Hiking is a fantastic experience, and a great way to reconnect with nature, and work on your health. It makes sense that you want to share this experience with your dog.
After all, dogs’ favorite game is spending time with his favorite human, so hiking with your dog, for him, is like winning the lottery.
Plus, dogs are really great companions and watching them revel in sounds, smells, and the sight of nature is mesmerizing.
If you are a hiker, and a dog owner, then you and your dog should be outdoor exploring trails together.
Hiking with dogs provides health benefits to both the pets and the owners and strengthens their bond through shared experience. Still, just as you wouldn’t head out for a hike in open-toe shoes, there are certain considerations to be made for your dog.
Before you hit the trail with your dog, you should ask yourself the following questions:
- Do you have all the necessary equipment for your dog?
- Do you have a dog emergency kit?
- Do you know the hiking rules?
- Is your dog well trained to listen to you at any time?
- Is your dog used to long walks and unknown areas?
So, before you trail with your dog, make sure that you’re well equipped to ensure a great outdoors experience.
Dog owners are usually in love with their dogs. They love going together everywhere, and owners somehow assume that dogs are welcome everywhere.
Although many love animals, and especially dogs, there are places where dogs can’t enter. The same principle applies to hike. Many National parks do welcome dogs, but there might be restrictions about having dogs on the trail.
Always double-check if your dog is allowed to accompany you before you set out on a hike. If not, you might need to find another trail. There are always areas where dogs cannot enter, and you should follow the rules.
Your dog can have an impact on the environment by putting wild animals at risk. Dogs can also be a risk to fragile ecosystems, and so on.
Responsible Pet Owner Equals Responsible Hiker
If you can take your dog with you, and the rules say that your dog must be on the leash all the time, follow that rule – imagine if all hikers would come with their dogs and let them run freely… it sounds like a recipe for potential disaster and numerous attacks and bites, especially if there are anxious or more dominant.
Plus, not every hiker is comfortable with dogs smoothly running around. So, keeping your dog on a leash in nature seems fitting.
It’s your responsibility to learn about the rules of each place you take your dog before you hit the trail.
Importnant: Know when the hunting season is and avoid those places when hunters are out.
If you are a National Park fan, then you know that there are general pet rules and that each park may have its own additional rules.
It pays to practice the National Parks B.A.R.K. rule wherever you hike with your dog. B.A.R.K. stands for:
- Bag your pet’s waste
- Always leash your pet
- Respect wildlife
- Know where you can go
This rule is considered to be the most important hiking etiquette when it comes to hiking with your dog.
This should go without mentioning it – but it’s important to clean after your dog, even when you are in nature. Why, when it’s natural, and it will compost? It can cause problems for local creatures and even impact the water supply.
To protect plant and animal life, always keep your dog on the trail, and when you meet someone steps off the trail with your dog at your side so that people can pass safely.
Plus, by keeping your dog on the leash, you will prevent him from eating poisonous plants. This is why it’s important to scan the area and see if there are any poisonous plants or animals.
Last but not least, always greet others on the trail. A joyful and straightforward ‘hello’ will be a clear sign to others that your dog is friendly and that there is no need for concern.
Think About Safety
Knowing area regulations and keeping your dog safe should always be a top priority. The first step should always be making sure your dog is fir enough for the task.
Check with your veterinarian to learn what your dog can handle and if he fits the task. Some dog breeds make better hiking partners than others.
Be extra careful with your old dogs, as they may not be able to keep up with you on long and challenging hikes.
Plus, with puppies, you should always think to abort growing bones. Never hike with your dog in overly hot weather, as dogs can’t deal with hot weather as humans do, and they can easily suffer from heatstroke.
It is essential to have water for your dog. Having some treats and dog first aid is highly recommended. You don’t have to wear it personally, your canine can wear his dog pack that should fit right and loads evenly.
Having a dog pack will be mentally stimulating for your dog because this simple gear separates regular walks from hiking. Every dog pack will have a top handle to keep your dog close during hiking.
Don’t put all the weight on your dog, but choose to increase pack weight on each walk until you reach your target weight.
How heavy can a dog pack be? A general rule is a maximum of 25 percent of body weight. Dog’s size, age, and strength can alter this rule a bit, so make sure that you check it with your veterinarian.
You already know that having a dog is a huge responsibility. Having a dog with you on a hiking trail is a bit of extra responsibility.
You need to think about fleas, dog’s food, and his gear. You should always have appropriate dog hiking gear, no matter who wears them, you or your dog.
Here are some suggested items to bring with you for your dog:
- Poop bags
- Sturdy 6-foot leash
- Dog’s ID tag. Make sure that your dog is microchipped
- Dog’s food
- Dog snacks
- A pet first aid kit
- Pet-safe insect repellent
- If the ground is rough, think about dog booties
Should You Train Your Dog For Hiking
To have a good hiking time with your dog, your canine should be socialized and well-behaved. Your dog must know basic obedience skills like ‘sit’ and ‘come.’
Another key behavior is walking politely on a leash. Some additional behaviors that benefit may include ‘leave it’ so your dog doesn’t eat something harmful.
Managing dog behavior is important all the time, not only when you are into the wild. When it comes to training your dog for a hike it’s pretty simple:
- Have regular and engaging training
- Have longer and regular walks
- Let every walk be on other area
- Let your dog wear his dog pack
If it helps, you can keep a pre-hiking journal and write down any observance that you may find interesting. This way, you will be prepared better, and your dog will have longer endurance.
Slowly ease into the routine of hiking. Please keep it simple, but consistent. Start with hikes of an hour or so, and monitor the energy level afterward.
If your dog is still super energetic and active, increase the time dor the next training hike. Your goal is to work up to the amount of trail time you plan to do on future day hikes or backpacking trips. This slow approach also toughens up citified paws.
Some Dog Breeds Are Born to Hike
When it comes to hiking with your dog, you should watch two characteristics: physical and personal.
Many dog breeds have been bred for long working hours or for life next to the water, and as such certain dog breeds have unique traits.
Interestingly, these breeds are the best choice for that searching for very active companions, because they will love long outdoor time.
So, if you are searching to adopt a dog and you want him to join you on the hikes, you’ll want to consider these active breeds of dogs.
Here are the most popular dog breeds when it comes to hiking:
- Siberian Husky
- Australian Shepherd
- German Shorthaired Pointer
- Australian Cattle Dog
- Bernese Mountain Dog
- Rhodesian Ridgeback
- Alaskan Malamute
- Portuguese Water Dog
The Bottom Line
Once you test your dog for a few walks, you” be ready to try a short hike with your dog around the familiar areas. Find a trail near you that people recommend due to their experience. You can find great trails by merely searching for major sites such as:
Bear in mind that most national parks allow dogs in very limited areas or not at all, so always search for local and trails outside the National Parks.
For the most detailed information, check out online guidelines about the best hikes with dogs, focusing on specific cities, states, and regions across the U.S.
Follow the hiking rules, have a well-behaved dog, and you should be ready to go and have a fantastic hike with your Fido.