What You Need To Know About Hiking With A Dog

guidelines for hiking with my dog - feature image

Exploring the great outdoors with your four-legged friend is surely a blast. The benefits of enjoying the fresh air and physical exercise stand unparalleled. Research shows that going on the trail hiking with your pets improves the bond between you and your pup. Hit the trail to bond with your pooch and enjoy what nature has to offer.

Dogs need proper preparation just like humans do, so before you head out be sure to keep track of all the requirements. From packing the necessities to paw protection, here’s what you need to know about hiking with dogs.

6 Tips On Getting Prepared For Hiking With Your Dog

1. Visit The Vet

To ensure that you are all set to hike with your furry sidekick, a visit to the veterinarian is a must. Consult with your vet and enquire whether your dog is physically ready to hit the trail? The ability to embark on long trails depends on the age, breed, size, and so much more. Young puppies whose bones are under development, nursing dogs, and older dogs are advised not to.

Arthritis or hip dysplasia makes long trail hiking difficult. Brachycephalic breeds like Pugs, French bulldogs, and Boxers have less-efficient respiratory systems that make them prone to exhaustion and heatstrokes. The dog owner should consider such health risks before hiking.

2. Build Up Your Dog’s Stamina

Dogs too need to build up endurance and strength before they exert themselves on an adventure. This helps in avoiding muscle soreness and injury in the future. Start taking longer walks for training, considerations are to be made in the case of energy level in the first few attempts.

Choose easy trails and hikes for your dogs for approximately one hour. Your dog might benefit from more exercise if you cannot feel their ribs through their fur. Slowly build their abilities before hitting a lengthy hike.

3. Work On Obedience Training

There are a few basic behaviors that you should train your dog in. This will be helpful in situations involving another dog, on a leash or not, hikers, snakes, and other wildlife. You can teach the following commands to your dog yourself or get professional help to do so:

  • Sit
  • Stay
  • Down
  • Come
  • Leave it
  • Drop it

These are some cues that will keep your dog safe even if they are off their leash. Obedience training ensures your pup behaves appropriately in all situations. It helps them to control their impulses, respond, and stay focused even with distracting sounds, smells, and sights.

hiking with dog tips and how to pack a backpack

4. Prepare A Gear & Supplies List

Stay organized by planning and preparing a supplies list. Make sure that you remember all the essentials but don’t overpack either. A few necessities for hiking with dogs are:

  • Leash: A moderate leash under the length of 10ft or a short heeling leash is ideal. A dog on a leash is much easier to handle on a trail.
  • Dog brush: Keep a dog comb and/or brush to keep the pup’s fur unmatted and detangled.
  • Rope. This can be helpful when you need to tie your dog to a tree or another object.
  • Poop bags. Never leave your dog’s mess unattended. Pack it out in poop bags and dispose of them later.
  • Cooling vest. To soothe your dog when they get overheated, bring a cooling collar or a wet towel.
  • Paw protection. Bring along some paw protection wax or ointment to prevent sores or cuts on their paws. Paw booties equally work for most of them.

Dog first aid kit. The basic components of this kit are available at drug stores and pet supply stores. Stock up on these before your hike:

  • Bandage scissors
  • Dog toenail clippers
  • Tweezers
  • Cleansers and disinfectants like Betadine
  • Canine eyewash
  • Calamine lotion
  • Topical antibiotic ointments such as Bacitracin or Neomycin
  • Baking soda for bee stings
  • Vaseline
  • Enteric-coated aspirin or Bufferin
  • Pepto-Bismol
  • Dressings and bandages
  • Gauze pads
  • Gauze roll
  • Non-stick pads
  • Adhesive tape
  • Muzzle, in case your dog gets snappy due to injury

Dog packs for hiking enable dogs to carry their own supplies. Be sure to keep the packs lesser than 20-25% of their body weight. Avoid packs that do not fit properly to prevent injuries and discomfort.

5. Plan Your Dog’s Food & Water Needs

It goes without saying that food and water for dogs must be sorted out before you hit the trail. Carry at least a quart of water for every 3 miles you plan on hiking. Remember to carry a water bowl as well. If you find water sources on your trail, confirm that they are safe to drink from.

Just like you pack protein bars for yourself, stock yourself with energy-packed dog food. A few suggestions are:

Always look for signs of dehydration, exhaustion, or fatigue. Keep your dog rejuvenated with a drink or a treat at regular intervals.

6. Check For Vaccinations & Parasite Preventatives

There are risks for catching a tick or getting bitten by bugs when you are on the trail. Ensure your pet’s safety by making sure they have all the required vaccinations when you are at the vet’s. [1] This is because a hiking dog will come in contact with innumerable parasites as well.

Ticks, fleas, and insects also pose threat to your hiking companion. Keep your dog safe by asking for preventive measures suited to your pooch from the vet.

options for hike activities - follow guidelines and ensure best behavior

Etiquette For Hiking With Dogs

There are trail etiquette or “Petiquette” to follow while taking dogs hiking. Be sure to keep them in mind to have a happy and safe hike:

Ensure Your Dog Is Allowed In The Area

Make sure to take your dog on a dog-friendly trail. Choose a region that has been known for its inclusivity. Ensure that your dog is well behaved and within the range of your command. Only let your dog off the leash if it is allowed in a particular area.

Stay on the trail and obey any restrictions in place. It only takes a few unruly dogs for the land to become restricted to pets hiking with their owners.

taking dog hiking - hiking trails, safety precaution, and hiking supplies

Always Keep Your Dog On A Leash

Keep your dog on a leash out of considerations for pet safety and other hikers. Not all hikers with whom you come in contact will be comfortable with your pup. Make sure to be friendly with others so that they know that your dog is friendly.

Excited hiking dogs might start running wild as soon as they hit the trail. This interferes with the local flora and fauna by trampling the plants and leaving predator scent which prevents nesting and feeding.

Keep your dogs leashed so that you do not lose sight of them. This is essential to their safety and also avoids run-ins with an unknowing mountain biker. Leashing also keeps your dog away from the threat posed by other wild animals. Make sure you stick to the trail and walk on the rocks as much as possible to avoid damaging the plants.

Practice Leave No Trace Ethics

Leave No Trace principle requires you to clean up after your dog. Your pooch is not a part of the natural ecosystem of the hiking trail. Dog waste introduces new pathogens and parasites to the local ecosystem. Dog refuse also contains fecal coliform bacteria, salmonella, and giardia which pollute the trail and cause infections.

Make sure to keep plastic poop bags with you to pack your dog’s excretion or carry a small spade with you to bury it. Ensure that the hole you dig is 6 to 8 inches deep at the least and 200ft away from sources of water, shelters, and camping sites. Leaving without clearing your dog’s mess makes the trails dirty and unhygienic for other hikers as well.

options for hike activities - follow guidelines and ensure best behavior

Frequently Asked Questions

How far can a dog hike in a day?

Different dogs have different capacities and hiking does not come naturally to all dogs. A pooch that hikes regularly can cover almost 25-30 miles of a trail in a day. Regular dogs without specific training can go almost 5-10 miles a day easily, but they might have difficulty with breathing and stamina after that.

At what age can I take my dog hiking?

Age is an important thing to consider before you hit the trail. Older dogs have conditions that reduce their physical abilities like stiff joints and arthritis, which makes hikes difficult. Let your young puppies mature before you take them on hikes. The rigorous activity from the hike can damage the development of their bones and cause distress as they age.

How do I protect my dog’s paws when hiking?

While hiking, the paw pads of your dog may get sore. They also suffer from burns due to the heated terrain. To protect their paws from damage, invest in some dog booties, or some paw protection wax. Give sufficient training on how to walk in booties as many dogs find it difficult to hike in them.


Hiking with dogs calls for preparation and training that starts long before. Study the instructions to ensure a safe experience for you and your companion. Have a safe hike!