Dogs make fantastic hiking companions because they genuinely love being outdoors. Their enthusiastic exploration of the surrounding sights and smells can make the trip more fun for you and your other hiking companions.
Before taking your dog out for a hike, however, it is important to give some consideration to the trail you intend to take, and to make sure you are properly prepared.
Prepare to Hike With Your Dog
Your planning will necessarily include looking up dog-friendly trails where your companion is allowed to go.
Dog Friendly Trails
Most trails should be open to dogs, but it's always better to find out for sure before you go. You don't want to have to go looking for another hike after finding out that your first pick doesn't allow dogs, and you should never leave your dog in the car while you go yourself.
On top of simply finding out if a trail is dog-friendly, you should also note:
- its length
Only take your dog on trails that are well-suited for their ability.
Hiking with Small or Older Dogs
If your dog is smaller, older, or has sustained injuries in the past, then you don't want to pick a strenuous hike.
On the other hand, if your dog is healthy, likes a challenge, and enjoys being out for long periods of time, then go ahead and tackle something more difficult.
What to Pack
Once you've found a good trail, it's time to pack along everything your dog will need for the day.
Make sure you bring a leash and perhaps even a spare should your main leash break.
You'll also need plenty of water, a water bowl, and food.
First aid equipment such as tweezers (if you're going to an area known to have porcupines!) and antibiotic cream are important to have on you in the event of an accident.
When you're planning on hikes farther afield, where a vet is hours away, you'll want to invest in a pet first aid kit for your dog.
Your dog's collar should be in good condition and fitted with an ID tag, and you should bring along dog booties if you expect to be hiking through difficult terrain.
When you're going to be travelling far away from home, it is advisable to be aware of the location of the nearest vet. After doing all of the necessary planning and prepping, it's finally time to get hiking.
Though not always mandatory, keeping your dog on their leash will keep them out of danger and away from all sorts of problematic encounters with wildlife and unfamiliar terrain.
While your focus should be on having fun, you should never forget that it's up to you to look after your dog and keep them safe. The best and easiest way to do this is to keep them on-leash.
Keep a close eye on your dog and take a break for rest and water if they are starting to slow down and pant too much. Be especially diligent if it is a hot day.
Counterpoint: 3 Reasons Why You Shouldn't Hike with Your Dog [Video]
PROS of Hiking with Your Dog
CONS of Hiking with Your Dog
With the right precautions and on the right kind of trail, you'd be surprised at what even the smallest dogs are capable of.
Dogs love to try new things and explore new areas, so the next time you plan on taking a hike, why not bring yours along?
Hiking With Your Dog FAQs
Is hiking good for dogs?
Dogs love to get out and exercise but make sure your dog is in good health and you bring along water. For long trekking and through hikes, it is not advisable to bring your dog. You may enjoy the multi-day trek but it may be a lot of work for you canine.
How many miles can a dog hike?
Five miles is a good rule of thumb when starting out. Your dogs paws require some conditioning to toughen up before going further. Keep aware of your dog's exertion and don't start on hike's longer than 5 miles.
Can I take my dog on a hike?
Depending on where you plan to hike and the regulations in the area: it depends. You can call the park service ahead of time to find out when you are going to an official park. There may be requirements like keeping the dog on a leash.
How much weight can my dog carry hiking?
The weight your dog can easily pack is dependent on their age and general health. 25% of a dogs body weight is the max for a healthy younger dog. You may have a breed that can carry more but check with your veterinarian to make sure. Some smaller breeds can only safely carry 10% of their body weight.