Heather blogs about body positive outdoor adventure & loves taking her blue heeler on outdoor adventures.
Dogs Can Make Enjoyable Hiking Companions
Hiking is one of the most enjoyable outdoor activities for most people. Depending on the trail and duration, most people can enjoy the benefits of being outdoors by simply walking.
Along with enjoying hiking, people love their furry, four-legged friends and enjoy taking them wherever they go. Dogs are great companions and are a comfort for most in the outdoors. Taking your dog on these adventures can enrich their lives as much as yours; just do so responsibly. There are some important considerations and preparations to make in order to ensure a successful, safe, and enjoyable hike with your dog.
Rules and Regulations
Before taking your dog hiking on a trail, I strongly advise you to educate yourself on rules and regulations about having animals accompany you on the trail. Some National Parks and Forests have restrictions and rules that are strongly enforced: where your dog can hike, what trails they cannot be on, if they can even be on the trail at all, if they need a leash, and if they are even allowed within the area at all.
You can look up this information with a simple Google search for dog rules and regulations in the National Park or Forest where you're planning to go. If dogs are allowed, you can bet a few rules will be in place, and if they are not, I highly recommend doing a few things.
- Have appropriate dog tag identification, vaccination records, rabies tags & certification, and a recent photograph.
- Have a trowel for "leave no trace" practices for your dog or doggie poop bags and pack out.
- Use a non-retractable, durable heeling leash around 6 feet.
- Make sure your dog wears a well-fitting collar or harness
- Consider a bear bell. Some parks and forests require dogs to wear bear bells to lessen the chances of bear encounters. I'd recommend these whenever you're hiking in areas where bears are possible in order to avoid an encounter.
My Favorite Hiking Leash
Hydration and Food Requirements
Just as nutrition and hydration are important for you, it's very important for your dog as well. I have found it beneficial to pack 50% more dog food and snacks than what my dog normally eats. Your dog will be burning off calories as much as you, if not more.
It's also advisable to bring along at least one quart of water for every 3 miles of a hike for your dog. I also recommend that if you come to a water source and can fill up water reservoirs, go ahead and do so. Filter the water as well—even for your dog, who needs clean water, too.
I've also heard of some people taking along a small amount of Pedialyte to add to your dog's water to avoid dehydration. It's extremely important for you to be educated on the signs of dehydration for your dog to avoid any problems and know how to intervene and take action!
Taking along a collapsible water and food bowl will be helpful to refuel your dog's nutrition needs and allow them to hydrate as well. I recommend allowing your dog to take a drink every 15 minutes to an hour; this will also depend on how hot it is and how hard your dog is working.
Don't forget to take along some high-quality dog food and nourishing snacks for your dog as well. My favorite dog food for my dog is a grain-free dehydrated dog food for less weight. You could also try making your own dehydrated, raw dog food as well! Snacks I like to bring along are homemade treats, dried blueberries, dehydrated sweet potato slices, and natural, non-additive, sugar-free, peanut butter.
Dog safety is another key aspect to making sure you have a fun and enjoyable hike with your dog.
First and foremost, I advise having a dog-specific first aid kit that will contain items relevant to a dog's needs in case of minor injury while on the trail. Depending on how badly your dog is injured, it may also be beneficial to have a packable muzzle as dogs who are hurt can become aggressive, even your own!
I've seen some folks have their dogs wear dog-specific booties to protect their sensitive paws. I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, I understand how booties may help your dog have a more comfortable hike over some terrain; but on the other hand, you're in nature, and your dog walks on dirt, rocks, grass, and all sorts of things all the time. Just use your own personal determination on this. It's nice knowing that such an item exists for your dog.
Insects and ticks can be a major nature buzzkill for your dog as well. I always have a tick key on hand to remove ticks safely from my dog, and I make sure they have had preventative tick and flea medication as well. You can discuss with your veterinarian the appropriate tick and flea prevention that's most suitable for the area you live in or will be hiking into.
There are several products I've seen on the market for dogs to repel insects. I've seen everything from natural sprays to breathable shield tanks to using bandannas that have the ability to repeal those pesky flying jerks! I'd pop into your local pet supply store and ask about the best solution for insects for your dog.
Along with pests and bugs that your dog will not enjoy dealing with is another type of hitchhiker: entangled seeds and plant matter. I like having a brush or comb available to brush out my dog's coat before hopping back into my truck. I also have handy bathing wipes to wipe down my dog's coat and help with getting rid of poisonous plant residue. I also will give my dog a bath when we get home as well.
Above all else, have fun with your dog and use the tips and ideas provided to make the experience a positive one. Being well-prepared will limit the chances of an awful experience!
Always remember that other hikers without dogs have the right of way. Move to the side with your dog and allow others to pass.
If you're not sure how your dog will react to being around others while hiking, test the waters by taking your dog to local parks and have them interact with new people often.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
© 2018 Heather Vargas
Heather Vargas (author) from Colorado on August 04, 2019:
Hi there! I'm so happy you found my article informative! I would love to see those infographics! Sounds like a fun project! Cheers to boundless adventure in the outdoors!
Karthik S on July 23, 2019:
I was looking for some information to create an infographic on Hiking with dogs and came across your site.
Very informative and thanks for taking the effort. After completing the infographics., I would like to share it.