As the seasons begin changing, we're heading outside for a hike with our best canine buds! Not only is it a great exercise for us humans, but it's a great excuse for some human/pet bonding. Figuring out the gear you need and preparations to make before you set off can be a challenge.
We're here to make it easy for you. Check out our favorite hiking tips and tricks to make your outings more enjoyable and get your dog trail-ready.
Before You Begin Your Hike with Your Dog
Visiting the vet is the starting point if considering taking your dog on hikes. Know their overall health, what to bring in case of an emergency, and find out what vaccinations might be necessary.
Training can begin by going on small walks or mini hikes through basic trails near home. Adapting to the feel of a trail versus a paved pathway will help with preparation. Work up to having pups carry their packs and wear their booties, basically completing a full-blown “dress rehearsal”.
Bring plenty of clean water and food.It's vital for both humans and pups. Your dog will need more fuel when burning extra energy traversing trails. REI experts state “ Larger dogs might drink 0.5 to 1.0 ounces of water per pound, per day. Dogs 20 pounds and lighter will be closer to 1.5 ounces, per pound, per day." These are general guidelines, and signs for dehydration should be vigilantly monitored.
According to the AKC, signs of dehydration in dogs includes:
Loss of skin elasticity
Loss of appetite
Vomiting with or without diarrhea
Reduced energy levels and lethargy
Sunken, dry-looking eyes
Dry, sticky gums
Picking the right trail means finding something that fits the stamina level of you both, and making sure they allow dogs. Check out both state and national park sites to confirm which areas are open, and what the rules are.
Safety first! Know all the potential native wildlife and foliage that could pose threat to your pet. Keep an eagle’s eye while walking, to notice any strange signs or sounds before approaching something potentially dangerous. Keeping pups on a leash can ensure you have more control to avoid negative encounters.
Must-Have Dog Gear For Hiking
While many gadgets out there can be suitable for hiking dogs, some basic essentials are among the must-haves.
1. Dog Pack
Yes, it’s adorable—functional too. Dogs can carry some weight when it comes to their food and water. Consider your pup’s must-haves be sure not to overload the pack. Keep the weight evenly distributed on both sides.
We recommend: The Costco Hotel Doggy Adventure Wear Hiking Backpack With Water Bottle Set. It's durable enough to withstand any terrain and is padded for long-wear comfort.
Let's get real - is there anything cuter than a dog in booties? Beyond their cute factor, booties are meant to protect paws from thorns, brush, and other rough terrains. Let dogs get used to wearing these around the house because at first, it’s going to be awkward.
We recommend: Ruffwear booties are tough enough to withstand most surfaces. That means your pup can scale boulders and run ravines without fear of injury.
3. First Aid Kit
Your vet will discuss some of the most important things to bring in the kit—this will vary a bit from human kits. But absolutely bring along emergency supplies for furry ones.
We recommend: The Kurgo Dog First Aid Kit is packed full of important medical supplies and other essential items.
4. Reflective Outerwear
If you're planning to hike into the later hours, a high-visibility leash and harness can keep your dog safe. They'll also ensure you won't lose them in the dark.
5. Portable Dog Bowl and Water Dispenser
Like we mentioned earlier, a hydrated dog is a happy dog! Hiking whether it's cold or hot will increase your dog's thirst. A portable doggy water bottle or water dispenser will keep them cool and satiated.
We recommend: This Chewy portable dispenser and bowl. We love that any leftover water drains back in the reservoir, so you'll have to stop fewer times for refills along the way.
6. Special Bandana
Does your dog have special needs when it comes to hiking? Some pups aren't too dog-friendly and need others to stay far away on the trails. Others may be reactive toward people and similarly need their space. Whatever the issue may be, a bandana can help communicate your pet's needs to fellow trail hikers.
We recommend: This Do Not Pet Me Bandana from Amazon is highly visible in bright yellow. It should do the job of keeping other hikers and dogs away from your pet so they can enjoy the trail without disturbance.
7. Cooling Gear
Are you and your dog hiking the mountains on a particularly warm day? Cooling collars and mats can help regulate your pet's body temperature so they don't overheat.
We recommend: Ruffwear wins out again with their Evaporative Cooling Vest. It's designed to not only reflect sunlight away from your dog but also to pull heat from their core, effectively lowering body temperature.
8. Eco-Friendly Poop Bags
Leave no trace is the motto for hiking pet parents. It's important to pick up waste after your dog does their business. Ensure you're not harming the environment by investing in some eco-friendly or biodegradable baggies. Mother Nature will thank you.
We recommend: Wild One poop bags are crafted from a plant-based, eco-friendly corn starch blend. That means you can bag it up without feeling bad!
Hiking trail pet etiquette
A lot of the same courtesy you practice when at a dog park or just in public will apply on the trails. But here’s a refresher:
Clean up all waste, no matter how remote an area may seem. Dog waste is gross. It’s as simple as that. Bag it up and carry it out of the park or forest, along with all other trash. Leave no trace—that’s what keeps these areas gorgeous.
Have commands down to a science by the time you hit the trail. Dogs should be able to follow all the core commands to keep them in line in all situations, both social or downright dangerous.
Be certain dogs are prepared to see other people and know that you can keep them calm and cool when others pass by.
If you see someone coming down the trail, be the first one to step aside and allow them to pass.
Check the Trail Regulations
Not all hiking trails are dog-friendly, so it's important to check the regulations before you go. Some parks and trails may require dogs to be on a leash, while others may not allow dogs at all. Make sure you research the trail before heading out to avoid any surprises.
Be Mindful of Wildlife
Hiking with dogs can potentially disturb wildlife, so it's important to be mindful of your surroundings. Keep your dog on a leash and avoid letting them chase or harass any animals. Additionally, make sure to pick up after your dog to avoid leaving any waste behind.
Hiking can be tiring for both you and your dog, so it's important to take breaks along the way. Find a shaded spot and take a rest to allow your dog to catch their breath and cool down. Additionally, take the opportunity to check your dog's paws for any injuries or cuts.
Your veterinarian is going to have more detailed advice depending on your dog’s overall profile. Local parks may have in-depth guidelines as well. These tips will get pet parents started when readying a trail-loving pup! And don't forget, if your pup has any accidents or eats some stomach-churning local fauna while hiking, pet insurance is great to have on hand just in case! You can get a Figo quote here.
Editor’s Note: Ready to hit the trails with your pooch? These tips for off-leash adventures can help make your shared time on the trail fulfilling!
Karyn Wofford is a “Mom” to her fluffy, sweet dog Halli. She spends much of her time traveling and advocating for Type 1 diabetes—and Halli sometimes accompanies her on her adventures. You’ll find Karyn’s work on sites like Mother Earth Living, and in magazines such as Diabetes Forecast.