Woman walking the dog in the forest, Bernese Mountain Dog,  Transylvania, Romania

How to Go Hiking with Your Dog: 5 Tips

(Last Updated On: October 16, 2020)

Hiking can be a good way to provide both physical and mental health benefits to dogs and the dog owners and it can also be a fun and great bonding session. To have a successful hike, it is crucial to ensure you make plans beforehand and find out all precautions and safety measures you should observe. With good preparation and research, both you and your dog can have an amazing experience.

  1. Determine if your dog can be able to hike

Not every dog breed is capable of hiking for many reasons. Some for health complications and some because they are not known for endurance. Before you plan a hiking trip, ensure your dog has no health issues and is physically fit enough to keep up with the pace and endure the heat. Old or young dogs may not have the stamina to go on hikes and cannot handle the same intensity as other mature dogs. For young dogs, the excess strain on growing bones can cause pain and lead to future issues with regular development. On the other hand, some dogs like the Boston terriers or even pugs, do not have high endurance and do not do well in the heat.

  1. Find a location for hiking

Unfortunately, not all hiking trails welcome dogs, and sometimes when they do, they always require the dog to be leashed. It is very important to familiarize yourself with the rules of potential hiking trails to avoid hefty fines and find out the possible dangers that you should watch out for. The ideal location for hiking with your dog should have blazes, trail signs, markers, plenty of shades, and one with no or less sharp rocks, steep drops, and surfaces that heat up too much when sunny.

  1. Prepare your dog for hiking

Before the hiking trip, you should build up their endurance. You can start by easing them in by doing short hikes with them to build and boost stamina, toughening their paw pads. With every short trip, you can increase the distance you cover, also adding inclines like hills if there is a possibility your hike will include raised trails. These short hikes will help build up the dog’s muscle strength before the hike and hence prevent any soreness or injury.

After every hike, make it a habit to check your dog over. For example, you can check the paws for any cuts, grass seeds, or ticks, check the tail for any stuck foreign objects, or the mouth for cuts on gums or abrasions around the mouth area. In case you find something, you are not sure about how to deal with it, visit a vet.

Besides, visiting the vet beforehand is crucial. This is to ensure your dog has had all the vaccinations they need and get any additional vaccination required based on what area you will be hiking. Your vet will also be able to advise on what parasite preventative will be the best option for your dog depending on your hiking plans and the environment.

  1. Offer an obedience refresher course for your dog

This is important as even the best-trained dogs can forget or ignore commands in a new environment with wildlife or a new interesting smell. Retrain your dog before your hiking trip with practice as it could prevent them from getting hurt. Also, practice leash skills at home before you visit a hiking trail that can be distracting. Refreshing these commands are helpful when you want your dog to drop it, sit, or leave it.

Proper training of the dog is very necessary as lack of training can be a danger to you as the owner, other hikers, or even to the dog itself. This comes in handy when the dog gets overexcited in nature and you can command them back.

  1. Supplies for hiking with your dog

Every hike no matter how short, requires a few supplies packed. Below are the most important supplies to pack but based on preference, one can get more.

  • Water

Bring enough water for both you and your dog as you cannot hike without water. You should never allow your dog to drink water from any standing water, rivers, or streams to avoid your dog getting any waterborne pathogens. Also, it is important to carry either a water bowl preferably a collapsible one, or a water bottle so that your dog can have a comfortable way to drink the water. Stop frequently to give your dog water and rest mostly on the shades. Use your own thirst as a guide as to when to offer your dog water.

  • A dog’s first aid kit

Carrying a first aid kit on your hiking trip will enable you to doctor any bites, sprains, or burns. Also, throw in some common medication as they might need it. If you do not own a first aid kit, you can purchase one with all the essentials. The most ideal one should include a first aid guide, an antibiotic ointment, a tick removal tool, saline solution, antihistamines, and stretchy bandages. Ensure you know how to use the first aid kit, so just in case of an accident, you can stabilize your dog before they get to a vet.

  • Poop bags

Picking after your dog is a crucial hiking etiquette. Ensure you bring along poop bags to carry out your dog’s poop. Your dog’s waste can cause problems for local creatures and affect the water supply. Also, leaving their poop is a potential mess for other hikers. Make sure you are aware of the waste policies to avoid getting in any trouble.

  • Dog Food

Your dog will be using more energy than usual just like you so you may need to increase the portions to ensure it can sustain the level of exercise. Stash some food in the backpack so that they can refuel.

  • Treats

Pack plenty of treats to encourage every good behaviour while hiking. The more protein the treats have, the better for the dog.

  • A leash or a harness

A dog harness is an essential tool for any dog walk and should be packed. Also, you should consider bringing along an extra leash just in case your regular one breaks or you need some extra leash strength to tether your dog. Keeping your dog on a leash is important to avoid your dog scaring other hikers away, the dog running off-trail, and even prevent your dog from falling.