Hi, I’m Stephanie. I’m a force free dog trainer who’s also addicted to hiking with my dog Neirah. I want to share my best tips for hiking with your dog so that you can have amazing experiences with your pooch too!
Look at the incredible places we have gone together!
Getting out on a hike with your canine friend is amazing. It’s fantastic exercise, a great bonding experience (your dog will LOVE it), and an opportunity to experience beautiful views and nature.
However, there are preparations & considerations before you head out on the trail. Hiking is much different than a walk around your neighbourhood; you can’t just call someone to come pick you up if things go wrong! With the proper training, tools, and planning however, I am confident that you will get as addicted to hiking with your dog as I am!
Here are my 10 best tips for hiking with your dog!
It’s important that both you & your dog have adequate fitness to take on a hike. If you are accustomed to a 30 minute neighborhood walk daily, don’t start with a 5 hour hike! Set reasonable goals that consider your dog’s breed, activity level, age and health. If you have any concerns about these check with your vet to make sure hiking is appropriate for your dog.
If you have a particular hike in mind and it’s vastly outside of your dog’s current fitness level, make sure you gradually increase their exercise levels to match the goal.
Choosing a strenuous hike outside of your dogs (or your!) fitness level without pre-conditioning for it will not be enjoyable experience, and also significantly increases the risk of injury.
2. Make sure it’s a dog-friendly trail:
Depending on your location, not all hiking trails allow dogs! Some dog-friendly trails also deny dogs at certain times of the year due to wildlife. Do your research before driving all the way there to avoid disappointment!
It’s also helpful to read trip reports & look at photos to determine if the length, terrain, and difficulty match your dogs abilities.
I personally use All Trails when I’m looking for new hikes, but there are many amazing apps out there now!
3. Train a few helpful obedience skills beforehand:
There are so many sights, sounds and smells out on hikes. It’s like Disneyland for your dog! It’s exciting to watch them be so excited 🙂
However, that over-excitement can also shine a spotlight on obedience skills that may be lacking, and a hike is NOT the place to try teaching them.
In particular, there are 4 skills that will make hiking more safe and enjoyable for both of you! (Articles explaining how to teach them are linked):
- Loose leash walking: The quickest way to ruin a hike? Walking a dog that pulls the.entire.way!! There’s nothing more frustrating than being dragged. Every dog can learn to walk politely, but it takes time. Start training your dog to loose leash walk as soon as possible!
- Recall: If you aren’t 99.9% sure your dog will come back to you when you call, don’t let them off leash on hikes! There are many hazards on hikes: animals, cliffs, getting lost, etc. It’s also important to remember that not everyone likes dogs, and that not all hiking areas allow dogs to be off-leash regardless of how well trained they are. If you will be doing an off-leash hike, but sure your dogs recall is rock-solid first!
- Leave It: In my opinion as a dog trainer, “leave it” is one of the most important skills you can teach your dog. “Leave it” can be used any time there’s something that your dog is interested in but does NOT have in their possession (yet). Sidewalk snacks, animals, scents, or even gross things to roll in. Remember though: Dogs do not understand english. You need to spend time teaching your dog what the words “Leave it” mean, and heavily reward them for doing so.
- Drop It: Saying “drop it” to your dog means “please release the thing in your mouth”. For obvious reasons, this can be very helpful while hiking!!
The more time you spend pre-training your pup, the more enjoyable the hike will be!
4. Start early & “summit” by noon:
This is one of the most important tips for hiking with your dog!
One of the rules I created for myself and ALWAYS follow when hiking with my dog is to summit (or reach the halfway point of a loop) by noon at the latest.
If we’re doing a long hike this sometimes means we need to start verrrrrry early in the morning.
Why am I strict about this?
I want to make sure we’re more than halfway (or that we’ve finished all the incline walking) before the heat of the day hits.
Dogs are very susceptible to heat stroke, so it’s important to know the signs and what to do! Read this.
5. Use a harness + long line:
Many trails do not allow off-leash dogs, but it’s still nice to offer our dogs more freedom than a typical walk!
I commonly use & suggest a harness and a 10-20ft leash when hiking. The harness improves comfort and decreases the risk of neck injury, while the long leash allows your dog safe access to alllllll the sniffs.
I personally use and love this 15ft biothane leash from Signature K9.
It’s easy to clean, and so light that you won’t notice that you’re carrying it!
6. Pack enough water + a way to deliver it:
Many people assume there will be adequate streams & lakes for their dog to drink from along the way. That can be a risky gamble, because what if there aren’t?
Make sure you bring enough water for your dog AND a way to deliver it (cupping it in your hands can get very annoying & wasteful).
I personally use this amazing Sofunii dog water bottle:
It has a built in cup for your pooch to drink from, and allows you to recollect the water your dog doesn’t finish with the press of a buttom. It’s genius! I’ve also dropped mine countless times now, and it’s yet to break.
7. Have a plan for carrying your dog out if necessary:
We always hope that hikes will go perfectly, but life happens.
On my most recent hike my dog Neirah hurt her front leg, and I had to carry her back to the car:
There are many options out there for emergency carriers, so choose one that matches your dog’s size!
8. Bring snacks. So many snacks:
One of my favourite parts of hiking? Snacks!
Spending a few hours exercising can really build up an appetite. I love taking a lunch/snack break on a summit and enjoying the views.
Remember: if you’ve built up an appetite, so has your dog! Make sure you remember to pack some extra calories for them too.
Everyone enjoys snacks 🙂
9. Take a moment to enjoy what you’ve accomplished together!
Make sure you find a beautiful spot during your hike to take a break & marvel in what you’ve accomplished!
Very few dogs have owners that take them hiking. You just made your canine friend’s dreams come true. Be proud of that!
Congratulate yourself & them on having such an amazing experience together!
10. Do a quick check of your dog back at the car:
After your hike, do a quick once over check of your dog before you drive off.
Ticks, scratches, abrasion… these are all things that are best to notice and deal with ASAP!
Done your check?
Now start planning your next hike 😉
Please let me know in the comments if this was helpful, and if there are any other tips for hiking with your dog that you have!
Happy hiking! 🙂
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