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Tips for mountain travel with your dog

Hiking in the mountains can be an unforgettable experience—spectacular views and a challenging climb can make it a real adventure.

When your best fur friend hikes with you, you want him to enjoy it, too. You don’t want him to injure his paws, or become so fatigued he can’t go on. Use our tips below to make his trip as much fun as yours.

Mountain Travel Tips For Your Dog

  • Get your pup to the vet for a check-up before you go hiking. Some breeds have more energy and stamina than others, but he needs to be healthy and fit for the trip. He should also be up-to-date on his vaccinations.
  • If you have a puppy, ask the vet if he’s old enough to hike. It can take a year or more for a young dog’s muscles, bones and immune system to fully develop.
  • Ask your vet about preventative medications you should carry along, in case your canine companion laps from a contaminated pond, rolls around in poison ivy or encounters a sick animal. Pack a few first aid items, too, like antibiotic cream and rolled bandages.
  • Bring plenty of fresh water. A collapsible bowl is a convenient way to ensure your pet can stay hydrated. Offer the water every 30 minutes.
  • Read the rules and regulations for the park or trail you’re visiting. Most national parks in the US don’t allow dogs, even on leashes, although leashed pets are permitted in most national forests and state and local parks.
  • If your dog isn’t used to other people and animals, gradually introduce him to them. Also, let him meet mountain bikers and horseback riders. Even if he’s leashed, you don’t want him to bark and thrash around when he sees a stranger.
  • Be courteous on the trail, and step aside if other hikers want to pass.
  • Watch for signs that your dog doesn’t feel well—like drooling, panting, trembling muscles and general weakness. Don’t hike during the hottest parts of the day, and if he gets heat stroke, soak him in water, or cool down him with a hose as soon as possible.

Mountain Travel Gear & Protection For Your Dog

  • You’ve probably heard the saying, “take nothing but pictures and leave nothing but footprints.” When it comes to your dog, don’t leave waste behind, either. Pack out the disposal bags, unless there’s a designated receptacle for them.
  • If you want your dog to wear a pack, take him along when you shop, so you get a good fit. Let him wear the pack when you’re just walking around, gradually increasing the time until he’s comfortable with it. Watch him so you’ll learn how long he can carry it before it needs to be removed.
  • Look for a pack with adjustable straps and mesh that allows ventilation. Check the pack often to be sure he’s not getting chafed or sore.
  • Hiking in the summertime? You dog’s nose and ears may need protection from the sun, and you’ll need something to repel mosquitoes, ticks and other insect pests. Your vet can recommend the best products.
  • Booties can save paws, if your pup will wear them. If not, apply paw balm to moisturize and protect his pads. Avoid hot trail surfaces that could burn them.

Planning ahead is the key to a great hike with your four-legged friend. Keep him safe and happy, and you’ll always have a buddy who’s ready to go no matter where you may roam.

Lynn Coulter is owned by two rescue dogs—Molly and Miss Paws—and occasionally blogs at She’s also the author of three books and a freelancer who writes about travel, gardening and more. She and her husband live in metro Atlanta, where they cheer for the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets and spend their money on dog biscuits.

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