I’m an avid hiker as well as a dog lover, and I firmly believe there’s nothing better than hitting the trails with a furry friend by your side.
Over the years of hiking with dogs—sometimes in very remote locations!—I’ve learned a lot about keeping dogs safe on expeditions. These tips and tricks that have helped my dogs and I hike together, starting with the absolute basics.
Pack the Ten Essentials
Like the Ten Essentials for humans, the Doggie Ten Essentials will help in case of an emergency, such as an injury or needing to spend an extra night in the woods. The checklist includes:
- Obedience training. Will your dog come when called? Can they be trusted to listen to you if faced with other hikers or wildlife?
- Dog backpack. You’re carrying the necessities—and so can your dog!
- Canine first aid kit. Your dog could be injured or ingest something they shouldn’t on the trail.
- Treats and food. Bring lunch for your dog and high-value treats to reward them (or lure them back to you.)
- Leash and collar. Even on trails where off leash dogs are acceptable, it’s good to have a leash with you in case of an emergency.
- Water and water bowl: Make sure you carry enough water for you and your dog, there may not be water sources along the trail.
- Poop bags. Leave no trace principles mean you should pack your dog’s waste out of wilderness areas. If trails permit, you can also bury waste in a hole away from water sources.
- Insect repellent. If you’re being eaten alive by bugs, you can bet your dog is being bitten too. Make sure your dog is up to date on flea and tick prevention too.
- Booties. Dog booties can help if your dog is injured, if the terrain is rough, or if it’s particularly icy out.
- ID Tags and photo identification. Make sure your dog’s microchip information and ID tags are up to date in case you get separated. Also, have a recent photo of your dog on hand so you can show other hikers what they look like.
You don’t want to take Fido on a strenuous trail before building up their endurance. To improve your dog’s fitness:
- Take long walks, and start walking up hills in your neighborhood.
- Fill their backpack with some of their belongings to get them used to carrying something.
- Bring your dog hiking only if they are a breed suited to long walks. Brachycephalic dogs like French bulldogs, Boston terriers, and bulldogs may have trouble on the trail.
- Check with your vet before partaking in any new activities with your pup.
Check the Weather
If it’s above 85 degrees it’s too hot to bring your dog hiking. Dogs can’t sweat (except between their toes) and sometimes panting isn’t enough. To avoid overheating:
- Hike early in the morning or later in the evenings.
- Check their feet: the hot ground can burn their paw pads.
- Bring lots of water. Have a bowl specifically for your pooch and bring enough water for both of you.
- Know the signs of heat exhaustion:
- Rapid panting
- Bright red tongue
- Pale gums
- Sticky, thick saliva
If your dog is exhibiting signs of heat exhaustion, try to keep them as cool as possible until you can get them to the vet.
Know Your Trail
Know before you go—some trails have rules regarding usage by dogs (for example, dogs aren’t allowed on trails in National Parks), and many require your furry friend to be on a leash. Here are some things to keep in mind when looking for hikes.
- Leash laws. Some trails require dogs to be on leash, and owners can get a fine if they do not comply with the law.
- Bag up the poop. And then carry it with you to dispose of at the end of your hike.
- Wildlife. Some areas are sensitive and may be the home to creatures that won’t take kindly to a curious dog.
- Treacherous areas. Cliffs, raging rivers, and steep drop offs all pose significant risks to our dogs, so keep them in leash when in doubt.
- Your dog’s temperament. If your dog is reactive or anxious, a busy trail is not the best place for them.
For me, hiking with my dog is one of the greatest parts of dog ownership. There’s nothing like watching our furry friends wag their tails as they explore a trail. Be prepared, watch the weather, and follow trail etiquette, and you can’t go wrong. Truly!