Dogs love nothing more than to run, play, and explore, and their owners need to keep fit and get plenty of fresh air. All things considered, hiking with dogs seems like the perfect solution—a win-win for canines and humans alike.
But dog hiking is not just about taking really long walks. There are some things you must keep in mind to ensure that both you and your dog remain safe while hiking.
Is It Safe To Take Dogs Hiking?
It is only as safe as you make it. There are a few things that can go horribly wrong while hiking with dogs, including:
Unfit and Unprepared Dogs
Not all dogs can handle long hikes. They might seem energetic and enthusiastic when you take them on a walk around the block, but have they got the stamina to survive a long hike?
Just like humans, dogs will struggle over long distances if they are not used to being active for that long.
You can’t limit your daily walks to 10-minute strolls around the neighborhood and then expect your pooch to trek for 2 hours through the forest.
Take your dog on shorter hikes to begin with and then build up to those longer treks. Not only will it help to prepare your dog and ensure it is fit enough to make it, but it will also improve your own stamina and fitness.
The great thing about hiking is that there are trails to suit all fitness and experience levels.
Do you have a first aid kit to deal with scrapes and cuts? Do you have dog treats to keep your pup’s energy levels up and steer them away from danger? Do you know how to identify poison oak or poison ivy or react in the event of a snake bite, scorpion sting, or wild animal attack?
All of these things are essential for hikers. They could keep you safe on the trail and may just save your life, as well as your dog’s life.
It’s not just you vs nature, either. You should also learn basic trail etiquette and know how to act around other hikers and dog owners.
Last but not least, take a hiking buddy with you or let somewhere know where you’re going.
In hot weather, dogs can overheat very quickly. Keep them out of direct sunlight for long periods of time and take plenty of water with you.
Some hiking trails will take you past rivers and streams and these are perfect for hot summer days. It means your dog can cool off in the middle of your hike, keeping its body temperature down and helping it to stay hydrated at the same time.
Don’t forget about your own health, though. Stock plenty of bottled water and sunscreen in your backpack and wear a hat to block those harmful rays.
A dog can be both a protector and a liability in the presence of wild animals. On the one hand, it will try to protect you and may even scare the other animal away. At the same time, however, your dog is probably the reason the animal is there in the first place.
To avoid attracting wild animals, stick to the hiking trail and don’t leave any dog food or human food nearby.
Check hunting season dates and locations and if you’re hiking during these times, make sure your dog is wearing a blaze orange vest. You should also buy a hat and/vest for yourself.
It’s standard hiking etiquette for hunting season and it’ll keep you and your dog safe.
Am I Allowed to Take Dogs Hiking?
You are allowed to take dogs on dog friendly trails. These are located across the US and there are plenty of fun trails to choose from.
However, just because it’s a dog friendly trail doesn’t mean you can let your pooch off the leash. Many dog friendly trails actually forbid off-leash dogs, so check the leash laws before you visit.
How Far Can A Dog Hike In A Day?
Dogs can usually hike for between 5 and 10 miles a day without pushing themselves too much. However, old dogs may only manage a couple of miles.
Test your dog’s fitness levels by focusing on short trails to begin with.
An off-leash dog is always going to cover more ground than a leashed dog, so keep this in mind when planning your hike. Dogs tend not to stick to hiking trails, so as soon as you let them off the leash, they’ll be darting around and covering multiple square meters for every couple of steps that you take.
How Long Of A Hike Is Too Long For A Dog?
It all depends on the dog’s stamina and whether it has access to food and water during the hike. Dogs are generally fitter and faster than we are, but that’s not true for smaller and older dogs or dogs in poor health.
Is Hiking Hard On Dogs?
If you are careful and only take your dog on a hiking trip it can handle, it should be okay. But as soon as you start asking it to walk more than its fitness level allows, you run a risk of damaging its health.
Take plenty of water with you and let your dog drink whenever it wants.
How Do You Take An Old Dog On A Hike?
If you’re hiking with old dogs, there are a few additional steps you must take to keep your furry friend safe:
- Let it Lead: Don’t walk ahead of your dog and expect it to follow. Let the dog set the pace.
- Rest: Take some time to stop and rest every now and then. Even if your dog looks okay, it’s important to give it some time to rest and recuperate.
- Keep it Short: Don’t ask too much of older dogs. Keep your hikes short. If possible, stick with short loops that you can repeat if you want to continue and stop as soon as you’re ready.
- Let it Drink: Older dogs are more likely to overheat, so give it plenty of water to drink throughout the hike.
Supplies for Hiking with Dogs
There are a few products that can make your doggy hiking adventure safer and more enjoyable. We have included some of the most popular options below, along with links to Amazon pages where you can purchase them.
A GPS Collar
GPS collars track your dog’s location in real-time. If you’re hiking with an off-leash dog, these trackers will give you some much-needed peace of mind and help you to find your pooch if it runs away.
The Tractive Waterproof GPS Dog Tracker is one of the best options available from Amazon. You’ll need to pay a small monthly subscription charge in addition to the initial cost, but it’s well worth it.
Tractive comes with live tracking and complete location history. You can also use it to create a virtual fence, letting you know when your dog leaves a certain area.
It’s great for hiking and dogs that stay outdoors, and it’s also good for dog owners who are worried about their pups escaping the house.
Your dog’s paw pads may seem tough and resilient, but they can be cut quite easily. These booties will protect against abrasions, slips, and small injuries and will also keep your dog’s paws warm in snowy and icy conditions.
A no-pull dog harness will keep you on the hiking trail while your dog is trying to drag you off it. These harnesses are surprisingly affordable and the best ones (including this option from rabbitgoo) include reflective panels and adjustable clips.
These harnesses are essential for large and energetic dogs, as well as owners who don’t want their arms to be yanked out of their sockets.
Best Dog Packs
Dog packs are basically little backpacks for dogs. They strap onto their backs and can be used to carry essential supplies, taking some of the weight off your shoulders.
Look for a rugged and durable dog pack that is also comfortable for your dog to wear. This option from OneTigris is one of the best dog packs currently available from Amazon.
Safety slings like the one sold by Fido Pro can be used to carry your dog in the event of an injury. If they can’t walk anymore, simply reach for the sling and carry them the rest of the way. It keeps your arms free for hiking poles and ensures that the dog’s weight is evenly distributed.
First Aid Kits
A first aid kit should be one of the first things on your shopping list as a hiker. It includes everything you need to deal with cuts, bites, grazes, and other small wounds. You can use the first aid kit on yourself and your dog, and the best ones are compact, easy to carry, and yet sufficient enough to deal with an array of emergencies.
First aid kits like this one from Classycoo should have all that you need to deal with an emergency without weighing you down.
What Dog Is Best For Hiking?
Siberian Huskies are probably the best dogs for hiking. They have boundless energy and are very strong, fast, and alert dogs. If you’re looking for a dog that will always out-walk you, then you can’t go wrong with a husky.
Pointers and Shepherds are usually good dogs for hiking, as are Vizslas, Weimaraners, and Bernese Mountain Dogs.
How Do Hikers Deal With Dog Poop?
One of the most important rules of trail hiking is “leave no trace”. It applies in all US national parks and is a good rule to follow whenever you leave the house.
Simply put, it means you shouldn’t leave trash outside where it doesn’t belong, and that includes your dog’s waste.
Bag it. Carry it. And then bin it. The idea of carrying dog poop on a hike might not sound very appealing, but there are a few ways to make this process easier (and cleaner):
- Purchase some poop bags and store them in an airtight container after use.
- Make your dog carry the poop bags by sealing them and strapping them to a dog backpack.
- Talk your dog into the backyard before you leave and make sure they poop there.
- Bury the dog poop away from the trail.
- Place dryer sheets in backpacks to remove any smells.
How Can I Carry My Dog In A Backpack?
Small dogs don’t always have the energy for long hikes. The same is true for puppies, which can tire out pretty quickly. If you still want to take these little dogs on a hike, you can look into a dog carrier.
Use dog biscuits to lure your pooch into the dog carrier and keep it there for a few minutes. Don’t force it. Don’t make it uncomfortable. Encourage it by making the backpack a positive experience.
From there, you can start using the pack to take your dog on a tour of the yard or neighborhood, before progressing to longer outdoor adventures.
Before long, your dog will happily run into the pack as soon as it sees it.
Are Dog Backpack Carriers Bad For Dogs?
They’re not great when used over the long term. It can be hot in there and your dog isn’t getting much exercise, either. But if you have a small dog, old dog, or a disabled dog, and the weather is not too hot, these packs are perfectly fine for short hikes.
Summary: Keeping Your Dog Safe on a Hike
Hiking with dogs is great for humans and canines alike. You can explore the wilds and get fit together. Your dog will love it and it’s the perfect excuse to get out of the house and get some fresh air.
It also beats a leisurely stroll around the block or local park.
So, keep the above safety tips in mind and be a good dog mom and dog dad by taking your pooch on your local dog friendly hiking trail.