Hiking with Dogs

October 28, 2018

3 minute read

Peanut butter and jelly. Ernie and Bert. Dogs and the great outdoors. Some things are just meant to go together.

Sunshine and fresh air are good for all of us, whether we have two legs or four. Just getting out the door can put a spring into our steps. But if you want your pup to start dancing with joy and excitement, you know what to do: pull out the leash or spell W-A-L-K out loud. Roaming around the neighborhood together is FUN!

Beyond the fun, daily walks have all kinds of benefits:

  • They help keep you AND your doggo physically fit.
  • They provide mental stimulation for your dog.
  • Your pup gets a chance to socialize with other dogs and all kinds of people.
  • Learning about the world and how to interact with it increases Fido’s confidence.
  • Spending time with your dog strengthens your bond.
  • A tired dog is less likely to get up to shenanigans.

Heading out for a walk is a sure way to get Fido’s tail wagging. But let’s face it: walking around the same old city block every day can get boring. Why not switch things up a bit and go for a hike now and then? Hiking is more physically challenging, showcases incredible views, and gets you closer to nature.

If you’re game for the challenge, there are a few things you should consider before you head out to the trailhead.

Fitness

Hiking is more strenuous than simply walking on paved city sidewalks or even level graveled paths. Hikers usually traverse natural, rough terrain on mountain trails or other hilly areas. It’s important to make sure your doggo is up for the physical challenge.

If you walk your dog every day, it's easier to judge his fitness and endurance level. If your pup is very young or very old, overweight, a brachycephalic breed (the short-muzzled dogs like pugs and boxers), or has health issues, he may not be in the best shape. That’s okay! Those doggos can still go for a hike. But, it’s best to take their needs into consideration. Choose short, level, and looping trails instead of strenuous out and back hikes.

Other dogs may be in terrific shape but be couch potatoes at heart. You can certainly try taking these pups for a hike. But if their heart isn’t in it, there’s nothing wrong with sticking to neighborhood rambles and Netflix.

If you’re not sure whether hiking with your dog is a good idea, check with your vet. A vet visit before heading off on your first hike is a good idea anyway. Fido may need additional immunizations or preventative medications for the hike.

Not All Parks Are Dog Friendly

Do your research before heading out. Some parks don’t allow dogs at all. In others, dogs may be allowed in certain areas only. Check the park’s rules about leashes while you’re at it. If leashes are required, the park might insist on certain kinds (such as non-retractable ones).

If you’re thinking about hiking in a national park, the best place to find information about doggie rules is on that park’s website. The “Pets” page on the National Parks Service is also a great resource. As for state parks, the easiest way to find out about dog-related rules is to visit the state’s website and search for “dogs.”

Dog Training & Etiquette

Obedience and trail etiquette are key when hiking with your doggo. Even if you’re using a leash, your pupper needs to listen to you. You don’t want Fido barking and lunging at other hikers, doggos, horses, or wildlife.

Equipment & Hiking Gear for Dogs

A collar with tags and a leash are always a must, even if you’re headed to an off-leash area. Reflective ones are the best choice for hiking.

You can also train your dog to carry his own pack by starting slowly and having him wear a specially made dog backpack on trails. Most medium and large breed dogs can comfortably carry all their own gear, including:

  • Food and treats
  • Water bottle(s)
  • Canine First aid kit
  • Collapsable food & water bowls
  • Lightweight microfiber towel
  • Insect repellent
  • Clip-on LED light if you’re staying out after dark
  • Poop bags

Especially for long, strenuous hikes, get your doggo booties. Sharp rocks, thorns, excess heat, and ice and snow can be tough on paws. Take along spares! Booties are notorious for coming off and getting lost.

Keep An Eye On The Temperature

As a general rule, once the thermometer hits 85 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s too hot for most dogs to exercise. (Some dogs may have a lower threshold, especially brachycephalic breeds. You can gauge your own pup’s limits based on your daily walks.) If you’re planning to hike on hotter days, go during the cooler morning or evening hours. Use the hot midday hours to lounge in the shade or go for a swim.

Hiking with your dog can be an incredible adventure that strengthens your bond. Just make sure that you know your dog, do your research, and bring what you need.

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