Pet First Aid Kit
Walking on a trail, our dog went to grab a stick and it ended up cutting him pretty badly. We weren’t prepared with a first aid kit on the hike, and my husband had to slowly take him back to the car to tend to his wound. It’s easy for dogs to get into some mischief so being prepared could save you and your pup.
Here are some good pet first aid kit options:
- Lights/Bells: attach to your pup’s collar so you can hear them
- Gauze and bandages: heavy-duty bandages will last longer
- Rubber Gloves: if you don’t have any paw protection for your pup, these could come in handy if your pup’s paw pad becomes injured
- Styptic swabs: these can help to stop bleeding and seal up small cuts
- Pliers/Tweezers: pull out potential rocks or sticks in cuts or injuries
This tip for hiking with your dog just may save their life!
15. Rattlesnake Training
Depending on where you live, and the frequency of your dog’s exposure to trails and the outdoors, rattlesnake training could really come in handy.
My brother-in-law’s dog is trained on how to hear and smell rattlesnakes and to retreat upon one of these senses being triggered. There are plenty of dog trainers that offer courses in this type of training or other training depending on the doggy-dangerous species in your neck of the woods.
16. Keep an Eye on Your Dog
There are all sorts of fun smells when out hiking in the wilderness. From different animal species, to food, to carcasses, you never know what you could stumble upon.
Keep an eye on your dog and be aware of what they are doing. Did they step on a burr or cactus? Are they keying in on a smell? Hopefully not a skunk! Just be aware of them as their curiosity often can get them in trouble.
17. Take Frequent Breaks
Dogs often exert themselves far more than we do with their running back and forth and need to explore. Be aware, as previously mentioned, a dog’s internal cooling system is far inferior to our own as humans. So you want to allow for time for them to cool down in the shade and drink water frequently.
Quick Recap of All 17 Dog Hiking Tips
- Do your research
- Obey leash laws
- Make sure your dog is wearing tags
- Clean up after your dog
- Bring water
- Bring treats/food
- Bring a favorite dog toy
- Be courteous to other hikers
- Bring a pack for your dog
- Make sure your dog can handle the hike
- Bring proper footwear
- Bring pet insect repellant
- Bring sunscreen
- Pet first aid kit
- Rattlesnake training
- Keep an eye on your dog
- Take frequent breaks
Post Dog Hike Tips – Thoroughly Check Your Pup
Once you are done hiking, it is important to check on your dog to see how they are doing.
How are their footpads? Are they limping? Pet them. Do you feel any lumps, could it be a tick? Do they have any burrs in their coat that need to be removed?
If they have gone in a pond/lake/river or really any other body of water it is also a good idea to wash them with fresh water and soap to remove possible pollutants, slime, leeches or other bacteria. It is very common for dogs who have been in a foreign body of water to develop a rash or infection if not washed with fresh water so this is important.
Final Dog Hiking Tip
Your dog will always be tired and hungry after a long day of play, so here’s our final dog hiking tip!
Give your pup extra snuggles at the end of the day! 😉 Oh, and you’ll probably wanna give them some extra treats for being such a good boy or girl.