Hiking with dogs is one of our favorite summer activities, and we’re hitting the trails. Hiking is a great way to get outside and bond with your dog, but it does require a certain amount of preparation. That’s especially true if you are hiking with your dog for the first time. Here are our pro tips for venturing into the great outdoors with your dog this summer.
Prepare for hiking with your dog
If you’re new to hiking, spend time looking up trails in your area. Bring Fido is a great resource to start for owner-approved trails near you. Keep in mind that just because a trail has better views doesn’t mean it’ll be easy for your dog to find their footing.
Make sure your dog is ready for hikes, as well. If they’re a working breed and in good health, they’re probably good to go. But you shouldn’t rush with dogs that are too young, too old, smaller, or brachycephalic, for example. If your dog has a physical condition that you think might slow them down on a hike, check with your vet to see if they’re ready. While you’re there, you can also ask about trail hazards that are unique to your area, and make sure your dog is up to date on vaccines and flea/tick prevention.
Here are some tips to help you prepare to hike with your dog:
- Look up the trail’s rules. Are dogs allowed? Are leashes required?
- Get a sense of how long the trail is and what the terrain is like.
- Find the nearest emergency vet in case your dog is injured.
- Ask about trail hazards, like waterborne pathogens, snake bites, and parasites.
- See if your dog is physically fit enough and if they’re the right age for hiking.
- Make sure they’re up to date on vaccinations, heartworm medicine, and parasite preventatives.
Train your dog for hiking
If your dog is a first-time hiker, start building up to the hike a few weeks in advance. Add distance to your normal routes over time so you know your dog can handle the whole trail. If you start seeing signs of your dog slowing down, you may need to push out the hiking date or rethink the idea.
While you’re pre-hiking, shake up your dog’s normal walking routine and walk them through new areas. You’ll be giving your dog exercise while showing them there’s more to the world than your usual routes. The new sights, smells, and sounds of a different neighborhood or walking trail will help prepare them for the excitement of the trail.
If you need to, you can give your dog a pack to wear to carry some of their supplies. Take your time to get them used to it. Introduce a pack to your dog slowly. Start with the sniff test, then place it on them without fastening it to get them used to the feeling of it. Offer plenty of treats when they sit still without trying to shake it off. From there, try fastening the pack and slowly add weight to it as your dog adjusts to walking around with it. Dogs can carry around 10–20% of their body weight in a pack, but build up weight slowly and make sure the pack fits properly. Ill-fitted packs can lead to rub sores or other injuries. Practice both inside and while you’re out walking around the neighborhood.
What to bring when hiking with your dog
You will want to make sure you are prepared with the basics, such as water and snacks, but what exactly will you need? Here’s a list of what to bring:
- For the dogs: water, bowl, treats, collar with current ID, leash (and harness if needed), and poop bags. More advanced hikers might want a GPS dog collar. If you live in a warm climate with little tree cover, you will also want to consider dog booties.
- For the people: water, snacks (fruit, nuts, trail mix), phone with compass/GPS, first aid kit, sunscreen, hat, sunglasses, backpack, tissues, and an antihistamine (just in case).
On the hiking trail
To ensure you have a fun and successful outing, be sure to stop regularly for water and treat breaks. Also, it’s important to keep your dog on a leash and steer clear of critters. You will also want to avoid hunting areas and poison ivy, oak, and sumac.
The #1 rule for hiking is to be respectful. Practice the “Leave No Trace” rule to be considerate of other hikers as well as nature. Leave the trail as it is without taking anything (besides photos) or leaving behind any waste.
What to avoid when hiking with your dog
There are parasites and other health risks that could lurk in water sources, so neither you nor your dog should drink from them without proper sanitation first. You will also want to avoid going on the trail on the hottest or coldest part of the day, so be sure to check the weather. This, along with keeping a slow pace will help keep everyone from overexerting. Keep a watchful eye out for signs of overheating and don’t leave your dog unsupervised in the car for any reason. Remember, dogs do not sweat as easily as we do and become overheated much more quickly.
Learn more about how to keep your dog safe with our summer safety tips.
If you follow these guidelines, you are sure to enjoy many fun bonding experiences in the great outdoors with your dog. Now, get out there and take a hike!