Are you a hiker who wants to take your furry friend along on your hikes? If so, awesome! Hiking with your dog is a lot of fun! There’s no better way to spend a weekend than taking your furry friend on a hike. Not only is it a fun way to get some exercise, but it’s also a great opportunity to explore nature and bond with your pup. Before you hit the trails, though, be sure to prepare yourself and your dog for the adventure ahead. Here are some tips to get you started.
Think hiking’s just for humans? Well, think again! Dogs love getting out and exploring nature just as much as we do. And with this handy guide, you’ll be able to hit the trails with your furry friend in no time. From gear recommendations to training tips, we’ve got everything you need to know about hiking with your dog. So put on your boots and get ready for some serious adventuring!
Preparing to Hike with Your Dog
Visit the Vet Before Hiking with Your Dog
Is your dog ready to hike? As the weather warms up and the days get longer, more and more people are getting outdoors and enjoying hiking with their dogs. Before you hit the trails, though, it’s important to make sure your dog is physically and mentally prepared for the hike. Aside from giving you specific advice based on your dogs personal needs, your vet can help you make informed decisions on things that can keep your pup safe, such as vaccinations. Here are some things you should talk with your vet about.
- Lyme Disease Prevention
- Flea, tick, and heartworm medications
- Toxic or dangerous vegetation/wildlife you may encounter
Puppies less than a year old are still developing. Taking them on shorter hikes helps make sure they continue growing how they’re supposed to.
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Dog Hiking Gear
What Do You Need to Pack to Hike with Your Dog?
- Food and water
- First Aid Kit or first aid supplies for your dog
- Harness/Dog Pack
- Collapsible food/water dish
- Dog booties if the terrain/conditions warrant them
Dog Hiking Pack
Most healthy dogs can safely carry about 25% of their body weight, though many veterinarians recommend around 10%. Your dog can likely carry their own food for the day and their waste bags/first aid kit if it’s not combined with yours. Larger dogs may even be able to carry some or all of their own water safely. Whatever you put in your dogs pack, make sure you evenly disperse it with an equal weight on both sides.
Trail Dangers for Hiking Dogs
Just like humans, dogs can be sensitive to many plants, like poison ivy. Some are more dangerous, like foxtails. It’s best to keep your pup in sight and on trail as much as possible.
Just like people, dogs can get into all sorts of trouble when they go exploring. They might inadvertently wander a bit too close to large wildlife or encounter a venomous snake as they sniff around. To help keep your dog safe from wild animals while hiking, follow these simple tips:
- Learn what wildlife is the area so you know what animals you could encounter and what you should do if you do happen to run into them
- Use a leash
- Stay on marked trails as much as possible
- Be aware of your surroundings
Swift currents, deep water, and cuts can all pose hazards to your pup while hiking. Even if your dog is a good swimmer, they may be no match for a current. Wearing a dog floatation device (DFD) can help make sure they get across safely. DFD’s with a handle are especially helpful, giving you a place to hang on to help your dog out if they need it or to keep them close to you.
Two great options for DWD’s are the Ruffwear Float Coat and the Outward Hound Dog Life Jacket.
The Ruffwear option has sizes to fit dogs with chests ranging from 17 to 42 inches, has reflective strips to help with visibility, and has a grab handle, which I did find to be a little small making it not as easy to grab as I’d like it to be.
The Outward Hound version can fit dogs whose chests range from 11 to 44 inches, giving it a bit more flexibility in finding the perfect size for your dog than the Ruffwear jacket, especially for smaller pups. It also features reflective strips for visibility as well as a handle. What I really love about this option is the longer shape, which is good for dogs with longer torsos, like my GSD.
Ingesting unsafe water
Water out in nature can contain parasites, bacteria, algae and other things that are harmful to dogs and humans alike. Don’t let your dog drink from standing water sources without treating it first. A good rule of thumb is if you won’t drink it, your dog shouldn’t either.
Read: Water Treatment from my post Hiking for Beginners
Just like humans, dogs are susceptible to heat illness as well as cold related injuries or illness.
Signs of Heat Stroke in Your Dog
- Heavy panting
- Bright red color to the gums
- vomiting and/or diarrhea
- Loss of coordination
- Losing consciousness
- Shivering or trembling, sometimes followed by no shivering
- Skin or fur are cold to the touch
- Dilated pupils
- Inner eyelids or gums take on a bluish color or turn pale
- Difficulty walking or breathing
Etiquette for Hiking with Your Dog
Helpful Training Commands for Hiking with Your Dog
- Recall command: Come/Here/etc.
- Leave It
- Over. For passing others on trail or allowing others to pass
Remember, your dog’s well-being is your responsibility and that it’s always important to stay aware of potential dangers while hiking. Be sure you take the time to prepare yourself and your dog for a safe, enjoyable hike! No one wants to end up with an injured pet or worse yet, lose their furry friend because of an accident. These tips should help keep your pup healthy and happy on any adventure they may join you on in the great outdoors.