Hiking with dogs is an awesome bonding experience. There is nothing better than exploring nature with your best friend. There are lots of sights to see (and smells to smell).
But, are you prepared for the trail ahead to keep you both happy and hydrated?
Let’s make sure you are. Here are 5 Hiking With Dogs Tips to get you started down the path along with a complete list of dog hiking gear to pack.
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Hiking With Dogs
Research Dog Friendly Hiking Trails Before You Go
Trails can vary in degrees from beginner to advanced and it is best to know what you are up against before you start your trek. A quick Google search can provide information on dog friendly hiking trails near you. Another great resource for finding dog friendly hiking trails in U.S. National Parks is the National Parks Service, which has information on every park in all 50 states. Make sure to know where you are going, especially in heavily wooded areas. Print a trail map just in case—don’t assume you will have mobile service.
When hiking with dogs, be aware that your pooch may not be welcome on all trails or in certain areas of parks especially near beaches or on nature preserves. Most dog friendly hiking trails still require your pet to be on a leash.
But there are reasons for this, it’s not just anti-dog legislation. It is for the safety of your dog, the preservation of habitat, and the protection of wildlife. Odors left behind by dogs may prevent wildlife from returning to important habitats. Predators such as coyotes and mountain lions can hurt or kill your pet, even in the daylight hours. Dog feces left behind can disturb the natural balance and spread harmful bacteria, which brings me to the next point…
Be Willing and Prepared to Pick Up Your Dog’s Poo
Most dog friendly hiking trails have disposable (and sometimes biodegradable) poop bags to clean up after your pet, but don’t count on it. It’s best practice to be prepared and bring waste bags with you on your hike (or whenever you take your dog out for that matter). An easy solution so you don’t forget is to clip a waste bag dispenser like this one onto your dog’s leash.
There is nothing worse than walking a beautiful trail or a sandy beach and seeing some dog’s leavings soiling up the place. Remember, just as you wouldn’t litter on a trail (you wouldn’t, right?) you don’t want to leave dog poop behind to spread disease and potentially ruin someone’s day.
Pick Dog Friendly Hiking Trails Suitable to the Dog You Have
This one is complicated. As ambitious as you may be to scale rock cliffs or hike the Pacific Coast Trail, you need to remember your canine friend may have limitations based on age, breed or size.
Small puppers may seem like they are full of energy, but just by sheer size, they are limited. Snub-nosed breeds such as pugs and bulldogs can get fatigued and overheated easier than their long-nosed friends. Elderly and overweight dogs may need to rest more often.
Avoid long hikes at first to see how your dog responds. Don’t assume that they will be able to keep up with you. However, the opposite may be true and you may find yourself out of breath while your four-legged buddy is still raring to go.
Trail heads usually have information on the dog friendly hiking trails themselves. But you should already know the trail difficulty for you and your pet if you did your research.
- Related: 4 Helpful Road Trip Tips For Traveling With Dogs
- Related: Flying With A Dog: 7 Tips For Traveling The Skies
Be Prepared For The Worst When Hiking With Dogs
There are many unpredictable factors that come into play the minute you leave home. Going out into the wilds of nature increases that factor by 100 percent. Your dog could become lost.
Make sure your dog is microchipped and their information is correct according to the service. Even if you have your contact information on your dog’s tag, there is always a chance when hiking with dogs that they can break free from their collar and be running free without ID. Microchipping your pet can’t guarantee that they won’t get lost, but it provides a greater chance that they will be found if they do.
Collars and harnesses are always of a personal preference, but make sure you have one that your pup can’t slip out of whichever you choose. Harnesses are best for small and medium-sized dogs, and there are many different types. Your dog will feel more secure, and you will be prepared to deal with unforeseen confrontations on the trail.
- Related: 4 Best Dog Harnesses For Small to Medium Sized Dogs
- Related: 5 Reasons Your Dog Should Wear A Harness
Dogs are social animals, but if your dog has not been socialized around other dogs, you may have issues when you encounter dogs. Hiking with dogs in groups of other socialized dogs may help ease your dog’s fear anxiety over other dogs. Just make sure that you let them make their own introductions. Don’t force socialization.
Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate
Bring plenty of water for yourself and for Fido. Just because these are dog friendly hiking trails doesn’t mean there will be clean water supplied for your pet. A good rule of thumb is if you are thirsty, your dog probably is too. At the very least, provide water for your dog every hour, more if it is warm outside. A collapsible water dish is an easy solution. Don’t count on rivers and streams to satiate your pup, and don’t let them drink from puddles.
Most of all, be prepared for extremes in weather for yourself and your dog. If it is too hot for you, it is too hot for your dog. Rest often and find shade if your dog is panting more than usual. Dogs can suffer from heat stroke just like humans so be aware when you are hiking with dogs on hot days or in warmer climates.
Packing List For Camping/Hiking With Dogs
Here’s a complete packing list to summarize some of the items mentioned above along with other essential dog hiking gear you should bring when hiking with dogs:
Medication & Vaccination Records
Bring along any medications your dog may take, and make sure vaccinations are up to date. Also pack a copy of your pet’s vaccination records in case any campsites you’re hiking to require it.
Microchip & License
If your pet becomes lost during the hike, make sure he or she is microchipped and the information current. It’s much easier to locate a lost dog that is microchipped, than one that isn’t.
Harness and Leash
Make sure you’re in control of your pet and following any trail leash rules while hiking by bringing your dog’s harness and leash.
Food and Water
Bring enough food and water for the duration of your hike or camping stay.
Food and Water Bowls
Collapsible food and water bowls are the easiest to pack. These portable bowls here can actually collapse and clip onto the outside of your backpack so you don’t have to put them inside your pack when they’re dirty.
You can never have enough poop bags so bring lots!
Dog Hiking Backpack
For longer hikes, especially if you plan to camp out, you may wish to purchase a dog hiking backpack that your pet can wear. This will take some of the load off of your shoulders (literally) and be easier to access than digging around in your own pack to find their poop bags, water bowl, dog treats and food.
Insect Repellent or Insect Shield
Having your pet’s flea, tick and heartworm vaccinations up to date is a good start to prevent bites. For added insurance, bring along an insect repellent or a wearable insect repelling shield like this one to keep the bugs away.
Tweezers or Tick Remover
If your dog does get bitten by a tick, have some tweezers in your pack so you can safely remove it right away.
Reflective Collar or Light
A reflective or LED dog collar or any kind of clip on light you can add to your dog’s collar is a good idea for hikers camping overnight to keep pets in their sight.
Be sure to bring along your dog’s favorite toy for a little added comfort from home. Bringing a ball or a frisbee is a perfect way to play games with your dog and bond over your adventure together too.
Dog Hiking Boots
If you’re planning on doing a hike where the terrain is rough or the ground might be extra hot, it’s a good idea to purchase some dog hiking booties to protect your pet’s paws. These waterproof dog boots will provide the protection and traction your pet needs and ensure you don’t end up with an injured paw during your adventure.
Dog Life Jacket
If the dog friendly hiking trails you choose have a lake or beach that allows swimming, be sure to bring along a dog life jacket. Even dogs who are good swimmers can become tired especially after a long day of hiking.
In case your dog does go swimming or just gets plain old muddy from the trail, bring an old towel or two that you can use to clean him up or dry him with.
Research dog friendly trails and print a trail map at home before you leave.
Blanket To Sleep On
Hikers who plan to camp overnight, don’t forget to bring a soft blanket for your dog to snuggle up on in the tent with you.
Car Harness or Crate
To travel to and from the hiking trail, consider your dog’s safety while riding in the car. Dogs should ride in a dog car seat, crate or use a dog harness and seat belt lead.
Car Seat Cover or Blanket
The last thing you want is to bring the raw, dirty wilderness home with you in your car after your adventure via your dog’s muddy legs and paws. A car seat cover like this waterproof and scratch-proof one or an old blanket will help keep your car’s interior protected.
Want to save this dog hiking packing list for later? Here’s an image that you can pin and go back to when you need it: