Hiking With Dogs - Read The Ultimate Dog Hiking Guide
If you are the adventurous type, there is no better way to spend your weekend than to go hiking. It is a huge plus for health reasons, and it's a beautiful experience. To make it even more exciting and memorable, how about bringing some company with you?
You can count on your dog to be your loyal companion.
You must have watched TV shows where people go to great lengths with their dogs and create these amazing new memories.
Why don't you do the same? All you need to do is learn basic rules about hiking with dogs and prepare your pup for the journey. If you decide to do so, you won't have to worry about a thing. We've got it all covered.
Hiking with your dog can be the experience you've been waiting for. So don't waste another minute and scroll down!
Preparing For The Hike
It might seem simple, but you can't just go hiking on any mountain or trail with your dog and expect everything to go according to plan.
Hiking with dogs requires you to take certain precautions.
That's why we want to simplify this hiking guide and make the process of preparing you and your doggo friend as easy as possible.
Here are the things pet parents should do before they embark on this journey.
A Visit To The Vet
A visit to the vet should generally be done regularly, regardless of whether you are going somewhere or not. In this case, it's a hike with your dog, and you should not skip this step.
Your dog's health, especially when preparing for a trip, should be in excellent condition. Therefore, a full physical examination is necessary.
Here are the steps by which you will check whether your dog is healthy or not.
A general inspection
A logical start involves a general examination of your dog's condition and appearance. The vet will usually want to examine the dog from every angle, paying attention to its weight, appearance, height, and coat.
That will give the vet an initial picture of your pup's potential health before the hike.
Based on this general examination, you can determine several things, including whether your dog is responsive, alert, overweight, underweight, quiet, depressed, etc.
The vet must pay special attention to your dog's head. It is possible to come across some bumps that can be felt by touching the front of your dogs scalp. That's not a good sign!
The process can also include an eye examination. If you're taking an older dog with you, it is possible that it already has some vision problems, in which case it will need case medication or treatment.
Skin and coat
A dog's skin and coat play a huge role in hiking. Before you go on any trip, your dog's fur must be appropriately groomed and trimmed.
However, if your dog has a history of fleas and ticks, you need to be careful and bring extra equipment with you. The vet will instruct you on what you need to buy.
Chest examination is vital. It involves placing a stethoscope against your dog's chest and checking its breathing pattern. Hiking requires more energy than a regular walk, and your dog can't have weak lungs.
A circulatory examination is closely related to the previous one. It involves checking your pup's heart rate, pulses, and potential blood clots. If your dog's pulse is not steady, this can create a problem after a certain distance has been crossed.
The neurological examination is the most demanding one, and it can be crucial. It's related to your dog's reflexes. During hiking, the environment around you is rarely calm, and it's not uncommon for something unexpected to pop up.
Your dog must be able to react quickly, especially if there is any danger.
Respect Trail Regulations (B.A.R.K.)
Respecting trail regulations means respecting the B.A.R.K. principles. Let's go over them and explain.
B - Bag your dog's waste.
A - Always keep dogs on a leash.
R - Respect the wildlife and your surroundings.
K - Know where you are allowed to go.
Going hiking does not mean that nature will always be on your side and that you can do whatever you want. Just as you have to follow the rules when you go alone, you will have to follow the B.A.R.K principles when you hit the trail with your dog.
First and foremost, you are in nature, and any kind of pollution could be punishable by law. So you, as the owner, are in charge of packing your dog's waste.
This is somewhat obvious, don't you agree?
Next, hiking is a broad term; some trails are not meant for you. Keep in mind that you're not allowed to step everywhere, mainly for safety reasons.
So, stay on your path, and don't let your dog stray.
That will be a hundred times easier if you follow the rules and keep your dog on a leash. Many things can distract your dog. Imagine you come across a squirrel, a waterfall, or some other animal, and your dog instantly starts running after it - you mustn't let that happen.
Keeping your dog calm and behaved is of the utmost importance.
Practice Trail Etiquette For Dogs
This segment is based on your general knowledge of trail etiquette, or as many people like to call it, the petiquiette. If you already know something about trails and outdoor requirements, great. And if you don't know, don't worry; we're here to help you sort through this topic.
It's about the overall behavior of your dog during hiking. And that applies to everything from passers-by, the environment you are in, external sources, and obedience of your pet.
There are several items by which this etiquette is governed, and we will list and explain each one of them in brief.
Choosing a dog-friendly hiking trail
A dog-friendly trail is no longer so hard to find, given that most National Parks nowadays allow owners with their dogs to go on a hike.
Yes, dog hiking has become very popular, and more and more people with their four-legged friends are opting for this type of adventure.
All you need to do is visit the site of the place you want to go to, do a bit of research yourself, and make sure that both dogs and humans are allowed hiking in that area.
Getting your dog on a leash
Hiking with your dog requires both of you to obey the law, and by that, we mean the famous leash law. As you may have guessed, your dog can't walk around freely.
It has to be on a leash at all times.
It would be desirable for the leash to be manually stretchable but not to be stretched more than 6 feet. That allows your dog to be in close proximity - but at the same time, away from potential danger.
That said, there are trails where your dog is allowed to walk without a leash. It's not something you can expect everywhere, but you can certainly come across such pet-friendly trails if you research well enough.
Also, you must rely on adequate training in these cases. That means that your dog must learn to obey the following commands:
- Leave it!
Explore the trail but respect the wildlife
As you hike, the surroundings will surely look breathtaking, and you will want to capture every single moment. You can do this without damaging the nature around you. We're sure you'll encounter a sign here and there that indicates this.
If you come across an extraordinary view or a plant that seems exotic, do not get too close. It's best to enjoy the view from a distance. That exotic flower can be poisonous for all you know!
It is imperative to respect the nature around you and not let your dog wander around. If you do break this rule, you'll most likely end up paying a fine.
Do not disturb other hikers and animals
Hiking is about minding your own business. Most likely, you will not be alone on your hike expedition, and you will come across other people as well. Some will go alone, some with their family, and some will also opt for hiking with dogs, just like you.
You should be aware that not all people are crazy about dogs. You can easily stumble upon someone who doesn't want to be near your fluffy friend. That's why, before you approach anyone, you should ask permission to greet.
If they say yes, give your dog permission to approach fellow hikers or animals. If they say no, step back and continue with your hike.
Whatever the case, you need to stick to your own trail and not harass the people around you. That brings us back to adequate training. It would be best if you didn't allow your dog to go around and sniff other people and animals.
Accidents are not uncommon, and it can easily happen that your dog bites another dog, or worse, a man or a child. In that case, your backpack should have a certificate indicating that your dog has been vaccinated.
This way, you will avoid an unpleasant situation and a potential fine.
Leave no trace along the trail
That applies to both you - and your pet. Much of the respect for the petitquette means that you leave nothing behind. If you decide to take your dogs with you on hikes, you will have to get used to cleaning up after them.
So, just as you must not leave trash, your dog must not leave feces behind. Before you start hiking with dogs, prepare yourself by buying poop bags - and always pack at least a couple of them.
The only trace a dog can leave you is its paws.
Hike with one dog at a time
A rule that you must not ignore is the number of dogs you can take on hikes. Unfortunately, for those who have more than one pet, we've got some sad news:
You can take only one of them with you.
Dog hiking with more than one pup by your side is not acceptable in many places. A lot of hiking trails do not allow owners to take two dogs at once, as this can be difficult both for the hiker and the other eight paws that are following.
For more information on the topic of trail etiquette, click here.
Things You Need To Pack -Dog Essentials
It's just like packing for a solo trip - but now you have to think about your four-legged friend as well. You will have to pack its backpack too, and there are many things that they need.
So, before going hiking with your dog, make sure that you have your complete gear with you.
Dog Hiking Backpack
In addition to your regular backpack, your dog must have its own small bag, which will be attached to its back. Dogs must carry this throughout the entire hiking trip.
Food & Water Essentials
Of course, among the first things that will go into your dog's backpack are food and drinks. When we think about essentials, we think about the following:
- Portable food and water bowls (easily washable)
- Water supply
- Dry dog food (preferably high in protein)
- Trail snacks and treats (not too much of them)
When preparing your dog's backpack, you must estimate how much food and water your dog needs. If you know that your dog will eat or drink a lot, don't hesitate to pack more food and enough water sources.
First Aid Kit - A MUST!
You never know whether an accident will happen or whether your dog will end up injured. For that very reason, you should have your pet's first aid kit with you at all times.
Most people choose not to pack this item, and that's a terrible mistake. Hiking can end up being dangerous, especially if the trails are too steep.
With the first aid kit, you can save your dog from almost any injury. Some of the essentials you will need are:
- Sterile, absorbent gauze
- Scissors (blunt)
- Surgical sticky rope
- Cotton wool
- Rubber gloves
- First aid manual
- Vaccination record (which we mentioned earlier)
For example, if your dog has sensitive feet and paws, pack some extra tweezers and scissors.
Dog Wardrobe & Accessories
You can plan the whole hiking with your dog, and the weather can change in an instant. That should not hold you back, though. Weather is an essential factor, but you can work around it if you remember to pack the right wardrobe and accessories.
These are some things you should bring with you in case of sudden weather changes during your hike.
Wardrobe: dog hiking boots, dog raincoats, reflective jackets, etc.
Accessories: extra collars or leashes, ID tags, dog hats, etc.
As you can see, hiking with dogs can turn into a real fashion show.
How Far Can My Dog Hike?
It's pretty clear that not every dog breed can hike with the same intensity. Dog-friendly trails play a big part in this, but there are also certain factors related to your dog's body and health.
How far can my dog hike in one day?
Active dogs can hike for about 15-20 miles per day. Fitness is just one of the several factors that allow your pup to walk long distances. Good hiking dogs are usually the ones that are accustomed to spending time outside.
Speaking of hikes and long distances, learn more about the extreme side of hiking in our thru-hiking guide!
Things That Influence My Dog's Hiking Abilities
Let’s first go through the general factors that can determine whether your dog is a good hiker or not:
- Activity level
- Overall health condition
To make hiking with dogs an authentic experience, vets do not recommend taking a dog older than eight years on a trip like that.
It's somewhat logical if you think about it, isn't it?
The first sign that your longtime pet should sit this one out is that it has passed a certain age. However, if you really wish to take your dog hiking - regardless of age - you should start exercising on time.
That includes taking your dog for a 30-40 minute walk along any dog-friendly trail that isn't too demanding.
Clearly, not all dog breeds are gifted hikers. Some dogs are better suited for trails, and some are satisfied with daily walks. And that's totally fine.
If hiking is not your dog's thing, don't worry. You can still take it to see wildlife somewhere else.
In a few minutes, we will list down the best companions - dogs hiking edition.
Your dog's activity, fitness level, and willingness to spend most of the day outside indicate that it is a potential candidate for hiking. You can easily recognize it from an early age; you just need to notice the signs.
Dogs that will do good on hiking adventures enjoy long walks, have a solid build, like to try different activities with you, love to play fetch, know how to behave in nature, etc.
Overall health condition
Here, health can be a determining factor. If your dog's health is in poor condition, its body and organism will not be able to withstand such pressure, and it will probably have trouble keeping up the pace.
That's why you need to get your dog checked before you take on this trip!
Some Extra Tips On How To Hit The Trail
There is no reason to speed things up at the very beginning of your journey. Start your hike slowly, and see how your dog is doing.
Increase the speed gradually
If your dog shows no signs of fatigue, it's time to pick up the speed a bit. The average walking speed should be 3 miles per hour. Remember, you're in control, and you decide on the pace.
Take regular breaks
You can go as fast as you want, but taking regular breaks is a must. Both you and your dog need to rest for a few seconds. So, when you feel like you've hiked enough, stretch your blankets and rest your legs and paws.
Always pay close attention to signs of fatigue and dehydration. Here are some red flags you should look out for:
- Dry nose and gums
- Tired-looking eyes
- Reduced energy
- Refusing to eat
You must keep your dog hydrated and fed at all times! It would be a good idea to set the alarm to let you both know it's time to drink some water.
Best Dog Breeds For Hiking
We will try to be straightforward about this and list the top 7 companions for hiking expeditions.
Oh, and no offense to the breeds that are not on this list. We love all of them.
1. Siberian Husky
As far as hiking goes, there is not much to say about this dog breed. Even at first glance, it is clear that this dog breed was created for wildlife, outdoor adventures, and long hikes. What's more, training huskies is easy. You won't have any problems with the whole "keep your dog on a leash" part.
2. Australian Shepherd
The Australian Shepherd is another great hiking companion. It is a very strong dog breed, and its adventurous spirit will make the experience even more enjoyable. The only thing that can be an obstacle is a collar that can bother their long hair.
3. German Shorthaired Pointer
This breed has been used for hiking purposes for decades. This dog is pretty much born to walk long distances and not get tired. German Shorthaired Pointers have extra-high energy levels, and they don't have a problem with leashes. They're also trained to protect their owner if danger arises.
4. Rhodesian Ridgeback
This dog breed originates from Africa. Interestingly, people used them for hunting purposes, and that's where they get their energy from. If you decide to take your Rhodesian Ridgeback hiking, you won't have to worry about taking frequent breaks.
5. Portuguese Water Dog
It may not seem like a dog breed ideal for hiking, but the Portuguese Water Dog has a rich history - and is no stranger to long distances. They were couriers from ship to ship, and bringing them with you to experience hiking trails will make them happier than ever!
6. Bernese Mountain Dog
The name says it all. The Bernese Mountain Dog is your ideal hiking companion. They are very friendly, their behavior is exemplary, and they can adapt to any weather. It would be great if you could pack some extra water, though.
This breed needs tons of water sources!
7. Jack Russel Terrier
Miniature in size, but perfect for hiking expeditions! Jack Russel Terriers love adventure, and you can count on them to hit the trail with you anytime!
Reasons Why You Should Bring Your Dog Hiking
If you're still unsure whether this is a good choice, here are a few reasons why you should take your dog on hikes.
- Hiking represents a healthy outdoor activity and an opportunity to participate in fun and inexpensive recreation.
- Your dog's fascination for plants and the wildlife you see along the trail will make this an unforgettable experience.
- It's a fun way to spend some human-dog quality time.
- Hiking can improve your dog's training regime.
- Hiking can improve your dog's intuition and sense of security.
Hiking With Your Dog - Final Thoughts
It is time to summarize everything we have managed to go through in this article. So, you want to go hiking with your dog after all?
You should definitely do that!
As a matter of fact, dogs make excellent hiking companions. However, you need to know that this is not just your daily walk. You have to be prepared, and thanks to posts like this one, your job is twice as easy!
Your dog must have everything it needs, from food and water to clothes. You, as the owner, are responsible for its behavior, and you must obey certain principles.
So, if the forecast predicts sunny weather for this weekend, make sure you have everything you need and hit the road!
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