Hiking with your dog can be a great bonding experience. The sights, sounds and smells of nature are exciting for dogs and humans alike. But before you hit the trails, you’ll need to consider a few things to ensure a fun and successful adventure.
Assess Your Dog’s Ability
- Age. Though short trails are probably fine, dogs should be fully developed before you take them out on hikes. Usually this means your pup is at least a year old, but consult your vet just in case.
- Size. Due to their short legs, smaller dog breeds will have a more difficult time on long trails or trails with rougher terrains.
- Stamina. If you aren’t very active, chances are your dog isn’t either. Be mindful of how steep a trail you choose as well as how long it is.
- Behavior & Training. There is a high likelihood that you will encounter other hikers and dogs on the trail, so it’s important that your pup obeys basic commands such as heel, sit, stay, and come.
Choosing the Trail
Scout out dog-friendly hiking trails before you set out. Make sure to read up on the rules of the trail to learn whether it’s Carry Out only or if you’re allowed to bury your dog’s poop.
When choosing a dog-friendly hike, be mindful of the terrrain and distance. Like humans, dogs have different fitness levels and some dogs are better equipped for hiking than others. So it’s important to choose a trail that is reasonable for your dog to complete. As for terrain, a safe bet is a hiking trail with shade and soft terrain, such as one covered in leaves or needles.
Avoid trails with sharp rocks and ladders. And be wary of trails that take you along cliffs. Put a leash on your dog and move slowly and calmly if and when approaching cliffs.
What to Bring
- Leash: Bring/use a heeling leash, or a leash that is 10 feet or shorter.
- Water/Water Dish: Bring at least a quart of water for every 3 miles you plan to hike with your dog.
- Food/Dog Treats: Even for short hikes, it’s important to bring food for your dog. This will also ensure that he doesn’t go “begging” for food from other hikers.
- Fitted Collar/ID Tags: Make sure your tags include at least your dog’s name and your phone number.
- Plastic Bags: Always clean up after yourself and your dog.
Additional Things to Bring:
- Dog booties
- First aid kit
- Properly fitting dog backpack
- Dog sunscreen
- Dog brush
- Spare rope
It’s likely you will come across other hikers and dogs while out on your hike. Here are some basic hiking guidelines to follow:
- Keep your dog with you and under control. Your dog should always be in sight and able to hear commands.
- Give dog-less hikers the right of way.
- Say hello to hikers as you pass by to ensure your dog feels safe and comfortable around the other people and dogs.
- Clean up after dog. Carry out your dog’s waste or bury it depending on the trail rules. If burying the waste, make sure to avoid areas near water or campsites.
- Don’t allow your dog to disturb plants or wildlife.
- Steer clear of poisonous plants such as poison ivy and oak.
- Allow time for rest, water, and snack breaks.
Once you’ve chosen the trail and packed the essentials, it’s time to go out and enjoy nature with your best friend.
Don’t forget to check for fleas and ticks after the hike!