If you’re like me, you love your dog and you love hiking. So it’s perfectly natural to want to pair those two together! Hiking with pets can be a really fun experience for both you and your fur baby. However, there are also some things you should be mindful of when you’re backpacking or hiking with your dog. Hiking or backpacking with your dog are great ways for both of you to get exercise and spend time outdoors together. Read on for helpful tips for hiking with dogs or hiking gear for dogs.
What to Know Before You Going on a Hike with Your Dog
I’m an experienced hiker and devoted dog mom, so don’t worry! I’ve got your back. Read on for tips for hiking with dogs and hiking with pets, as well as finding dog friendly hikes.
How do I Prepare my Dog for Hiking?
Your dog should be mentally and physically able to go hiking. Your fur baby will also need preparation if you’re planning on backpacking with your dog. Here are some preparation tips for hitting the trail with dogs:
- Practice with small hikes– Start with small walks, then build them up to longer walks. Monitor their energy level on flat surfaces and move them on to rougher terrain as they build endurance. If your dog does well on an hour-long hike, then build up the time by small increments to build their stamina. Move on to short day hikes with dogs, then longer hikes.
- Practice obedience training– Your dog needs to obey you any time you’re on the trail with your dog. This can be a challenge for dogs, especially when they’re excited about new sights and smells. Practice having them sit, stay, and listen while you’re on shorter and longer walks. Get your dog familiar with always being near you while you’re out.
- Teach them trail etiquette– We’ll go more into trail etiquette details later, but basically your dog should never approach other hikers and respect the environment. Other hikers may be afraid of dogs or not friendly towards them. Your dog must be under control at all times.
How do I Know my Dog is Ready to go Hiking?
You should be able to assess your dog’s ability to do shorter 3km to 10km hikes and hopefully you have been doing these while you train or just on regular walking exercise for your pet. Before you bring your dog hiking long distances, take them to the vet. Their vet will be able to evaluate their physical ability to hike and their immune system. If you’re hiking with a young dog, their bones need to be fully developed. Your vet may recommend some vaccinations or preventative medicines to ensure your dog won’t get sick from eating or drinking something on the trail.
Safety Tips for Hiking with Dogs
Is it Safe to Hike with a Dog?
It is safe to hike with your fur ball, as long as you take your dog’s physical ability to hike into account. Not all dogs should hike, including those who are old or have health issues. Your dog will do their best to keep up with you, although sometimes at their own expense. Dogs who aren’t properly trained are unsafe to hike because they can be a danger to other hikers and themselves.
You should also take into account the weather conditions and hiking terrain. If the trail is steep, slippery, or otherwise difficult for a human, it will not be safe for your dog. Similarly, your dog can only cool down through their paws and panting. If it is hot and there isn’t much shade on the trail, it may not be safe for your dog. Only take your fur baby on dog friendly hikes. You can find dog-friendly hiking trails which are more safe for your pet than others.
As long as your dog is properly trained and capable of hiking, it is safe to go hiking with your dog!
Can Dogs go on Long Hikes?
The amount of time your dog can trek depends on what you’ve trained them for. Dogs will try and keep up with you no matter what, but that doesn’t mean they should. If you’d like to go on day treks with dogs, start by taking them on long walks. Once they get used to that, build them up to small hikes, moderate hikes, and eventually long hikes. Their endurance and strength will build gradually. You can even get hiking gear for dogs, so they can protect their feet and carry some of their own necessities. Backpacking with your dog requires training, the same as you get used to longer hikes over time.
Can Puppies go Hiking?
Your young puppy is so full of energy and would love a fun hike! But there are a few things to consider before going hiking with pets, especially if they’re young. First, your puppy needs all their shots before they go hiking. Vets give puppies all their shots at about five months old. They can encounter lyme disease, rabies, water-borne pathogens, and many more potential threats to their health on a trail frequented by other dogs and wild animals.
You must also consider your dog’s growth state when you take them on a trek. While they’re still growing, they are more susceptible to injuries and often a bit clumsy. Keep an eye out for limping, swelling, pain, and anything abnormal. Talk to your vet to see when they recommend starting your puppy on hikes.
How Far can a Dog Hike in a Day?
At most, an active dog can trek up to 30km a day. Dogs need to slowly get accustomed to long hikes, so start slow and build them up to 20km hikes. Day hikes with dogs who are less active can reasonably be 15km. Once again, please discuss specifics about your dog with your vet.
Dog-Friendly Hiking Trails
How do I Find Dog-Friendly Hiking Trails?
Nowadays, there are lots of ways to find dog-friendly hiking trails and backpacking trails. BringFido allows you to search dog friendly hikes. AllTrails lets you search through your favorite local trails, and they’ll tell you which ones are dog-friendly. You can also check your local trail’s websites to find dog friendly treks. Most parks and rec websites give lots of helpful information. Another way you can find dog-friendly trails is by joining a local hiking group on Facebook. Most hard-core hikers in your area will know which trails are good for dogs.
What are Trail Etiquette Tips for Hiking with Dogs?
- Keep your dog on a leash– Even though many people love dogs, you can’t expect people on the trail to like yours. It may be hard to imagine, but some people are even afraid of dogs. A dog without a leash can get themselves into danger or trouble, so keep them on a leash at all times. Use a short leash, six feet or shorter, to stay in line with most trail rules. This is one of the most important tips for hiking with dogs.
- Bring one dog– Two dogs are too much to manage on a trail. If you want to take multiple dogs hiking, bring a hiking companion for each.
- Yield to other hikers– Let other hikers pass you. You and your dog should step off the trail. Make your dog heel when other hikers pass.
- Communicate– Let others know your dog is friendly. Stay calm around others so your dog will stay calm.
- Leave no trace– Dog poop isn’t natural on trails because dogs aren’t wild animals. Bring bags to carry out dog poop. If you’re staying overnight, bring a shovel and bury it away from campgrounds, water sources, and walkways.
- Preserve the wildlife– The natural plants and animals should remain untouched. Don’t let your dog go off the trail to hunt animals or disturb plants and water. Your dog can get hurt from poisonous plants, tainted water, and even wild animals. Keep them on a leash so they stay close by.
What do you do with Dog Poop while Hiking?
Even dog friendly hikes will require you to remove your dog’s poop from the trail. Your dog’s poop can disrupt the environment through scent, and communicate messages to the other animals who live there. This can cause distress in the wildlife. Plus NO ONE likes to step in dog poop while on a walk or hike. Be a responsible pet parent!
To avoid this, bring bags to collect your dog’s poop while hiking with your dog. Even if you collect your dog’s poop in a biodegradable bag, it needs to be carried out. You can insert doggie bags on your dog pack and include other hiking gear for dogs. Double bag if that makes you feel more comfortable.
If you don’t want to carry your dog’s poop out in a bag, bring a shovel and bury it. Dog poop needs to be buried at least 8” deep and at least 200 feet away from water sources, campsites, and trails. Don’t use a bag if you bury it.
If you like this guide to backpacking with your dog, you might also like 9 Things my Dog has Taught Me, Hiking Etiquette 101, or 50 Instagram Captions for Nature Photos that will make Mother Nature Proud.
What to Pack on Day Hikes with Dogs
How Much Food do I Need to Pack?
Bring the same amount of food you’d usually give your dog, with a little extra. Backpacking with your dog will make them burn more calories than they normally do. Consider bringing treats to keep their energy up, plus treats are a great reward for proper behaviour. You can even pack their food and treats in a dog backpack! Depending on their breed, a dog can carry up to 25% of their body weight but this is also something you should discuss with your vet. Hiking with pets means you need to bring more and be prepared for more than just yourself.
How Much Water do I Need to Pack?
It’s essential to bring plenty of water for your dog. Large dogs can drink about 0.5 to 1.0 ounces of water per pound a day. Lighter-weight dogs will drink closer to 1.5 ounces of water per pound a day. Bring plenty of extra water when you’re hiking with pets. Keep checking on them for signs of dehydration. If their nose is dry, they’re dehydrated.
Can my Dog Drink from Water Sources like a Creek, Lake, or Pond?
Your dog may love the idea of drinking from the trail river, but drinking from natural water sources is not generally recommended. They can contain water-borne pathogens that can make your dog very sick. As a rule, when hiking with pets, you should not let them drink standing or untreated water….the same goes for you, too!
Can my Dog Wear a Dog Pack?
As long as your dog is healthy enough to hike, they can wear a dog pack. A dog pack can have hiking gear for dogs inside and should fit comfortably on your dog. A dog pack should weigh equally on both sides, and weigh 25% of your dog’s body weight. If you are unsure, check with your vet to see if your dog can safety carry this weight.
What Should I Bring when Hiking with my Dog?
- Dog first aid kit
- Water and water bowl or doggy water bottle
- Dog food and food bowl
- Poop bags or shovel to bury poop
- Collar with a tag
- Short leash
- Dog hiking booties or socks
- Paw salve if they get sore or cracked feet
- Dog Brush
- Dog sleeping bag or sleeping pad with blanket (if you’re backpacking with your dog and staying the night)
- Dog pack
- Ice packs to prevent heatstroke
- Jacket if rainy or snowy
Potential Hazards when Hiking with Pets
What can Harm my Dog While out Hiking?
You’ll need to be mindful of your dog while out hiking, because they can’t tell you when something is wrong. But your dog is mostly susceptible to the same things you are. Just because you’ve found dog-friendly hiking trails doesn’t mean there won’t be any dangers. One of the most important tips for hiking with dogs is to keep them out of danger!
These are the most common dangers and prevention tips for hiking with dogs:
- Overheating– We humans can sweat through our skin, but dogs can only cool off through their paws and panting. Because of this, your dog is more vulnerable to overheating and dehydration. To avoid this, bring lots of extra water and let them rest in the shade. Hiking with pets may mean that your pace has to slow down.
- Water– Stagnant water contains bacteria, algae, and parasites that can harm your dog. Even running water such as rivers and streams can contain pathogens which can also make your dog very sick. Consuming saltwater can also cause dehydration and diarrhea. Avoid these by offering your dog water they’d normally drink at home. You can even supplement your dog’s water with light electrolyte fluid if it’s really hot.
- Water safety– Your dog may love splashing in the water, but dogs can easily drown if they’re not looked after. Don’t let your dog play in any water unsupervised.
- Wildlife– Wild animals and plants pose a threat to you and your dog. Ticks, scorpions, and snakes can target your dog. Other dangers are poisonous plants such as poison ivy, mushrooms, and prickly plants such as cacti and burrs can hurt your dog as well.
- Exhaustion– Your dog may overexert themselves trying to keep up with you and equally tire themselves with all the excitement. Take frequent resting breaks and monitor their heart and breathing rate.
- Paw injuries– Your fur baby’s delicate paws can get hurt from sharp or rough terrain. I’d recommend getting dog hiking boots or socks. Bring paw salve in case your dog’s paws get cut or scraped.
What Dog First Aid Should I Bring?
You never know what can happen when you’re out hiking with your dog. It’s best to be prepared and bring a dog first aid kit, especially if you’re backpacking with your dog. You can purchase a dog first aid kit, or gather all the materials yourself. They are:
- Your dog’s medical records
- Emergency phone numbers
- Antibiotic ointment
- Materials to control bleeding including: gauze, tape, scissors, rubber gloves
- Blanket or towel
- Collapsible food and water bowls
- Packaged food and water
- Backup medication
- Hydrogen peroxide
- Poop bags
- Extra leash
- Wet wipes
- Comfort Item
- Pet First Aid Guidebook
Hiking with pets means that you need to pack their gear for hiking and make sure you are ready for the trail ahead.
What Should I Do if Something Happens to my Dog?
Before you start hiking with your dog, find the nearest emergency vet clinic in the area if you are away from home. Consider purchasing pet insurance if you don’t have it. If something happens to your dog on the trail, you need to take them directly to the vet.
How do I Prepare for Ticks on my Dog when Hiking?
If you hike regularly with your dog, you may want to talk to your vet about an effective tick preventative medication to help reduce the chances of diseases like Lyme disease.
It is important to pay attention and know what to look for when hiking with your dog. Special attention should be taken in an area where ticks are common such as wooded or swampy areas. After your hike or regularly during a long hike check your dog (and yourself) for ticks. Remove the ticks quickly to reduce chances of irritation and spread of infection. I watched some YouTube videos which showed me how to do this and carry a tick kit with all I need.
Where do I Look for Ticks on Dogs?
Ticks can be difficult to find in a dog’s fur, especially with breeds with a lot of longer or thick hair. Do a thorough check in these common tick hiding spots on your dog:
- Under the collar
- Under the tail
- Between toes
- Under the legs
How do you Keep your Dog Cool while Hiking?
Avoid overheating on the trail by taking frequent breaks in the shade and offering your dog lots of water. If your dog is panting rapidly, drooling, unfocused, or exhausted, take a break.
Ultimately, hiking safely with your dog means thinking about their needs and accommodating them. If you follow all these tips, you’ll have a great time hiking with your dog!
Let me know if you have any other tips for hiking with dogs or hiking gear for dogs for me to include. I will be updating this blog about hiking with your dog regularly. Hiking with pets or backpacking with your dog are great ways for both of you to get exercise and spend time outdoors together.