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10 Must-Know Tips for Hiking with Your Dog

A dog on a hike with a pack on

What could be better than going on an outdoor adventure with your four-legged, forever friend? If you love hiking and nature, bring them along–they will love the fresh air and exercise as much as you. But you need to make sure that both you and your doggo are prepared to get out into nature.

Prepping Your Dog for a Hike

You can’t just decide on the spur of the moment to go for a 20-kilometre hike with your dog. Just like people, dogs need a bit of preparation and training to safely hike… even if it’s just a few kilometres. You have to make sure that your furry pal is ready.

#1 Essential Hiking Commands for Your Dog

In your home, it might not matter if your doggo immediately obeys your commands, but it is a different matter when you are exploring the wilderness. Before you go into the wilderness, your dog needs to follow some basic commands, like:

      • Come
      • Drop
      • Heel
      • Sit
      • Stay

Practice these around the house and while you are out walking. It might not seem all that important, but there could be a time when following your commands could save their life.

#2 Practice Lead Etiquette

Another thing to work on is lead etiquette. Unless your dog has remarkable self-control, you will need to keep them on lead most of the time. Make sure that they walk next to you at a steady pace (except when there might be an exceptional smell that is just too irresistible to pass up). Also, it isn’t good to have your dog constantly tugging on the lead. 

As you walk, if your dog tugs, give a gentle tug yourself. Every walk should be a training session on lead etiquette.

When hiking a trail, keeping your dog on a lead will keep them from

      • Bothering other hikers
      • Wandering off
      • Bothering wildlife
      • Earning you a ticket for an off-lead dog

You both will enjoy the hike a lot more if your doggo behaves on their lead.

#3 Check & Update Your Dog’s Vaccines and Meds

Fleas, ticks, and other pathogens occur naturally, and your dog needs to be prepared. Make sure that they have been treated for fleas, ticks, and heartworm before you go. 

You should also make sure that their vaccinations are up to date, especially for Leptospirosis, a bacteria that can be found in water–and you can bet that your doggo will be drinking out of puddles, ditches and ponds at some point during the hike.

#4 Make Sure Your Dog Is Physically Up for a Hike

Dogs are a lot like people–it can take a while to work up to a long trek. The good thing is you can work on getting into shape along with your best furry friend. 

You can start by lengthening your daily walks. If you usually go for 30 minutes, try going for an hour a few times per week. Then try some shorter hikes of 1 to 2 hours and gradually work your way up to longer hikes. If your dog is in good shape, they can probably go up to 20 kilometers and still be ready for more!

#5 Pack Smart: What to Bring on a Hike with Your Dog

Always be prepared for whatever you might encounter on the trail. Here are some things you should bring:

      • Lead and harness or collar, preferably with reflective material in case it gets dark while you are out.
      • Poo bags and a small shovel so you can deal with the waste when your doggo does their business.
      • Identification tag or microchip, just in case you get separated from your hiking buddy.
      • Water and collapsible bowl or water bottle that is dog friendly.
      • Food and snacks if it is going to be a long hike.
      • Doggy First Aid Kit just in case your dog has an accident.
      • Doggy pack (if you are going a long way) so you can let them carry some of the weight.

You don’t need everything if you are just going for an hour or so–just use common sense.

Where Should You Go Hiking with Your Doggo?

No matter where you decide to hike with your furry bestie, it’s best to know what you’re getting into before you set out. Check out the location in advance–you don’t want to drive two hours to a trail that is closed to four-legged friends.

#6 Make Sure Dogs Are Allowed

Dogs aren’t allowed on all trails and in all parks. Make sure that it is OK to bring your doggo first, and then check on rules for their behaviour because many places require dogs to remain on their leads. It might be tempting to take your dog off lead because “there isn’t anyone around.” But please follow the rules–you will be happier and other hikers will be too!

#7 Know Your Trail Etiquette

A guy hiking with his dog on a trail

When you are on a relaxing hike, you don’t want a confrontation with other hikers to ruin it for you. Some rules to follow are:

      • Keep your dog on lead unless they are well trained to come when called and being off lead is permitted.
      • Bury or pack out all poo. It contains pathogens that can harm wildlife. If you don’t want to carry the poo bags, you can get a bag with a drawstring, put the poo-filled poo bag in it, then attach it to your belt, the lead or your pack.
      • Always control your dog around other people and other dogs.
      • Ask for permission before you approach other dogs.
      • Don't let your dog urinate near a water source because it could contaminate it.

Remember, a little kindness and consideration go a long way!

#8 What to Do on the Trail

Don’t forget that you sweat, but your dog doesn’t. You need to be very careful during hot weather so your dog doesn’t overheat. Make sure that they have plenty of water, and give them water frequently. 

And always pick up or bury your doggo’s poo–while the great outdoors is a great big place, it is just polite to deal with your dog’s waste in a responsible way.

What to Do When You Get Home from a Hike

The adventure isn’t over when you get home–you still have a few things to do. Yes, post a few photos of the fun adventure you had with your doggo, and give your dog a once-over for pesky parasites.

#9 Check for Ticks

You really don’t want to have your doggo bringing ticks into your home. Check for them carefully when you return and remove and destroy any ticks that you find. You should know how to remove ticks because the longer that they are embedded, the better the chances are that they can infect your dog.

To remove a tick, use a tick removal tool to make it easier. They are better than tweezers for the job because they are designed specifically for it. Use the tool to grasp the tick as close to your dog’s skin as possible, then twist and pull lightly. Then don’t forget to sterilize the area.

#10 Enjoy the Fresh Air!

A dog posing in front of a watefall

With just a little work and advanced planning, you and your forever friend can enjoy all that nature has to offer. Just remember to start slowly, making sure that you are both ready for your adventures–you have given your dog the right training, your dog has been vaccinated and treated with the proper meds, you are both in great shape, you have planned where you are going and the rules and regulations there, and you have packed the right equipment. You will both have a great time and the bond you share will grow stronger with every trip.