Tips for Hiking With Dogs

Updated on March 20, 2018
HeatherVargas profile image

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.

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Rules and Regulations

Before taking your dog hiking on a trail with you I strongly advise you to educate yourself on rules and regulations about having animals accommodate 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, leash rules, and if they are even allowed within the area at all.

You can look up this information by a simple Google search about the National Park or Forest you're planning on going to for dog rules and regulations. 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.

  1. Have appropriate dog tag identification, vaccination record, rabies tag & certification, recent photograph.
  2. Have a trowel for "leave no trace" practices for your dog or doggie poop bags and pack out.
  3. Non-retractable, durable heeling leash around 6 feet.
  4. Well fitting collar or harness
  5. Some parks and forests require bear bells to be worn on dogs to lessen the chances of bear encounters. I'd recommend these whenever hiking in areas where bears are possible to be seen to avoid an encounter.

Hydration and Food Requirements

Just as much as nutrition and hydration is 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 and filter the water as well, even for your dog, who needs clean water too.

I've also heard of some people taking a long 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

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 dogs needs in case of minor injury while on the trail. Depending on how badly your dog is injured it may be also 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 one hand, I understand how some terrain may help your dog have a more comfortable hike with them and then, 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 and it's nice knowing for some that such an item exists for your dog.

Insects and ticks can be a major nature buzz kill 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 the appropriate tick and flea prevention for your veterinarian 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 natural sprays to breathable shield tanks to using bandanas 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 and also having handy bathing wipes to wipe down my dog's coat to help with getting rid of poisonous plant residue on their coat. I also will give my dog a bath when we get home as well.

Have Fun!

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 hiking test the waters with taking your dog to local parks and have them interact with new people often.

Dogs Love Hiking

Be sure to use these tips to have a successful and enjoyable hike with your four-legged friend and enjoy the time spent together and explore nature in a fun and interactive way!

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

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