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Who doesn’t love hiking? The fresh air, the cool breeze, and the chance to connect with nature are all some of the many benefits of hitting the hiking trails year-round. Dogs make great companions for such outdoor trips. They’re energetic, loyal, and always up for an adventure. Hiking with dogs is completely different from hiking with other people or by yourself.

Dogs enjoy hiking just as much as you do. Most dogs love to travel and enjoy spending time outdoors.

The new smells and sights are very stimulating, not to mention that dogs love to exercise. On top of how happy it makes your dog, hiking is also great for their socialization, joints, and overall health and well-being.

Hiking is also an excellent activity to promote and foster the bond that you share with your pet.

RELATED: Hiking with a dog? Here’s what you need to know.

Hiking by yourself is understandably peaceful, but it can also be unsafe and perhaps even a little lonely. Dogs won’t try to make conversation and disturb your peace, but they’ll still keep you company. However, before you go hiking with your dog, there are some things to consider and steps you should take. This guide to hiking with dogs will tell you everything you need to know.

A Basic Guide to Hiking with Dogs

Things to Think About Before the Hike

Before you and your Fido set off on a hike, there are a few precautions you should take. For your and your dog’s safety you should:

  • Be sure your dog is 100% obedient to your commands.
  • Take him on a few shorter walks to prepare for the larger hike. This will give you a better idea of whether it’s going to be too much for him.
  • Make sure your dog has proper identification on their collar. A microchip or GPS tracking collar would be good to have as well, but they aren’t necessities.

You should also take your dog to the vet before hitting the trail. Hiking is strenuous for both humans and canines. If your dog is older or has experienced health problems, it’s a good idea to make sure your vet clears him for the intense workout. Also, trails have a lot of bacteria-carrying insects that could potentially bite. It’s important to have your dog up-to-date on his vaccinations so that he’s not at risk of contracting worms or rabies.

RELATED: Dog Safety: This Is Why Your Dog Needs a GPS Tracker

Perform an honest evaluation of your dog’s temperament around others. While hiking, you’re likely to run into other people with their own dogs. If your dog is one that gets aggressive quickly or is easily startled, perhaps a hiking trip isn’t the best idea.

Also, there are other animals in the woods, so if your dog has a propensity for chasing after them and not returning, you should consider keeping him on a leash. Just remember that sometimes you’ll need your hands to climb and hold on to things while you’re hiking.

Holding a dog on a leash can make it more difficult for you and it can also be a safety hazard. If your dog isn’t well-mannered or doesn’t listen consistently, you may want to think about leaving him at home.

RELATED: How to Prepare Your Dog for Camping

Size is a factor as well. If you have a small dog, the hike may be overwhelming for him. Any dog over 40-50 pounds is probably a good dog to take with you outdoors. That’s not to say that small dogs are any less in-shape than large dogs. They just have to take more steps to cover the same distance, and that can be exhausting. A mile for a Pomeranian is not a mile for a Mastiff—the smaller dog is more likely to become tired faster, regardless of fitness level.

A Basic Guide to Hiking with Dogs
Photo: Scott Horsman

You should also be sure to tell someone exactly where you are going and that you’re bringing your dog. If you two become separated, or if you both become lost you need to know that forest rangers and search parties will be aware that your dog is out there somewhere too.

Lastly, above all, make sure your dog actually has an interest in the outdoors. I’m sure if you’re reading a guide to hiking with dogs you probably already have a good idea that your dog enjoys the outdoors, but it’s worth mentioning. Many dogs are excited by going outside and playing, but there are some that find themselves less than enthused by it. Affirm that your dog has a vested interest in going outside and playing. You wouldn’t want to end up having to drag him or her up and down trail hills.

What should you pack for a hike with your dog?

Aside from the basic necessities like food and water, you’ll need to pack a few other essentials to make sure your hike is as safe as possible. Although you don’t want too much weight in your pack, there are certain things that will be worth adding. One such essential is your first-aid kit with dog-specific items.

Dogs and humans can’t use all of the same first-aid products. While dogs can use antiseptic wipes and adhesive tape, they can only have coated aspirin. According to the Humane Society, other items that should be packed in the doggy kit include:

  • gauze pads
  • self-clinging bandage that sticks to itself but not to fur
  • cotton swabs or pads
  • ice packs
  • tweezers
  • hydrogen peroxide to induce vomiting in an extreme emergency
  • rectal thermometer
  • blunt-end scissors

Though this sounds like a lot, it won’t weigh too much and if it’s packed appropriately, it won’t take up an overly large amount of space either.

A Basic Guide to Hiking with Dogs
Photo: c-g

Speaking of space, providing your dog with their own backpack will help you a great deal. They’ll be able to carry most of their own supplies leaving your pack lighter and easier to manage.

RELATED: Dog Carrier Backpack or Carrier Sling? It’s a Matter of Convenience

Obviously if your pooch is a teacup breed and could fit in a backpack of their own they won’t need to heft their own bag, but medium and large breeds are more than capable of carrying a doggy backpack.

Choosing a pack that fits your dog well will ensure that the trip is smooth. In addition to not packing more than one third of your dog’s body weight onto his back, you should also choose a pack that won’t cause chafing or blistering. You want your dog’s hike to be as fun as possible and incurring wounds because of the pack you put on him would be very painful and make it hard for him to walk with you.

RELATED: 10 Items You Need When Traveling with Dogs

Other things to include in your dog’s pack (or your own if you choose not to fit your dog with a backpack) are:

  • A leash and collar; even if your dog is walking off leash you never know when you may need to control him.
  • food and bowl
  • water and bowl
  • bug spray
  • dog waste bags
  • dog boots

Top 10 most essential dog travel products on Amazon:

  1. Ruffwear Front Range Harness
  2. Pet Naturals of Vermont – Calming Support
  3. Bergan Comfort Carrier Soft-Sided Pet Carrier
  4. Invisible Dog Boots – Protect Paws From Sand
  5. Pet ‘n Shape Chik ‘n Skewers Treat for Dogs
  6. Flexi Explore Retractable Belt Dog Leash
  7. Pet Champion Large Tie Out Cable for Dogs
  8. 3-Pack Li’l Pals Round Dog Bells
  9. Plus Flea & Tick Medication For Dogs
  10. Folding Collapsible Travel Food & Water Bowl

Things to consider during the hike

Now that it’s time to hike, pick a dog-friendly hiking trail. Some parks don’t allow dogs in. Others do. Find a trail that not only permits dogs to hike with owners, but also has nice trails that look appropriate for a dog to be on (no jagged rocks).

A Basic Guide to Hiking with Dogs
Photo: djwalter80

Before going hiking, feed your dog a little extra. An hour before hiking, give your dog a small serving of food. This will keep him energized throughout the hike. It’s similar to a human ingesting a protein shake or bar before they exercise—no one wants to work out on an empty stomach, dogs included.

Bring treated water with you so that the dog doesn’t drink out of any bacteria-filled rivers or streams. Let him drink every 20-30 minutes. You should also offer him food every two hours. Just like you, your dog will burn more calories on a hike than during a normal day at home. He will need to eat more calories to keep his energy level up throughout the hike.

If you’re interested in hiking frequently with your pet you may want to purchase some dog supplies that are specifically geared toward the outdoors. We’ve written about some excellent outdoor dog products including:

When you’re hiking with your dog, you will find that the preparation paid off. Hiking is a great bonding activity for dogs and their owners. With preparation and foresight, it’ll certainly be a rewarding experience. Every dog loves a little variation in his playtime. If you want, you can even bring toys with you so that your dog can take a break and play fetch during the hike.

Keeping playtime interesting with your dog is a way to prolong his or her life and make sure that they are as happy as possible. Also, going outside does wonders for both human and canine health and spirit. Hiking is an activity that not only bonds you and your dog together; it also makes you both healthier. Following this guide to hiking with dogs will ensure that you have fun and stay safe.

Top 5 best selling dog backpacks for hiking on Amazon:

  1. Outward Hound 2490 Dog Backpack
  2. Outward Hound DayPak Dog Backpack
  3. Ruffwear Approach Dog Backpack
  4. Kyjen Outward Hound Excursion Dog Backpack
  5. Ruffwear Singletrak Backpack for Pets

* The above top 5 picks for best selling dog backpacks are based on Amazon’s Best Seller rankings [July, 2015].