The Dos and Don’ts of Hiking With Your Dog

Let’s face it: dogs are born to roam the wild.  Even the most domesticated ones like to explore every now and then.  What better way to let your dog satisfy his exploring instincts than to take him for a hike?

We Americans are so lucky that our country is full of raw land with gorgeous trails, especially in the mountains.  Chances are you probably live near a trail.  Hiking is one of the best things you can do outdoors during the summertime.  Your dog would agree!

Hiking with a dog requires a lot of thought and preparation, though.  You’ll be alone with your dog in the woods, so you have to be prepared for any kind of scenario that may come along.  The more you know, the better time you and your dog will have.

Here are some dos and don’ts of hiking with your dog:

DO ask yourself if your dog would enjoy hiking.  This is the first thing you should do.  If your dog is old or disabled, he would be much happier if he stayed home.  Don’t take your dog for a hike because you want to; do it because you believe he wants to.

DON’T go on the first trail you see.  First, you have to make sure the trail you choose is canine-friendly.  Some U.S. national parks don’t allow dogs.  You can look for canine-friendly trails at  Next, make sure the trail you choose isn’t littered with sharp rocks, hot surfaces, or steep drops.  Keep in mind that your dog is walking with his bare paws, so you want him to be as comfortable as possible.  Go with trails that have plenty of shade and are covered in leaves or pine needles.

DO clean up after your dog.  Keep our wildernesses clean!  Plus, uncovered dog waste could attract dangerous animals like bears and coyotes.  Be sure to bring plastic bags, and when your dog does his business, pick it up and double-bag it.  Since there are little to no trash cans in the woods, you’ll have to carry it with you until you find a trash can.  Yes, it’s gross, but when your dog’s happy, does it really matter?  If you’re on an all-day or overnight trip, you can bury your dog’s waste away from the trail and water sources.

DON’T unleash your dog.  It doesn’t matter how well-trained your dog is, you should always keep him on a leash.  So many things could go wrong – he could find a scent and follow it off-trail, approach other hikers who don’t like dogs, or encounter a dangerous animal.  It’s recommended that you stick to a leash that’s 6 feet or less in length.  You also want to make sure your dog has his collar and tag on at all times.  If you’re on an over-night trip, you can attach glow stick bracelets to his collar so you won’t lose him at night.

DO pack all the necessary items for your dog.  A lot of pet supply stores sell cute little backpacks for dogs!  If you get your dog one, be sure to pack it evenly at both sides, and it’s very important that the total weight doesn’t exceed 1/3 of your dog’s body weight.  Load the bag with dog food, water, a doggy first aid kit (which should include bandages and tweezers), bowls, and anything else your dog may need.

Last, but not least…

DO have fun!

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