Hiking With Your Dogs

You love the great outdoors, and your dog does too! What better way to share an adventure than to spend a day on the trail with your 4-legged buddy? A dog can be an ideal hiking companion. Hiking with your dog can give you a sense of security and companionship. Their heightened senses can even alert you to wild entertainment you might otherwise miss. But, before you go running off into the woods, you want to make sure you’re prepared for the expected and the unexpected. Here are a few things you should consider.

Safety First!

Before you head out, make sure your dog’s rabies and other vaccinations, as well as protection against heartworm, fleas, and ticks are up to date, since your dog will be mixing with a wild crowd while on the trail. Extra items in your first aid kit should include, vet wrap and gauze for wounds, EMT gel and/or styptic powder to clot blood from broken toenails, tweezers or tick remover tool, and a bandana. On a typical day hike, dog booties won’t be necessary, but it’s a good idea to stick them in your pack, in case of paw injury.

Know the Terrain

To avoid injury and maximize fun, be sure to pick a trail that is suitable to you and your pup’s physical condition and ability. Fido may have 4-wheel drive, but not all terrain is suitable for a dog. You may encounter tough rock scrambles or dangerous cliffs that could pose a hazard to you and your pup. Keep in mind that your dog is hiking barefoot, and trails with rocky terrain can be tough on paws, so check toes and footpads often.

Trail Bling

Most hiking areas require your dog to be on a leash at all times, not only for his safety but also that of the hikers and wildlife around you. So, always bring a leash. If you are lucky enough to hike in an area that allows off-leash dogs, be sure that your dog has a good recall, so that he doesn’t run away, chase wildlife, or harass other hikers. A harness would be a safer choice over a collar. You may need to quickly pull your dog to safety and a neck collar can put strain on your dog’s neck and breathing. ID tags with your cell phone number are a must!

Other Trail Essentials

Fresh drinking water is as important for your dog as it is for you, so be sure to bring a collapsible water bowl and extra water for easy in-transit hydration. And, don’t forget the snacks. A dog pack is a great way to carry the extra gear your dog needs, but proper fit and load weight are important things to consider, otherwise you’ll be the one carrying it! And remember to always pick up after your dog. Not doing so is a surefire way to ruin other hikers’ enjoyment of the trail.

At the end of every hike, be sure to check your pup’s paws for injuries and thoroughly check his coat for ticks. If your hike included muddy trails, or brush with poison ivy, it’s more than likely your dog will need to hit the tub.

A tired dog is a happy dog. Now that you’ve found another fun activity you can enjoy with your dog, and you know how to keep it safe, get on out there and hit the trails!

Happy tails!

Daisy and Browning On the Trail

About Author


  • Jaimieluvsyanks

    Nice job….Your dogs are beautiful and they look very happy to be with you out hiking.

  • Lmgreenfield

    Why is a bandana on the “must-have” list you provided?

    • Andrea

      A bandana has multiple uses for both you and your dog. I always tie a bandana around my dog’s neck while in the woods – it stands out better than a collar, making the dog easier to identify over an animal (especially during hunting season). A bandana can also double as a bandage in an emergency or be used to wipe off muddy paws before getting in the car.

  • Greg W

    How much weight in terms of percent body mass can a dog handle on a long backpacking trip? My feelings are that if he can’t tote his own food and water, he’s staying home. Also, I have heard from AT hikers, that the family dog goes wild or “feral” after an extended backpacking trip. The dog just looses all the commands he learned during domestication. Is this just some bs from the anti dog folks or is it true?

    GN Whitis
    Greensboro, Al

    • Andrea

      The amount of weight your dog can carry really depends on their physical condition, the terrain, and duration of the hike. From what I’ve heard, a dog should carry no more than 15% of their weight. It’s best to start with a lighter load and go on a few training hikes to test out your dogs physical capability as well as the fit of the pack. Its important to have a well fitting pack and that you evenly distribute the weight, otherwise you’ll be the one carrying it!

      I have never heard of a dog going wild after an extended backpacking trip but I guess anything is possible. I always keep my dog on a leash and still use basic comands like sit, stay, heel while on the trail, so I don’t think that will happen with my dogs 😉

  • adventerousdogs

    great dogs, I hike alot with mine and have a yellow lab and germanshort haired pointer, like yourself. Great tips.

  • Neil Ringlee

    Great discussion. Three things I would point out are first, pay particular attention to any environmental threats in your area. Snakes and insects present a real danger. Have your dog snake trained if you are in rattler country. It really works if get have it done by someone who knows what they are doing. The best folks to talk with about that will be local hunting groups. Our dogs are at high risk and snake avoidance training and good trainers are vitally important.

    Secondly, make sure you are all in shape. Hiking in any weather can be a challenge but as heat and cold get more radical so are the risks you face. My 120 pound Golden Retriever outruns most of his peers in all weather because we do this every day.

    And last but not least, our partners are natural chasers and breaking them of that habit is next to impossible. When in doubt, leash your dog. Dogs chasing deer, coyotes, or any other animal is not good for the dog and not good for the wildlife. Anticipate and prevent these situations and have a wonderful time with your canine partners.

  • Gil W0MN EN34rb

    I have to add that a human can endure a great deal more than a dog when it is hot. The human will sweat and cool himself, the dog can only pant. I have seen many dogs in distress when hiking during heat indexes over 90 degrees.