Guide to Hiking with Your Dog

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.

A woman and dog standing on top of a mountain overlooking a lake after a hike.

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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. Here are my best tips and tricks for hiking with dogs (or hiking with other pets), as well as finding the coolest dog friendly hikes.

A woman enjoying the view from a mountain peak with her dog.

How do I Prepare my Dog for Hiking?

Just like you, your dog should be mentally and physically able to go hiking. It’s important that you take the needed steps to prepare your pup for the trek (no matter how long or short).

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. 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. Even if you are planning on keeping them on a leash the entire time, it’s crucial that they have a good recall command in case they get loose or spooked. Do not overlook the importance of recall training.
A white and brown dog wearing a green collar.
  • 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 YOUR control at all times.
  • Pack Proper Trail Gear (and practice wearing it): Before embarking on a hike with your dog, it’s important that your dog is familiar and comfortable with his trail gear. If your dog will be hiking with boots or a backpack, be sure they are used to it BEFORE the actual hike. Have you dog’s bag packed early so you can ensure you do not forget anything!
  • Prepare for the car ride: Some dogs get easily car sick. If your hike involves a long car ride, be sure to prepare your dog for the trip! You can do this by taking short car rides, practicing getting in and out of the car, and purchasing any needed medications.
A woman hiking with her dog through a forest.

How do I Know my Dog is Ready to go Hiking?

You should be able to assess your dog’s ability during your training hikes and sessions. You know your pet the best, so be sure to trust your gut and observations.

It’s also a great idea to take them to the vet before you bring your dog hiking long distances. 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.

A woman and her dog enjoying the scenery near a lake while hiking.

Safety Tips for Hiking with Dogs

Hiking can lead to some of the best memories outside, however it’s crucial that you prioritize safety for you and your pup!

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.

A woman and her dog standing on rocks near a lake at sunset while hiking with your dog.

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!

A white and brown dog sitting on the beach at sunset while 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.

A human and dog standing on top of a mountain at sunset after a rewarding hike.
Catalin Grigoriu/Shutterstock

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, waterborne 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.

A womand and a dog are hiking down a path in the woods.

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 10km. Once again, please discuss specifics about your dog with your vet.

A woman and her dog enjoying a hike together in the mountains.

Dog-Friendly Hiking Trails

Before embarking on a hike with your furry best friend, it’s important to double-check that the trail is dog-friendly! Below are my best tips to help you do so!

Trust me, there are some epic pup-friendly trails to explore.

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 a lot 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.

Are National Parks Dog-friendly?

National parks in both the USA and Canada vary in their level of dog-friendliness, with policies often dependent on park regulations and considerations for wildlife conservation. While some national parks welcome leashed dogs on designated trails and in certain areas, others have more restrictive policies to protect the park’s ecosystems and wildlife habitats.

Many national parks allow dogs on paved and developed areas, such as campgrounds and picnic areas, but restrict their access to backcountry trails. If planning on hiking in a national park with your pup, it’s important to do research beforehand to ensure they are welcome to join you (or you may be extremely limited during your visit).

A person and dog hiking on a wooden bridge.

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. If you happen to find an off leash trail, be sure to keep your dog close and under your control throughout the entire hike.
  • Bring one dog– Two dogs can be 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.
A woman takes her dog on a hike through a forest.
  • 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 your dog is not a wild animal. Bring bags to carry out dog’s waste. 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 poison oak, tainted water, and even wild animals. Keep them on a leash so they stay close by.
A woman hiking with her dog in the woods.

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!

A woman with a backpack hiking with her dalmatian dog.
Lucky Business/Shutterstock

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.

A woman sits on top of a rock with her dog at sunset while hiking.
Cameron Stephen Prins/Shutterstock

What to Pack on Day Hikes with Dogs

In addition to packing your human hiking essentials, it’s also important to make sure your dog is ready to go. Here’s a dog-friendly hiking packing list!

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 homemade dog 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.

A woman hiking with her dog, taking a break to pet the furry companion.
MZStock/Shutterstock

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.

A woman is giving her dog water while hiking in the woods.

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.

How to Properly Fit a Doggy Hiking Pack

Ensuring a hiking pack fits comfortably and securely on your dog is essential for their safety and enjoyment on the trail. When fitting a hiking pack for a dog, it’s crucial to consider their size, breed, and physical condition (just like when you picked out your perfect pack!)

Begin by selecting a pack specifically designed for dogs, ensuring it’s lightweight, adjustable, and equipped with padded straps to minimize discomfort. Proper fit is crucial, with the pack snugly secured around the dog’s chest and belly without restricting their movement or causing chafing.

Adjust the straps accordingly, ensuring they are snug but not too tight, and distribute the weight evenly between both sides of the pack.

As stated previously, be sure you gradually introduce your dog to wearing the pack through short walks and slowly increase the load to build their strength and endurance.

A dog wearing an orange backpack hiking in the woods.

What Should I Bring when Hiking with my Dog?

  • Dog first aid kit (see detailed list below)
  • Drinking 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
  • Flashlight
  • 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 heat stroke
  • Jacket if rainy or snowy
A dog wearing an orange backpack while hiking in a forest.

Potential Hazards when Hiking with Pets

I hope your hiking trip is as stress-free as possible and that you won’t have to worry about these potential hazards for you or your pet, however it is still important to be aware of potential harm before your trek.

It’s always better to be safe than sorry!

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!

A woman and her dog enjoying the view from the mountain top.
dezy/Shutterstock

These are the most common dangers and preventive measures 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, be sure to pack extra water, offer water more often than you think, 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 as their immune systems are not equipped for this. 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 rate and breathing.
  • Paw injuries– Your fur baby’s delicate paws are at a higher risk of getting hurt from sharp rocks 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.
A dog laying on a blanket in the sand while hiking with your dog.

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
  • Collar
  • 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.

A person preparing for a hike with their dog by packing a dog's first aid kit into a backpack.

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.

It’s also a good idea to pack a dog evacuation kit in case the worst case scenario happens and your dog isn’t able to walk back. These packs typically come with a human harness and dog harness where you would be able to strap your pup to your back.

A person walking with a dog on a trail in autumn, enjoying the beautiful colors of the season.
ivica Kerkez/Shutterstock

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 that dog owners 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.

A person holding a green pouch customized with hiking tips that says tick kit.

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
  • Elbows
A tick is held with some tweezers.
Napat/Shutterstock

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.

A woman hiking with her dog through a forest.

Hiking with Dogs Recap

Ultimately, hiking safely with your dog means thinking about their needs and accommodating them. If you follow all these tips, you and your pup will be able to hit the trail in no time!

Here’s a quick recap of everything we discussed!

  1. Train your dog beforehand (slowly work up to longer hikes).
  2. Teach your dog trail etiquette & basic trail commands.
  3. Test out gear to ensure your dog is comfortable.
  4. Visit your vet to make sure your pup is healthy enough for a hike.
  5. Research dog-friendly trails.
  6. Follow the Leave No Trace Principles.
  7. Prepare for potential hazards.
  8. Pack a dog-friendly first-aid kit.
  9. Check for ticks.
  10. Pack your dog’s own water.

Hiking with Dogs FAQ’s

Can puppies go hiking?

Yes! However, it’s best to wait until they have all their shots to ensure they are safe! This typically happens around 5 months. Then, double check with your vet to make sure your puppy will be able to handle your desired hike.

Does my dog always have to be on a leash when hiking?

Most trails and states require dogs to be leashed during the hike. However, there are some trails that allow an off leash dog as long as they are close and have great recall skills.

Can my dog drink from streams, ponds, and lakes while hiking?

No, your dog should not drink from unfiltered water sources while hiking. They can contain water-borne pathogens that can make your dog very sick. Make sure to pack enough water!

How do you prevent Lyme Disease in dogs?

Before your hike, talk with your vet about the best Lyme Disease preventative medication, then be sure to check your pup for ticks after you return.

What are the top potential hazards to watch for when hiking with a dog?

Heat Stroke, paw injuries, exhaustion, drowning, water borne pathogens, ticks, u0026 wildlife

How much water should I pack for my dog on a hike?

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.

How far can my dog hike?

At most, an active medium to large-sized dog can trek up to 30km a day. Be sure to train beforehand and make sure your pup is healthy enough before taking a long hike.

How much weight can by dog carry in a hiking pack?

25 percent of their body weight.

It’s no secret that dogs make your life better! Hiking with your dog is a great way for both of you to get exercise and spend time outdoors together. It’s time to start exploring old and new trails together! The outdoor adventures await for you and your furry hiking buddy!

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Bella Bucchiotti

Bella Bucchiotti of xoxoBella is a storyteller, food lover, dog mom and adventure seeker living on the Pacific coast. She shares her passion for recipes, dogs, sustainability, adventures, travel and philanthropy, in hopes of encouraging followers to run the extra mile, try new recipes, visit unfamiliar places and stand for a cause. Bella lives with Type 1 Diabetes and Celiac Disease.

Bella Bucchiotti is a freelance food, travel, and lifestyle writer for MSN and the Associated Press Wire.

Welcome to xoxoBella! I am Bella Bucchiotti and I am a recipe developer, content creator and writer. Here you will find delicious recipes, travel inspiration, crafts, pet tips and more.

Leave a Comment

  1. Amber Myers wrote:

    This would be fun. I only have cats though and I don’t think they’d tolerate the hiking.

    Posted 5.31.21 Reply
  2. Mimi wrote:

    My dog is too anxious to go on hikes during the day but I always take him on long walks at night, I live on a hill so it’s kind of like a hike right? ahahah

    Posted 6.1.21 Reply
  3. Mimi wrote:

    My dog is too anxious to go on hikes during the day but I always take him on long walks at night, I live on a hill so it’s kind of like a hike right? ahahahah

    Posted 6.1.21 Reply
  4. I don’t have a dog but I love hiking and hope to have a dog one day. I’d love to take my future dog on a hike!

    Posted 6.1.21 Reply
  5. What great tips for hiking with your dog! As a soon-to-be dog owner, going out and about with pup is one of the reasons I’m excited.

    Posted 6.2.21 Reply
  6. Irene wrote:

    If one day I have a dog I will take him with me when going for hiking. Now I have a cat and it is not a good idea to take her with me……

    Posted 6.5.21 Reply