hiking safely with your dog

Hiking Safely with your Dog


Written by: Sarah Burgess

Any seasoned hiker who routinely hits the trail with a canine companion knows having their beloved dog along for the adventure elevates the experience. Enjoying the reward of stunning vistas during a long hike takes on an added measure of joy with your tail-wagging friend by your side. However, treks off the beaten track with your dog require an added measure of preparation and awareness. Read on for tips to follow beforehand and during your hike so you and your furry best pal can make the most of your outing.

How To Prepare For A Hike With Your Dog

There are several steps to take well before you lace up your hiking boots and attach your dog’s lead. If possible, take a dog first-aid class. It’s unlikely you’ll need to utilize these skills, but you’ll be really glad to have them in an emergency. We’re running a live session on the Orvis UK Facebook page with Emma from First Aid For Pets on Friday 6th August so make sure you tune in for some valuable content.

Another thing to check is that your dog’s vaccinations are current and that they are treated routinely with a wormer and flea/tick preventive before you expose them to the great outdoors.

Other important precautions and preparations:

  • Make sure your dog has identification, preferably multiple sources. A properly fitted personalised collar, identification tags and a microchip together improve the chances of his safe return if you lose him on the hike.
  • If your dog will wear a pack, practice at home first.
  • Familiarise yourself with the regulations on the place where you’ll be hiking. Some National Parks have restrictions so check where dogs are allowed.
  • Investigate how rough the terrain is, and opt for a shaded trail that’s easy on the paws. Avoid sharp rocks, off-trail routes with steep drops, and hot floor surfaces. Avoid trails with heavy horse or mountain bike traffic. Avoid trails with ladders and never attempt to climb or descend one while carrying your dog.
  • Make sure there is a safe water source where you’re going, but also be prepared to treat your dog’s water as well as your own: dogs are as susceptible to water-borne diseases as humans.

What To Pack For Your Hike

You’ll need to fine-tune what you pack depending on the length of your hike and whether you’re camping, but the following packing list is a good starting point for a day hike with you best pal:

  • A short-to-moderate lead, preferably six feet in length, not to exceed ten feet. Some trails have regulations; check before you go. Avoid retractable leads. Thread your belt through the lead handle for hands-free hiking.
  • Consider a harness for a dog who will remain on the lead for the entire hike.
  • Food, water, and treats. Consider adding a dog approved rehydration supplement to their water to combat dehydration; consult your vet. Give them treats formulated only for dogs.
  • Dog first aid kit with an accompanying guide.
  • Dog booties. Sensitive paws may need help navigating a rough trail; booties will also protect your dog’s pads from salted, slippery, or very cold terrain. Be advised that dogs sweat through their feet and can overheat if booties are left on too long.
  • Poop bags and a trowel. If you are not burying your dog’s waste according to LNT (Leave No Trace) principles, you’ll need to double-bag it and pack it out with you. Before you go, find out the specific LNT requirements for the place where you plan to hike.

A dog brush and/or comb, and a tick remover. It’s easier to deal with entangled seeds and other plant materials along the way, and to discover ticks before they embed. A tick must attach for 24 to 48 hours to transmit Lyme disease.

  • A dog coat or vest for a short-haired indoor breed if you’ll be outside in cold, wet conditions; choose one with belly coverage for hikes in the snow.
  • A dog-specific personal flotation device (PFD) if you will be on a lake or river or plan to canoe, kayak or SUP.
  • Insect repellent formulated for dogs. Test with a small dab at home first and look for adverse reactions—drowsiness, lethargy, or nausea. Apply to areas your dog can’t groom off: shoulders, neck, and around the ears, taking care to avoid the ears themselves and the inner ears specifically.

How much food and water? Pack at least 50% more food than what your dog normally eats, and up to double their normal rations for a strenuous hike. Pack at least a litre of water for every three miles you plan to hike.

Hiking With Your Dog: Safety And Etiquette

Observe a little wisdom and common sense to optimize your outing and keep everybody safe:

  • Give your dog an opportunity for water whenever you take a drink, every fifteen minutes to half hour, depending on the difficulty of the hike and the temperature. Discourage your dog from drinking stagnant water on the trail and look instead for clear, running water. If your dog drinks salt water, encourage them to drink plenty of fresh water afterwards. Sanitize any water you get along the way with tablets or a portable water treatment system.
  • Keep your dog on a lead that is ten feet in length or shorter.
  • Hikers without dogs have the right-of-way, always. Restrain your dog, step aside, and allow them to pass.
  • If your dog is off-lead and another dog is coming, put your dog on the lead. Allow them to sniff briefly and then be on your way.
  • If your floppy-eared dog goes for a swim, rinse out their ears afterwards.

1:1 is the best dog-to-human ratio for a hike.

2 should be the maximum number of dogs to take on a hike.

3 dogs make a pack and can intimidate other hikers.

When the adventure ends, give your pooch a final all over examination and remove any unsavory stowaways from them! Once home, follow up with a thorough shampoo to rid their coat of oils from poisonous plants they may have picked up on the hike.

Then start planning your next big adventure. There is infinite fun to be had hiking with your dog; the more often you take your beloved companion hiking and backpacking with you, the more seasoned and acclimated they’ll become to outdoor adventure. Hike safely with your dog: you’ll rock their world.

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