Hiking trails present many challenges for dogs. Here are 10 things to keep in mind to protect your pup on the trails.
1. Bring plenty of water for your dog
Dehydration is a constant threat for people and dogs while hiking.
When your water is halfway emptied, you should turn around and head back to the trailhead - the same goes for your dog’s water.
I recommended packing the dog’s water separately, if possible, to keep an eye on how much you have left for your dog.
Bring a collapsible water bowl or a dog water bottle.
Dogs need more water than usual when hiking and will need to drink at least every 20-30 minutes, or anytime you take your own water break.
Need a water bowl for hiking? Get yours here.
2. Bring dog food and treats
You brought that trail bar for yourself, but it’s a good idea to bring high protein treats for your dog to keep them going and replenish their calories.
Also, don’t forget actual food.
Even on a day hike, I will bring a cup of kibble for Bodhi, my Cattle Dog, in case we don’t make it back in time for his usual dinner. And trust me - Bodhi let’s me know if we missed his dinner! 😳
3. Protect your dog’s paws
Did you know it’s illegal to take your dog on Phoenix area trails when the temperature reaches 100 degrees?
The law is within good reason. Besides dehydration, burning dogs’ paws is a very common threat, especially in hot climates.
Avoid hiking in the summer when the temperature soars and the rocky trails turn into hot coals for your pup’s pads.
Try to hike early in the morning or in the afternoon to avoid the hottest part of the day.
Not sure if the ground is safe for your dog?
🔥 How to know if the ground is too hot for your dog:
- Touch the ground with the palm of your hand
- If it’s too hot to the touch within 5 seconds - it’s too hot for a dog and could burn their paws.
You could train your dog to wear dog booties, but I haven’t had much luck with them.
In my opinion, if the ground is too hot to walk on, it’s probably too hot to take your dog hiking at all and best to stay off the trails.
4. Leave No Trace
The natural hiking trails are beautiful - let’s keep them that way!
Please pick up your trash, no matter how small, and take it with you back to a trash can.
Hiking Dog Co. promotes the “leave no trace” principles, which include packing out what you pack in. This includes everything from banana peels to dog poop.
5. Properly Dispose of Dog Poop
According to the EPA and Clean Water Campaign, dog waste is a leading cause of water pollution in the U.S.
If you leave it, it will eventually end up in our stormwater and the 23 million disease carrying pathogens that your dog’s poop contains, healthy or otherwise, could end up in our water supply. (Yuck!)
Take extra doggy poo bags and pick it up and take it with you immediately.
Please do not tie it to a tree or shrub with the intention of grabbing it on the way back.
There’s a good chance another animal will grab it before you do, and a very good chance you’ll completely forget.
Not to mention, other hikers aren't too keen on you decorating their view with your poo ornaments.
Respect your neighbors - respect the trails!
6. Fit A Dog Harness or Dog Backpack
I recommend using a harness over just a collar. A harness with a clip on the back allows you to take the strain off the dog’s neck while maintaining better control.
Opt for a harness, with a handle, in case you need to grab the dog in a pinch. You never know when you’ll need to pull them to safety, carry them over a stream, or hoist them up a rockface for, you know, "cool points".
Most dogs love to work! Carrying some weight in a dog backpack is a perfect job for your hiking buddy.
Keep the weight under 20% of your dog’s weight to avoid injuries.
For example - a 50lb dog should carry no more than 10lbs of weight, including the backpack.
Make sure the backpack fits and test the dog carrying the weight before you hit the trail.
7. Train Your Dog for the Trail
Basic manners can get you pretty far in life. The same goes for your canine companion!
Teaching core obedience commands will allow for a much safer and more enjoyable experience while on the trails with your dog.
At the very least, I recommend every trail dog know the following 3 commands:
- "Here" or "Come" (recall, bring them to you)
- "Drop It" (remove from mouth)
- "Leave It" (don't touch it at all)
From thorny plants to venomous snakes and bugs - the dangers in the outdoors are endless.
Knowing these core dog training commands can help you keep your curious pooch out of trouble.
8. Know The Poisonous Plants In The Area
It’s a good idea to get acquainted with your local flora. There any many plants and flowers that are highly toxic and even deadly to your dog.
Almost all flowers will at least upset a dog’s stomach, but did you know a few chomps on a Sago Palm can cause liver failure and kill a dog?
Besides teaching your dog to “Leave It”, you should be able to recognize the poisonous plants ahead of time, especially if you let your dog hike off leash.
Unsure of which plants are dangerous?
Check out this handy ASCPA Poisonous Plants Guide. It lets you filter for dogs and also search specific plant names to see if they are poisonous.
✅Pro Tip: Add the ASPCA Poison Control Center phone number to your phone contacts.
My dog once ate a weird mushroom and I gave them a call for more information. While I quietly panicked, I described the mushroom in detail.
Poison Control determined it was most likely not poisonous to dogs. My dog puked once and survived. Fun stuff!
9. Bring A Dog First Aid Kit
Curiosity might have killed the cat - but our dogs will be just fine because we came prepared.
You did come prepared...right?
Pet proverbs aside, you should carry a Dog First Aid Kit with canine-specific items to treat your dog in case of an emergency.
Kits can vary, but my essential dog first aid kit includes gauze, self-adhering bandages, antiseptic wipes, elastic bandages, a tick remover tool, and antihistamine.
You can buy a pre-made kit or make your own.
Top-Rated Dog First Aid Kit for Hiking
Hiking Dog Co. makes the best lightweight Dog First Aid Kit on the market.
The kit is packed full of everything you need to properly care for your dog in case of an emergency.
We interviewed over 1,000 dog experts and veterinarians to put together the perfect dog first aid kit.
You won’t need to buy all the pieces in bulk and put them together, we’ve done the work for you, and you can always add other small items if needed.
Buy your Dog First Aid Kit here.
10. Choose Trails Good For Dogs
Not all trails will be good for dogs.
Speaking of AllTrails - have you heard of that app? Download the AllTrails app to explore the trails in the area. Sort by “dog friendly” for the best options for dogs.
Generally speaking, trails marked as “hard” or trails with lots of loose rocks may not be the most dog friendly choices.
Loose rocks can cause your pup to trip and damage their paws.
Check the comments for each trail on the AllTrails app. Learn about others’ experiences hiking with dogs on that trail so you can make an informed decision and start curating a list!
Hiking with your dog is an incredible experience!
Once you’ve prepared with enough water, basic command training, first aid for dogs, and the right gear - it’s time to hit the trails and explore the beautiful parks and wilderness.
By following these tips for safely hiking with your dog, you and your pup can keep safe while having fun on your outdoor adventures.
Now get out there and hike!