Easy Guide to Hiking with Your Dog: What to Pack, Tips and Doggy Etiquette
We find hiking to be much more enjoyable with a partner and our dogs definitely count as an awesome hiking buddy. This week is all about man's best friend, our furry friends, our four-legged children - however you refer to your dog! We want to thank them for always being up for a hike and of course being great company. With all the hiking we’ve been doing (check out our 5 Peak Challenge post here), we thought it would be helpful to new and even experienced dog owners to have some useful tips for hiking with their pet. This post shares what to take with you, proper trail etiquette, and tips for you and (insert your dog’s name here). Here’s how to plan a successful hike out with your pup!
Just like packing the right gear for yourself, you need to be well prepared with dog-specific gear to have a safe, enjoyable experience for both of you. Here’s an easy list to start with:
This may seem obvious but you need bring a dependable leash. We recommend getting one with reflective features to enhance visibility. Another option is to attach a keychain light to their collar to make sure you and others can see them at all times. The longest the leash should be is about six feet. You want to make sure you’re keeping your pup close by and prevent him from wandering too far off the trail.
2. Water (and then some more water)
It’s always a good idea to pack more than you think you need to ensure both you and your dog stay hydrated. We recommend adding a collapsible water bowl to your Amazon cart as it makes water breaks so much easier on the trail. Once they’ve lapped it all up, it collapses flat so you can easily store in your pack or clip to the outside for quick access. Another great tip to consider (not just for hiking with dogs) is using foldable bottles to store your water. Getting a few of the same ensures you don’t end up struggling to tetris a bunch of odd-sized containers awkwardly into your bag. It also helps save space since once they’re empty, they store easily folded up in your pack ready for your next adventure.
While water is number one, treats for your pup (and snacks for you) are also great to have on hand to keep them energized and enjoying their time on the hike.
4. Poop Bags
Make sure you’re prepared with plenty of poop bags. Just like you pick up after your dog at the park and on sidewalks, you should do the same out on the trails. Maintaining these paths and the surrounding vegetation is important for the future of our parks, so make sure you do your part! Another thing to keep in mind is to hold on to the used bag until you find a proper bin for disposal - don’t leave the bag to “pick up on your way back”. We recommend using an S-Biner clip to carry any poop bags, which can be securely attached to your dog’s pack or yours so you can be hands-free to the next trash can.
5. Dog Pack
A dog pack is a great way to save space in your bag and ensure you have everything you need. You can pack some of their water supply, treats, extra poop bags, etc… When fitting your pup with their own pack, make sure it fits properly. When adjusting the harness, you should be able to fit two fingers underneath it. You want it to be snug enough so it stays in place but doesn’t chafe and cause irritation. When loading up their bag, make sure you pack both sides evenly and consider the total weight. A good rule of thumb is not to exceed a third of your dog’s total body weight to ensure they won’t be weighed down. If you don’t plan on getting a dog pack, make sure you have a spacious one for all your gear. We offer two great backpacks, which you can check out here. Our Rolltop Drybag Backpack and our Packable Travel Backpack are great for day hikes!
6. Doggy First Aid Kit
You may be going on a short day hike, but it’s always a good idea to have some basic first aid items with you in case of an emergency. In case of a snake bite or allergic reaction, it’s good to take an antihistamine that’s approved for your dog’s use. Also, a dog friendly antiseptic and antibiotic ointment for any cuts to clean, treat, and prevent infections before getting to a vet.
Now once you’ve got all the necessary gear, here are some great tips to keep in mind before and during your hike.
1. Check if dogs are allowed.
Do your research on the trail you’re planning to hike to make sure you know the regulations on dogs. It’s never a good idea to take them somewhere they’re not allowed. Check hiking trails sites like Alltrails.com, that typically have this type of information available. If there’s a phone number, make the effort to call and confirm. Not only is it important to respect park regulations but it’s also important for your dog’s safety, so don’t forget to check before you make the drive to get there.
2. Pay attention your dog’s behavior
You love your dog and you want them to enjoy the hike and hopefully go with you on more, so be mindful of how they’re acting. A change in their demeanor could alert you to an injury and also give you warning signs of something threatening nearby. Our friend’s dog, Lulu, came to a complete stop while hiking and refused to move another step. At first, her owner considered the possibility of a snake nearby but a closer look revealed a prickly burr stuck in Lulu’s paw.
Paw injuries aren’t the only thing that can be threatening to your dog. Here’s a quick list of common things that could affect your dog on the trail:
1. Temperatures and extreme weather
4. Animals/insects (ticks, scorpions, snakes, coyotes, etc…)
5. Vegetation (poison oak, ivy, sumac, certain mushrooms, hemlock, etc..)
6. Pathogens from contaminated drinking water - another reason to pack a lot of water and prevent your dog from needing to drink from puddles or streams on the trail.
3. Take Breaks. This one applies to you and your dog. You may think just because they’re an animal that they can just keep going and going, but all dogs need to stop and take a breather. Our dogs aren’t as rugged as we think and most aren’t accustomed to hiking. Make sure you’re taking regular breaks and drinking plenty of water and getting any energy you both need from snacks and treats to keep you energized and strong.
4. Consider extra hiking prep, like rattlesnake avoidance training. This is most important for the hotter months of the year. This is a great skill for your dog to have on a trail for both your safety. Go online or call your local park rangers to check out a class near you.
Chances are you won’t be alone on your hike. There will be other hikers including dogs out there, and while you may be “out in the wild”, there’s some doggy etiquette to abide by while you’re on the trail.
1. Know trail regulations and policies regarding dogs. Should they be on a leash at all times? Are they even allowed on the trail you planned to hike? Knowing these things can avoid a long trip that ends in no hike or a dangerous path that’s unsuitable for your pet. We also want to protect the trails we enjoy so much, which includes sensitive vegetation. Remember some flora and fauna can be poisonous to animals so it’s also a safety measure. For all these reasons, make sure you’re looking for this information.
2. Keep your dog on a leash at all times. It’s likely you’re not going on a completely secluded trail and will meet other people along the way, with and without dogs. Some people may not be as enthusiastic about dogs as you are, so respect their space so they can also enjoy the trail. As much as your dog wants to explore and wander along the trail, they should be kept close to you and on the trail for their safety (you can refer to our list of things that can threaten your dog while hiking above).
3. Communicate with other hikers. Maybe some passing hikers want to pet your dog, but aren’t sure if it’s okay. It’s always helpful to communicate to them that your dog is friendly so that they feel calm in approaching your dog. Your calm demeanor will transfer to your dog as well so that they don’t fear the person coming in to pet and play with them. On the other hand, if you see another dog that you have a deep desire to pet, have the same courtesy and ask the owner first. The dog could be unfriendly or easily frightened of strangers and react negatively.
We hope you enjoyed our starter’s guide to hiking with your dog. Getting outdoors and moving is much easier when you’ve got someone tagging along. Our guide is meant to help you get out there with your fur baby to enjoy some amazing sights and possibly meet some new friends along the way. Our friend and fellow adventurer Christine La and her dog Lulu contributed lots of great tips to this article. We highly recommend following her on Instagram @Xtine.lotus for outdoor inspiration filled with yoga, climbing, camping, you name it. If you have any additional tips or gear you’d like to share with our readers, leave them in the comments section below, we’d love to know!
Here are some links to some top rated gear mentioned in the post.
COLLAPSIBLE WATER/FOOD BOWL
FOLDABLE WATER BOTTLES