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Hiking with Your Dog: A Practical Guide

Hiking with Dogs: A Practical Guide

Hiking is a remarkable way to enjoy nature and reconnect with your surroundings. Want to know how you can make it better? Let your furry friends tag along! ‘A dog being a man’s best friend’ holds for when you are on a hiking trail as well.

If you haven’t considered this idea before, it is time to give it a shot. Taking your dog along with you on a hike makes for an excellent bonding activity too. And come on, who would appreciate the great outdoors better than a dog!

You are just where you need to be if you are wondering how to go hiking with your dog. As a dog-owner, it is only natural to stress about your dog’s health, gear, food, safety, etc. But don’t worry, we are here to help you out! Check out our complete guide to ‘Hiking with Dogs’, so you and your canine companion can make some fun memories.

Why Go Hiking with Your Dog?

Taking care of your dog while dealing with the exhaustion of hiking seems rather hectic and troublesome. But trust us, it is worth all the preparation. Bringing your dog along on your hike will only make exploring the backcountry a lot more fun.

Your dog will also have a change of surroundings which means new sceneries, sounds and scent. This will contribute to your dog not only getting a physical workout but also a mental one. It is also helpful to have your pooch around as they can sense danger. Your dog will be so excited to be outdoors, he/she will keep you on your toes the whole time!

Bottom line is there are countless reasons why hiking with your dog will enhance your experience. It is always nice to keep your faithful little companion by your side when you are out enjoying the wild. The only downside is you will have a time so great with your dog, you wouldn’t want to go back without them!

Tips for Hiking with Dogs

1. Picking a Dog-Friendly Hiking Trail

Hiking with your dog 1You cannot pick just any hiking track to take you to do. Many hiking locations are not very suitable for dogs. Ensure that the hiking trail you choose does not feature a lot of sharp rocks, dangerous cliffs or valleys and risky slopes. These terrains have a rough surface that will be too harsh on your dog’s sensitive paws.

Another aspect that you must pay close attention to is the weather of your hiking destination. Figure out what kind of weather conditions suit your pooch the best and select a trail accordingly.

Many hiking trails also have strict rules about allowing dogs, so make sure you check their guidelines first. You can consult with staff members or park rangers of state and national parks for assistance.

If you are having trouble picking a hiking destination, check the following websites for guidance:

2. Carrying Sufficient Food and Water

This is an important one. Make sure that you carry enough food and water for both yourself and your dog. The amount of food and water you are going to carry depends on how much each of you eats, the duration of your hike, as well as the weather in the area.

After you calculate how much food you need for the trip, ensure that you carry a little extra just in case you fall short. You could face this situation if you lose some of your supplies to weather changes or surrounding animals. You might also want to pack a little extra to give your dog for their last meal for overnight hikes. Your dog’s vet is the best person to consult with if you are looking for meal recommendations.

Check this out to learn more about trail diet for your dog.

It is vital to carry enough water for your dog. Having a deficiency in water supply will have a significant effect on them. Here’s a great way to measure the quantity of water your dog needs: carry two ounces of water for every pound that your pooch weighs. You can also use water from freshwater lakes and streams around the hiking trail. Pay attention to your dog’s nose; if it is dry, your dog is not well-hydrated.

Dog water bottles are a great investment to make for these trips. You can also go for travel bowls if you think your hiking trip will last longer.

Here are some of our recommendations:

Dog Water Bottles:

Travel Bowls:

3. Preparing for Your Hike

The best way to ensure a hassle-free hike is for you to prepare your furry friend. You probably aren’t too worried about your dog because they seem like a little ball of energy. But that too has a limit.

a. Exercising

It is essential to start a training program for your dog a couple of weeks before your hike. You can start with short walks and slowly start to increase the level up from there. Planning a training routine will greatly help your dog build strength and endurance, making them fit to hike.

First-timers need to start with building their dog’s stamina. As we said above, start small. Keep the first couple of hikes short and simple. These can last about an hour or so. This will also help you and your dog build better chemistry as hiking buddies. As time progresses, you can make these hikes more challenging. This way, you can also learn how much your dog can take on the hike. If your dog looks overly weary after a practice hike, reduce the difficulty level before you proceed to make the hikes tougher.

b. Training

It is vital to teaching your dog how to be obedient, especially in the wild. With obedience training, you can ensure the safety of both your dog and fellow hikers. Make sure that your dog responds to basic commands such as “come”, “leave it”, “stay” and “sit”. You are responsible for everything that your dog does, so it is important to know how to control a situation.

Dogs that are untrained pose a threat to the surrounding hikers and other animals. You may also observe some erratic behaviour from them which may sometimes result in the provocation of wildlife. It is natural to think that you know your pooch the best. However, being exposed to the wild may trigger them to act unpredictably when they are exposed to the great outdoors.

Before your first overnighter with your dog, it is best to camp in the backyard before your trip to see what you need to work on. If you are also planning to use a backpack or booties for your furry friend, make sure you give them enough time to get used to the new equipment before the hike.

Find out more about training your dog!

c. Visiting Your Dog’s Vet

Planning a pleasant hike with your dog occasionally is an excellent idea. However, it is vital to take necessary precautions to ensure your dog’s well-being, during and by the end of your trip.

Here are some points that you need to check on with your vet:

  • Make sure your dog is physically developed. This refers to the bone growth of your dog. This depends on factors such as the age and size of your dog.
  • Your dog’s immunity system must be at its full potential. Check whether your dog is immunocompromised in any way before taking him out to the wild. This way, you can understand if your dog is fit for hiking and if there are any extra precaution you need to take.
  • You may not worry much about vaccines while living in the city. In the backcountry, your dog is at risk of drinking contaminated water from a nearby pond when you aren’t looking. They could be prone to contracting Leptospirosis or giardia. So, before setting out for your hike, make sure your pooch is up to date with all their vaccines. Make sure that your dog is up to date with their rabies vaccine and distemper shots as well.

d. Being Aware of Hiking Hazards

The first thing that came to your mind when you decided to take your dog hiking with you is their safety. While wanting them to have a great time, you also want to make sure they are okay. It is essential to be extra alert while hiking with your dog.

The wild can be dangerous and your dog may not sense some of these situations. Taking all the necessary measures will highly minimize the risk of any mishaps during the trip. Check out some trail hazards for dogs for you to keep your little pooch safe:

Overexertion: Pay attention to your dog’s heart rate and breathing. If it seems unnatural, it is important to take breaks more frequently. Shortening your hike is also a good idea if you think your dog is becoming fatigued. Another tip is to check whether your dog is limping; limping shows that your dog is extremely exhausted, and you can call it a day. It is crucial not to overexert your dog, so keep looking out for any signs of weariness.

Flora: It is important to be alert and aware of what your dog is eating to avoid potential problems with their digestive system. Watch out for ivy, poison oak, nettles, and sumac. Foxtails are found in grasses during the spring and summer. Their symptoms are relatively more severe so it essential to be on the lookout. If you find these foxtails on your dog, remove them with a pair of tweezers immediately.

Fauna: The best way to keep your dog safe from any wildlife encounters is by leashing them. Another concern while hiking is the possibility of your dog getting parasites like ticks and fleas. Don’t forget to pay close attention to their fur and get rid of pests if any.

Sun: Hiking in hot weather conditions can be quite a task. Make sure to take sufficient water breaks. You can also use a cooling collar if you find your friend settling down in the shade.

Here are some signs of dehydration you should keep watching out for:

  • Red tongue
  • Drooling
  • Pallid gums
  • Extreme panting
  • Not walking

4. Packing Your Dog’s Hiking Essentials

Many essentials are either necessities or bringing them would simply make your trek a lot easier. Apart from the basic such as food and water, there is other hiking equipment or gear that you probably haven’t thought of. So, check out our list of essentials and see if you have missed any:

First aid kit: A doggy first aid kit is a must-have for your hiking trip. Make sure your dog does not have any exposed wounds before setting out for your hike. This would make your pooch susceptible to infections. It is important to always be prepared for any kind of injury your pup may face during the hike. Common accidents include bleeding paw pads, animal bites or being hurt by thorns.

Your dog’s first aid kit must include the following:

  • Antibiotics
  • Aspirin (for pain)
  • Benadryl (for allergies)
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • A pair of tweezers
  • Bandages

Packing Pedialyte in your first-aid kit can also be helpful if your dog gets diarrhoea during the trip. However, don’t forget to consult your vet regarding it first.

You can check out the Red Cross website for more information about first aid kits and other essentials for dog-owners.

Dog backpack: Depending on your dog’s breed and size, you will probably be able to fit an appropriate backpack. They can carry some of their things in this bag. A lot of these backpacks have pads that offer a great cooling mechanism as well. This will minimise the risk of your dog getting a heatstroke. Make sure that you allow your dog to get used to carrying a backpack before your trip starts. You can do this by gradually starting small and gradually increasing the weight of the backpack during the practice hikes.

Flashlight: It is helpful to have an appropriately sized torch or light fixed to your dog’s collar. This is helpful for overnight hikers as it gives you an extra field of vision.

Towel, brush: It is natural for your furry friend to get all dirty and wet from running all around the place. However, it is vital to avoid getting all that dirt on your hiking gear. So, make sure to grab a towel, a brush or a comb and other cleaning supplies. This way, you can clean up your pooch from time to time and keep all your belongings safe and tidy.

Dog booties/ socks: Dog booties are extremely useful to protect your dog from rough surfaces on the terrain. It is best not expose your dog’s sensitive paws to the thorns, rocks, and other sharp objects in your hiking trail. If not booties, you can also use thick socks to protect their foot pads from any potential injuries.

Extra leash: It is always handy to carry an extra leash with you. It doesn’t require much space and you don’t know when you will need it. You can carry a short leash which measures up to 6 feet or less. This is the best option in the case of emergencies. It is essential never to compromise on carrying a spare leash as it is the most important equipment on your hike.

We recommend not to bring your dog hiking with you if you cannot carry them the entire time. For such situations, dog carriers are a great investment to make. Here are some dog carriers that you can check out:

5. Leaving No Trace

Cleaning up after our dogs is not something we particularly enjoy. However, it is so essential to constantly be looking after the trail to keep it clean and minimising the risk of other hikers contracting any disease.

Carry plastic bags that are tough and compact. It is best to double-bag the waste for extra measure. You can then keep this poop bag in an isolated compartment in your backpack until you find proper disposal. Another great tip for overnight hikers is to carry a small shovel. Digging a hole and burying the waste is a time-efficient and effective way for disposal. It is best to bury this waste about 200 feet from the camp, trail, or water sources. Be alert and keep watching if our pooch urinates in or around a water source.

Can You Bring Your Dog Hiking with You?

Hiking with your dog 2Ideally, most dogs would be vigorously wagging their tails to be out in the wild. However, many dogs probably will not be able to handle hiking. To check whether your dog is fit for hiking, you must consider some essential factors:

1. Age:

It is better to avoid taking incredibly young or very old dogs hiking with you. If your dog is still under a year old, it is better to leave them home. Young dogs do not have enough experience to sustain themselves in the backcountry. They are still in their growth and training phase, which makes them unfit for the trail.

On the other hand, old dogs lack stamina. They are most likely not as active as they were in their earlier years. It is best to keep your ageing dog away from the hiking trails as it may tire them out and makes them more susceptible to injuries.

2. Health:

As we discussed earlier, it is obvious to want your dog in great physical condition for them to be healthy throughout your hiking trip. Again, remember to consult your vet regarding your dog’s foregoing health problems if any.

Do not forget to consider any genetic susceptibilities your dog may have, for example, Labradors have congenital disorders which make hip dysplasia hereditary in them. Nevertheless, labs can still be great hiking companions. All you need to do is keep their limitations in mind and pay attention to any signs of sickness they may be showing.

3. Breed:

There are specific dog breeds that are just not cut out for extended hours of hiking. Brachycephalic breeds are not the best hiking buddies there. This breed of dogs has relatively shirt muzzles that impact their respiration, which consequently makes it harder for them to endure in hot weather conditions and long hikes. If you at all end up taking your short muzzle for a hike, be on the lookout for a potential heatstroke and try not to overexert your pooch.

Hunting or herding dogs are ideally most suitable for trail hikes. These breeds include German Shorthaired Pointer, Border Collie, and Rhodesian Ridgeback.

German Shorthaired Pointers have incredible endurance, Border Collies have excellent energy levels and Rhodesian Ridgebacks are strong and agile, making three of these breeds of dogs remarkable hiking companions.

Check out this list of best dog breeds for hiking to learn more!

4. Energy:

The energy that your dog normally has is vital for deciding whether they make for a good hiking companion. If your dog is the type to just sit around the house all day, strenuous activities may not be for them. If you want to take your low-energy dog on a hike, it is better to keep your hike as short as possible.

Dogs with exceedingly high energy levels may be troublesome at times too because they never take a break. They may go out of control as well, ultimately tiring you out.

The best kind of energy that your hiking companion should have is the one that matches yours. High energy dogs will suit your hiking routine if you are an athletic person. If you are someone that just likes to hang out, you will find it easier hiking with a dog of lower energy.

5. Behaviour:

If you have a hyperactive dog that chases every butterfly and jumps at every squirrel, you know controlling it on the track is going to be a task. Sometimes, dogs tend to get overly restless when they are in the wild. This could be related to the kind of breed that they are. If your dog is the type to get excited over certain scents and sights, they may also forget the training you have given them.

An aggressive dog can become too much of a responsibility, hindering your hiking experience. On the other hand, timid dogs will be too fearful to move ahead on the hike. At some points, they will ask you to stop and turn back.

Dogs make for a good hiking companion when they guide you and stay obedient on the hike. Being able to control them on a leash is essential. As nice it must be to see your little friend so happy, but you must also ensure full control over it. This way you can ensure the safety of your dog and the people around you when it is necessary.

Practising the Proper Etiquette

Here’s some trail etiquette that you can practice while hiking with your dog:

1. Keep them on the leash:

It is a regulation of many state and national parks that if you are bringing your dog, they must be on a leash. Hence, make sure you go through the guidelines of the hiking trail to comply with all their rules.

Most times, keeping your dog on a leash is a strict rule as it is considered a safety precaution. So, it is important to ensure that your pooch shows good behaviour on the leash most of the time. You can make sure your dog doesn’t pull on the leash if you have given them some training earlier.

Also, avoid using a retractable leash. Retractable leashes might come of great use for your daily evening walks with your dog. But they are rather inconvenient to use when you go hiking with your dog.

Check out some of our favourite dog leashes:

A harness is also an extremely useful investment to make. It provides more support and control compared to the usual dog collar. Since you will be walking for extended hours, harnesses are the way to go.

Here are some great dog harness recommendations:

2. Watch out for fellow hikers:

The point of this is to keep your dog out of other hikers’ way. If your dog happens to be off-leash, quickly put them on a leash when you notice other hikers. You can then wait with your dog and give them until everyone is finished passing. It helps to pick a relatively wide trail.

There is also a good chance that your dog might start chasing passing cyclists. Make sure to immediately leash your dog when you see anyone ride close by. You can avoid any unfortunate accidents and save both your dog and the cyclists. Also, if your pooch is conveniently small, don’t hesitate to pick them up and hold them for however long.

If your dog is either aggressive or rather possessive of you, there will be a lot of barking. This will disrupt other people’s peace of mind. In this case, it is important to be considerate of your surroundings and let your dog sit this one out.

3. Respect wildlife:

As a dog owner, you are accountable for everything your dog does; this includes the potential threat your dog could to the wildlife. Make sure your furry friend does not disturb their surroundings. It is best to leave all the plants and animals alone. To avoid inevitable encounters on the trail, explore new hiking tracks or take some shortcuts.

Letting your dog bark makes you susceptible to wildlife attacks. You need to ensure that your dog does not chase other animals. This puts yourself, your dog, and other hikers at great risk. So, the best way to go is to let all the plant and animals be, leaving them undisturbed for other hikers to enjoy.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs))

1. How far can my dog hike?

On average, a healthy dog can stay active for about thirty minutes to even two hours. If your dog is old or suffers from conditions such as arthritis, they may not be able to continue walking for too long. You can determine how far your dog is capable of walking by observing how far they travel in your daily strolls around your neighbourhood.

If you wish for your dog to use a backpack, make sure you consider that as well while testing their stamina. You can also be on the lookout for any distress that the backpack may be causing to your dog.

Click here to learn more.

2. How much weight can I put in my dog’s backpack?

Various factors determine the amount of weight your dog can carry. These factors include size, age, agility, etc. Healthy, young pups can easily carry a third or even more of their actual weight.

3. Can I use dog carriers for my dog?

The answer to this question depends on whether you are using the dog carrier properly or not. It is best to consult your vet before you decide to use one. All in all, if you pick a good-quality, comfortable dog carrier, your dog should be simply fine.

4. I have a small dog. How do I hike with him?

Even though small dogs have a lot of energy, they generally do not have as much stamina as the bigger ones. Because they have little legs, they must walk twice as much as bigger dogs do. So, make sure to consider this point while planning your hike. However, this does not imply that your small dog cannot make for an excellent hiking companion.

A great tip with small dogs is to pick hiking trails that have relatively lower elevation. It also helps to pick a trail that is smoother and devoid of dangerous rocks. Keep checking if your little pooch gets tired and take enough water breaks periodically. Your dog may also find some terrains extremely challenging at times. So, make sure to help them when necessary by carrying them across the difficult terrains.

5. How can I carry my dog?

If your dog starts to get weary or hurts themselves on the hike, you will have to carry them while hiking. If you do not have a dog carrier, you can simply use your backpack.

But this is only in the case of emergency and immediate solution as using your backpack can cause discomfort and be unsanitary as well. Make sure the bag has enough space, sufficient ventilation, and comfortable straps. So, test out your pack before you set out hiking with your dog.

6. What can I do to make hiking fun for my dog?

Hiking may not always be the most fun activity for your dog. A great way to ensure that your dog has fun is to let them be. Allow your dog to be a dog! Let them run around and explore the great outdoors. While keeping ensuring basic precautions, let your pooch sniff around and enjoy being in nature. Keep taking frequent breaks to make sure that you do not overexert your dog. Also, don’t forget to show your dog regular appreciation!

Conclusion

It is time to start planning your trip with your best hiking companion! We hope this article helped you clarify your doubts about hiking with your dog. Following our simple tips and ideas will make your hike easier and a lot less tedious.

Don’t forget to pay a quick visit to your vet to get some meal planning tips and last-minute advice. A quick check-up will also help you understand if your dog is fit to hike. It is also essential to take your dog back to the vet for an overall check-up after your hike. This way, you will identify any problems or sickness that your dog may have picked up on the trail.

Here’s one last piece of advice: Attach an ID card to your dog’s collar with your contact information. This way, if your dog ever gets lost and is found by someone else, they will know who to contact.

Hiking with your dog is an incredible experience, for both yourself and them. All you need to ensure is that you have taken all the necessary precautions. It may seem a little hectic at times, but it will all be worth it in the end. Your first time hiking with your dog will be the first of many!

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