beautiful girl hiking with her dog

Hiking With Your Dog – The Absolute Guide

Hiking and exploring nature with your quadruped friend can be insanely fun. Dogs have always been humans’ excellent companion since before the written word. Hiking with your favorite dog won’t be an exception.

It’s exhilarating to see their innocence and unbelievable energy in the wilderness. Hiking provides you and your dog with much-needed health benefits. It also helps boost the relationship between the two of you.

It may be fantastic for you to hike with your dog but may put off others if you don’t follow some trail etiquette. You need the necessary planning & preparation in advance. Otherwise, your hiking could end horribly and unhappily.

You can have an outstanding experience with your pup if you follow the following guidelines and tips.  

Table of Contents

Preparation before Hiking with Your Dog

Before you start the hike with your dog, you must know the physical capabilities of your dog. It would decide whether your dog can hike the trail or carry the weight. You have to follow the steps below as a preparation of the hiking with your dog.

Appointment with Your Veterinary

You must get the following critical things clarified with the veterinary doctor –   

  • You will not want to put your young dog under a challenging hike unless their bones are fully grown up. Ask the veterinary about this and confirm if your pup is physically fit or not for hiking. The veterinary doctor can check the bones of the dog and confirm the same. Bones have to be fully matured for hiking.

  • Your dog should already have all the vaccinations before hiking gets started. You may have to give extra vaccination to your dog to safeguard it against the illness like Rabies, Lyme and Leptospirosis. Follow the advice of your veterinary physician.

  • Check with your veterinarian about medication for parasite preventatives. Your dog will be exposed to a lot of parasites like mosquito etc. and may get infected with diseases like heartworm, ticks, fleas etc.
  • Check with your vet if the immune system of your dog is capable enough for hiking. Your vet can tell you whether your dog’s age is safe for hiking taking into account the timetable of your dog’s vaccination and the pace of immunity growth.

  • Young pups may not adopt their body temperature in the demanding weather, unlike the adult dogs. It could prove to be a severe physical threat like heat stroke. Please note that laborious activities tend to disturb the physical growth of the pups if the bone is still at a developing stage. It’s always ideal to confirm if your pet can go for hiking.

  • Check Arthritis and Other Mobility Problems if your dog is older. Hiking may cause severe physical complication to older dogs with such diseases. Talk to your vet before deciding upon hiking with your senior dog. Your vet may prescribe some medication for arthritis, joint pain etc.

  • Brachycephalic refers to the dogs with shortened head, narrow nasal passage and other underperforming respiratory systems. They are more vulnerable to Heat Stroke, Heart Arrhythmias, Excessive Gassiness, Frequent Vomiting, etc.

    The breeds like Pugs, Chow Chows, Chihuahuas, Pekingese, French Bulldogs, English Toy Spaniels, Boxers, Bull Mastiffs, etc. are the example of Brachycephalic.

    These dogs are not suitable for hiking. You have to give rest and water repeatedly and need to moderate your speed too if your dog belongs to this breed. You can consult with your vet for a brachycephalic obstructive airway surgery in case your dog has very narrow nasal passages. It’ll help your dog live a better life with less discomfort.  

Protection of Your Dog's Paws

Your dog’s paw pads are likely to get ripped or swollen during hiking. They can also get burn injury on scorching surfaces. So, you have to take some preventive measures to protect the paw pads of your dog. You can use Pet Paw Protection Wax for the same.

You also want to familiarize your dog with booties. Make sure that you train and get your dog practiced before making her wear it.

Check out this video to train your dog to wear booties –  

Dog standing wearing the booties

Physical Preparation

Physical Preparation is very much crucial before you your start your hiking. It’s applicable both for humans and animals. It’s not going to be very easy to hike with a heavy backpack for both of you. You and your pup will have to achieve a moderate physical strength.

Start doing some exercises like Step-ups, Lunges, Single-leg Deadlifts, Downward-dog Holds, Push-ups-regulars or Modified, etc.

Once your vet clears everything and confirms that your dog can hike with you, it’s time to dive into some practice to boost the strength of your pup. In the early stage of the training, you should pick up the short and smooth hiking to observe her energy level. It shouldn’t be more than an hour or so. If she is still spirited, extend the duration the next day. If your dog is dog-tired, mitigate the distance and difficulty of the hike. Extend it slowly every day. This approach will help strengthen the delicate paws of your dog.   

Etiquette Training of Your Dog

You will want your dog to be well-mannered, composed and friendly. To accomplish the same, your dog will need some etiquette training to learn the essential behavioral skills like “come, sit, stay, down, drop it, etc.”.  

You don’t want your dog to eat other animals’ excreta, toxic plants, garbage left by other hikers as it could be detrimental to the health of your dog. A proper “Leave it” training will help you achieve this.

Your dog should not be the reason for nuisance for others. She should not bark as other hikers pass over. You need to give her “curb burking” training to control her unwarranted barking and maintain the atmosphere as calm and undisturbed as possible. 

Leashing Your Dog

Are you confident now that you have trained your dog adequately to develop the skills like “come, sit, stay, down, drop it, leave it” etc.? Do you think you have a good command over your dog? If you are not confident enough about these skills of your dog, you should stay away from letting your pup off-leash. It’s very enticing to release your pup off-leash, but remember that it might be an offence which could lead to a fine in some areas.

No matter how well trained, courteous or receptive your dog off-leashed, it’s still wise to keep your pup on a leash. The rationale behind keeping your dog on-leash all the time is the following –

  • Leashing a dog can protect it from slipping off the rock or running into a canyon.

  • Other hikers may not feel comfortable with your dog off-leashed and even may get scared.

  • It’s also possible that the dogs hiking with others may create trouble with your dog.

  • Your dog may disappear and get hurt.
  • You will not want your dog to be the reason behind the accident of a mountain rider or a horse being terrified.

  • Your off-leashed pup may harm the natural surroundings, which may disturb the wildlife.

Where to Hike with Your Dog

Many Americans consider their holiday incomplete without their pup. They love the hiking adventure, even more, when they do it with their puppy as a fellow traveler. The dogs also love the large grazing area in these parks. 

But, finding a national park where you and your best friend both can have fun is a daunting task. You may check the website of National Park Services for details of the parks that allow a dog. The information available here will help you plan your trip.

Most of the 58 National Parks don’t allow dogs to protect the wildlife from disturbance. Only a few of these allow on specific trails. On-leash may be compulsory in some of these parks. You should be aware of all the rules & regulation of the park and must abide by the same.

What to Pack When Hiking with Your Dog

Hiking with your dog is very much like walking with your kids. In that sense, you have to be prepared to carry some additional weight. You also want to get yourself prepared for any kind of emergencies during hiking. You may not need to pick up a diaper, but you’ll need some materials specialized for dogs.

Your dog even can help you carry the supplies if you fit a specific backpack made for the dog. Consult with your vet as to how much weight your dog can take. Generally, a dog should carry 25% of her body weight.

First-Aid Kit

In most cases, you won’t be able to find a veterinarian during hiking. So, you must bring the necessary first-aid-kit specially made for dogs. You should also have a basic understanding of how to use these kits.

You can either buy a ready-made first-aid-kit available in the market or gather the kits yourself. Your first-aid-kit should include gauze, antibiotic, antiseptic, disinfectant, bandages, scissors, tweezers, skin cleanser etc.

You want to pack some medicines like Pedialyte, Benadryl or some others advised by your veterinarian. Pedialyte can be useful if your pup gets diarrhea and Benadryl will come handy if the snake bites your dog.

You may also include alcohol or ice packs to protect your pup from heat stroke or hyperthermia by applying on her paw pads.

Sleeping Gear for Dog

You can carry a crib-size sleeping pad made of foam and should be light in weight. If the weather is cold, you may consider bringing a sleeping bag of dog’s size or a blanket made of wool or feather.   

Other Gear

Booties

Booties help shield the paws of your dog from getting burned if you’re hiking on a scorching rough surface. You should, therefore, carry a few pairs of booties. You have to bring more than a couple of booties if you didn’t harden the paws of your pup through training. You also need to train and make her practice.

Dog Towel

It’s highly likely that your dog will come back to the tent being dirty and wet. His paws may also get dirty with swamp or mud. So, before you take her into the tent, you want to clean her with water and make her dry. You need a towel to do so. You can also use it to clean the mud of the paw pads.

Dog Coat

You may want to pack a Dog Coat if you’re camping in cold weather and your pup has thin fur.

Cooling Vest

The cooling vest keeps your pup cool during hiking. You need to immerse it into cold water, squeeze it a bit to dry, then put it on your dog.  

Cooling Collar

Your dog may find it very difficult to adjust with the high temperate. A cooling collar may help her keep calm.

Collar with ID Tags

You should carry a tag that contains the name of your dog, license details, rabies tag and contact no. Rabies tag will come handy if your pup bites someone to show that everything is fine with your dog. In such a scenario, you may need the current ID tags too. 

Toe Nail clippers

You want to have the nails of your pup well-trimmed and clean as these could damage the fabric of the tent heavily. 

Safety Lamp

A safety lamp can help you keep a close watch on your pup in the night. You also want to use it in case your dog needs to go to the toilet in the middle of the night.

Food and Water Planning

You may not find the source of water during hiking. It happens very often. So, it’s imperative to carry drinking water not only just for you but your pup as well. Even if you find the water en route, you may not want your dog to drink that as you are not sure about the quality of the water. The water might be contaminated or less nutritious.

Your dog will drink more water in the trail than a typical day at your house. By and large, a dog can consume up to one ounce of water per pound each day. Your dog may drink more water in hot weather or if your hiking trail is taxing. Make sure that your dog drinks the water every thirty minutes or even earlier. 

You can carry the water in a collapsible water bottle. You also want to train your dog to drink the water from a bottle.

You can’t afford to ignore the importance of your dog’s food while hiking. You must pack enough quantity of food. It’s always wise to consult the vet on what kind of food you should carry for your pup. 

Avoid giving heavy meal just before the hiking. Divide the food into small parts and give to your dog in the short intervals. Dry food is a good option for your dog during hiking as it provides extra energy to your dog. You can also carry dog snacks besides regular food.

Leave No Trace

Are you one of these people who love to leave behind something as a souvenir to let others know that you had gone there? If so, please don’t leave anything coming from your dog. Leave No Trace principles are equally applicable for your dog. It’s needless to say that you have to clean up the dirt of your dog no matter how awful it may be. 

Dog poop can be dangerous in different ways. It can transmit disease and adulterate the water. In fact, it’s one of the biggest reasons for water pollution. 

Carry poop bags to collect and carry the poop of your dog. You may also use a double bag to avoid the spilling of poop. If you’re camping overnight, you’ll need a shovel to bury the poop in a 6-8-inch hole. The distance of the hole must be at the very least 200 Ft. from water source and campground.  

Threats to Dogs While Hiking

You are as vulnerable as your pup to the hazards during hiking. The only difference is that you can identify many of these but your pooch can’t. She can’t even tell you when she has some trouble which is why you have to be cautious at any given time. Do not hike with your pup on challenging trails, erratic landscape and cliff.

Ticks can be a matter of great concern in the trail as tricks are ubiquitous. You must check your dog thoroughly very often while hiking. You should also check after you finish a hike. Not only your pup, but you need to check yourself as well. A tick bite is sometime enough to get you and your friend affected by Lyme disease.

Beware of ivy, sumac, oak etc. as these may cause trouble to both of you. Burrs and thorns may frustrate you, but foxtails may cause grave harm. Always try to be on the trail and avoid touching any kind of trees, including foxtails.  

When it is a warm day, be careful not to do anything too strenuous with your dog. Both humans and dogs can get heatstroke. You will not be able to tell when your dog is overheating since dogs do not sweat in the same way as humans. Your dog certainly can’t express that it is suffering from heatstroke.

In the scorching heat, you have to be more vigilant so that your dog does not involve in hard activities. Heatstroke can affect both humans and dogs. Your dog does not sweat like a human being. So, it’s, quite hard to make out if she is getting heat exhaustion. She can’t tell you, for sure, if she has got the heatstroke.

Keep track of the heart rate and breathing of your partner. If she is unable to get back to absolutely normal condition after rest, you should call it for the day and try to get back to camp immediately.

Conclusion

The objective of this piece wasn’t to terrify you to hike with your pup. It was to prepare you for all kinds of challenges and dangers you may face during hiking with your friend and make sure that you have an incredible experience.

This article might have sounded more like getting your prepared for a war than going to trail with your dog. But the fact is walking with your pup on a beautiful landscape is a fantastic thing to do. Had it been so pathetic, you would not have found so many Americans hiking with their dog in many parks that allow dogs. Have fun!

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