Top Tips for Hiking with Your Dog

Heading into the great outdoors with your favorite canine companion? There’s nothing quite like exploring together, and being well-prepared can help ensure your dog’s comfort and safety as you enjoy fun outdoor adventures.


Photo by Ryan Stone on Unsplash

Is your dog prepared for a hike?

Most dogs – even little ones – can cover miles and miles with you, but just like us, they need to have a certain level of fitness before making longer trips. Gradually increase your mileage and both of you will enjoy yourselves more. Know that breeds with short muzzles can’t cover as much territory and have a harder time in the heat, and understand that young pups and old dogs do best on shorter hikes as well.


If your dog will be carrying a pack, be sure to accustom him to the feel of the pack well in advance of the trip. Start by having him wear the pack empty, just hanging around the house. Once he’s used to it, you can start to add a little weight while he wears it on walks. Gradually increase the weight, never exceeding one-third of your dog’s body weight.


Part of preparation is ensuring that your dog is up to date on vaccines and that he has flea and tick protection.


Be aware of potential hazards

Snakes, wildlife, and troublesome plants such as poison ivy or cacti are some common issues that you might encounter along the trail. Know what to expect and be sure to keep your dog safely by your side with a four- to six-foot leash and a dog harness for hiking. There are even cat harnesses available nowadays, so you can even bring your kitty too!



Consider having your dog wear paw protection, too. This is very helpful in rugged areas. In summer, dog boots protect your pet’s feet from burns and in winter, they help prevent ice and snow from building up between your pet’s toes.


Even if your dog is well-trained and behaves wonderfully off-leash, many hiking destinations require dogs to wear leashes and others you encounter on the trail will appreciate this courtesy. Leashing your dog can also prevent him from encountering hazardous wildlife during off-trail adventures.


Heat can be a hazard when hiking with your dog, too. Building stamina by exercising in warm weather is one way to help reduce the risk of heatstroke. Be sure to keep your dog well-hydrated before, during, and after your hikes, too. Remember that dogs don’t sweat like we do, and take time to rest in the shade when you can.


Bring some essentials along, even on short trips

Be sure to pack healthy snacks for you and your dog, and plan to take some rest breaks to recharge. Here are a few things to think about bringing along, depending on the length of your hikes.


  • Collapsible water dish
  • First-aid kit with bandages and other essentials for you and your dog
  • A couple of extra dog boots if your dog wears paw protection
  • Enough poop bags to double-bag your dog’s feces for easier packing out or a trowel to bury your dog’s poop at least 200 feet from trails, streams, campsites, etc.
  • Water – many lakes and streams are contaminated with giardia, coccidia, or leptospirosis, which can make your dog sick. Never let your dog drink from a stagnant source, even if the water looks clear.
  • Snacks for you and your dog
  • Instant ice packs in hot weather; these can help cool your dog in case of a heat emergency
  • A small towel to dry your dog off before hopping back in the car
  • Glowstick or clip-on light to attach to your dog’s collar in case you are out after dark
  • Dog brush to remove burrs, foxtails, etc. and make it easier to check your pet for ticks
  • A tick removal tool in case you find a tick on your dog or yourself


With just a few basic essentials, some obedience training, a good level of stamina, and of course a desire to enjoy fun and adventure while getting some exercise with your canine companion, you’ll have an amazing time hiking with your dog. Now, get out there and explore!


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Emma Williams

Emma is a pet-parent to two four-legged friends, and enjoys sharing her knowledge on animal behaviour, health and training.

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