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Need Tips On Going Hiking With Your Dog? Here’s What Experts Say

Are you thinking of taking your dog out on a hiking trail for the first time?

Not sure if this is a good idea or not?

We asked around and got some great tips from experts on the do’s and don’ts of hiking with your dog.

Kimberly Alt at Canine Journal has seven great tips for the first-timers.

  1. Know the rules of the area
  2. Pack lots of water
  3. Keep your dog leashed
  4. Take breaks in the shade
  5. Do not leave your dog unattended
  6. Check your dog after every hike for injuries, ticks, burrs, etc.
  7. See the vet beforehand to make sure Fido is fit for activity

Dan Tognotti of Brace Layer is focused on safety when he’s out hiking with his pup.

My dog and I are avid hikers in British Columbia, Canada, says Dan. I have a dedicated hiking collar for him, which has two bear bells attached to it along with my contact info. The bells are great for keeping tabs on where he is and for scaring off any potential predators during our adventures.

Michelle Henry of Outdoor Dog Fun wants us to remember that our dogs can’t always go everywhere with us.

Keep in mind that not all camping locations and hiking trails are dog-friendly, says Henry. Be sure to do your research ahead of time, so you and your pup don’t show up uninvited. For instance, while you might assume that National Parks are dog-friendly, they aren’t always so check in advance.

Natasha Nanji of Where’s Natasha has a great tip for dealing with potential dog allergies.

Carry dog friendly antihistamines, says Nanji. Just incase your furry friend has a reaction on the trail, it’ll get you by until you can get them further attention.

Benedryl will do, just be sure that it contains Diphenhydramine only, no additives and is NOT non drowsy. You vet can give you a dose for free if you call in 🙂

Helen Ledford of The Pampered Pup points out that backpacks aren’t just for humans.

Don’t sleep on a doggy backpack!, says Ledford. From treats to leashes, water, warm clothing, and beyond your pup can carry their essentials right on their back. This leaves you more room to organize your gear, and perhaps even a little less weight for you to carry.

Carol Osborne, DVM of Chagrin Falls Pet Clinic worries that we won’t keep our dogs safe from ticks on the trail.

Complications associated with dog ticks include: arthritis, anemia, skin irritation, blood loss, anemia, kidney failure, tick paralysis, and liver disease. Osborne also notes there are several effective prescription tick repellents, but some may be potentially harmful for dogs with certain conditions (dogs who are prone to epileptic convulsions, for instance), so always consult with your veterinarian on the best tick repellent for your pet before hiking.

Sharon Gourlay of Tasmania Explorer reminds us that the trail may hurt the dog’s feet.

Weather and rough rocks and dirt can impact your dog’s comfort as they hike, says Gourlay. That’s why protecting your dog’s feet is important and hiking boots are a definite must for any hiking trail.

Karen Hoglund of Karen Hoglund Photography wants dog owners to be prepared for an injured pup on the trail.

Here’s my best tip, says Hoglund. We have an older golden retriever, and we hike in the Colorado mountains near our home. We always include an emergency dog sling, Fido Pro Airlift, in our backpack.

If our dog were to cut his paw or twist an ankle on a hike, the sling would make it much easier to carry our 65 lb dog back to safety. Even if we never use it, we may come across another dog owner with an injured dog that might need it. We also carry a first aid kit for the same reason.

Mark Wilcox of Camping Forge suggest that we bring extra water along for the dog.

Bring collapsible bowls for water, says Wilcox, as well as a bottle of fresh waterfor your pup. Your dog will require water breaks along the way as well.

Kerrie Doerr, founder of Aquarium Friend and owner two energetic Cattle Dog mixes has several tips based on her hikes in the Pacific Northwest.

  • Know your dog so you can plan for tough situations. Do they dislike a certain breed of dog? What happens if you meet that breed of dog head-on in a trail? Are they scared of crossing bridges? What will you do if you encounter an off-leash?
  • Bring a collapsible dog bowl and extra water for them
  • Leave an extra towel in your car for muddy paws
  • If you’re doing a down and back hike, you can leave the poop bag on the way in and pick it up on your way out
  • Pick a hike that suits your dog. If your dog is a couch potato, don’t expect a steep 10-mile hike to go well

Lauren Baldwin, founder of PuppyWiki, suggests that we may have to take more breaks on the trail than we normally do.

I recommend taking frequent breaks, says Baldwin. Dogs are more prone to overheating since they don’t sweat, they release heat by panting.

You’ll want to familiarize yourself with signs of overheating in dogs (some of the most common signs include excessive panting, excessive drooling, and tongue and gum color changes). I’d make sure to check the weather before heading out on a hike to make sure it’s not too hot.

Tim White of Mile Pro wants dog owners to focus on safety on the trail.

Buy a small bear bell to put on your pup’s collar, says White. Even if you’re not in a high risk area, the jingling also makes it so easy to keep track of where she is.

Lauren Levy of Aden’s Mom brings us a great dog safety tip for the trail.

Leash your dog when approaching a steep cliff. Even if your dog has excellent recall like ours does, it’s smart to avoid a catastrophe by leashing him, or at a minimum, telling him to heel.

We live near a popular hiking spot (Fort Funston, San Francisco) where it’s common for firefighters to have to rescue dogs who’ve fallen off cliffs.

Alex Williams of The Body Training suggests starting out with a short, easy hike.

It’s a good idea to ease your dog into hiking to make sure that it’s a good idea for you to take him with you.

So, start out slow with a short hike that is relatively easy. Then ramp it up over time to work up to your regular trails.

Joan Hunter Mayer of Inquisitive Canine has lots of great tips to share with dog owners.

Do’s for hiking with your dog:

Teach your dog the skills he or she will need out on the trails so they can make good choices. For on-leash adventures this would include at the very minimum walking nicely on leash, leaving things alone when asked, eye-contact (when asked), and maybe greeting other dogs and people (if they’re likely to encounter such opportunities).

For off-leash, I’d recommend these skills along with a solid coming when called. The dog should also be comfortable on trails and the terrain, and want to go. He or she should also feel comfortable when around other dogs and people, should they encounter others on the trails.

Depending on where they are going, dog guardians will want to check with the dog’s vet to determine vaccinations and medications the dog might need. Lastly, pet parents will want to make sure their dog is wearing the right gear and that they bring essentials such as water (and maybe a treat or two) for longer hikes.

Please don’t — when hiking with your dog:

Don’t take a dog out hiking if they have not been trained. And, make sure the dog actually wants to go. Maybe they’re more of an “urban hiker” kind of dog.

Or, they’d rather play sports and go to the library as opposed to “ruffing it” out in nature! They should also make sure the dog is healthy enough and/or in good physical condition to adventure out.

Plan the adventure based on the dog’s skill and endurance level — a shorter, flatter trail might be better vs a single track that’s rocky and at altitude.

Lauren Fairley, DC, of Growing Wellness ends this article with several great tips to remember.

There are so many benefits to hiking with your dog! The combination of physical activity and being outdoors has a great effect on not only your health, but your dog’s as well.

Dogs get a lot of mental stimulation from the different scents they smell outside. Mental stimulation is just as important as physical activity for our pups. There is also something very healing about walking in nature and bonding with your dog. Here are some things to remember for your next adventure:

Before you hike, it’s a good idea to research the place you’re going to so that you know the course and if there are any dangerous spots to avoid.

Check the weather to make sure you and your pup are properly prepared- frost bite and heat exhaustion are no joke! Make sure you have good quality food in your system before you go, that way you’ll have enough energy to explore.

Stay hydrated! I always carry a little backpack with water for both myself and my dog. Get a collapsable water bowl, it really comes in handy!

Use a natural repellant like lavender, peppermint, or citronella to keeps ticks and mosquitos away. These scents are safe to use for both humans and dogs.

Be sure to carry extra poop bags. It’s handy to have a poop bag dispenser that is attached to your leash.

If you like your dog to explore, but are afraid of them running off, invest in a long retractable leash. This way your dog has the ability to “run free” while you still have control. It’s a win-win for everyone!

Lastly, always be sure to take your phone with you in case of emergency.

Other Considerations

And now, our tips on what to consider before hiking with your dog.

Are Dogs Allowed On The Hiking Trail?

Though you may aim to take your four-legged companion everywhere you go, there are some trails and parks where pets simply are not allowed.

For instance, it’s rare to find a national park in the U.S. that allows dogs on the trails.

According to the My Travel Pledge blog, the most pet-friendly national parks include:

  • Acadia National Park
  • Cuyahoga Valley National Park
  • Grand Canyon National Park
  • Great Sand Dunes National Park
  • Hot Springs National Park
  • Mammoth Cave National Park
  • Shenandoah National Park

Before heading to one of these parks, check the current regulations to make sure that you’re prepared.

For instance, you may need a leash of a certain length in order to take your dog on the trails.

And if you’re in the UK, then you can enjoy the 15 national parks there with your pup.

You can view the rules and regulation for bringing along your favorite four-legged friend on the National Parks UK website.

Are You And The Dog Prepared?

Though you might regularly do 13-mile hikes, consider for a moment if your dog can handle something like that.

If you’ve never taken your pup out on trails, then start with some short trails to see how he does out there.

Then, gradually work up to longer trails so that you can make sure the dog can handle the trail conditions.

And, if you’re intending on putting a pack on the dog, practice with it around the house so that he can get used to carrying around the extra weight.

You’ll also want to ensure that you have basic emergency and survival supplies for the dog.

Collapsible food and water dishes are a great way to make sure that your dog stays hydrated and nourished while hiking. 

Also remember to carry enough water to keep both you and your dog hydrated.

If the weather is cool, then you’ll also want to consider a dog vest and boots to keep Fido warm out there.

Even if it’s not cold outside, the dog boots are a good way to keep the paw pads from getting cut out on the trail.

And for rainy days, consider a rain jacket for your dog.

Follow Proper Trail Etiquette

If you’ve found a hiking trail that is dog-friendly, be sure to follow proper etiquette so that it stays that way.

This means picking up after your pup instead of leaving dog poop on the trail.

You’ll also need to keep your four-legged friend calm when other people and pets pass by you on the trail.

If you need to hold your dog to keep him calm, then do so.

If you’re unsure how your dog will react to others you might meet on the trail, then consider hiking with your pet in the off-season or on trails that are not frequented by other hikers.

Also make sure that you have a study leash before setting out for the hiking trail.

This means don’t bring your normal extendable leash. Instead, choose something more durable that is at least 6-feet in length, which is the most common leash requirement at parks in the United States.

And in the UK national parks, you’ll need one that is no more than 2-metres long (though requires may vary by park and in Scotland).

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