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Hiking With Dogs: Complete Guide to Keeping Your Pet Safe on the Trails

September 21, 2021 | by

hiking with dogs, best dog hiking, pet travel tips, hiking with dogs, hiking with pets, dog travel tips

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Fall is a beautiful time to hit the trails...especially with your dog!

Taking your pet hiking provides them the opportunity to experience tons of new scents, sounds, and sights. Typically, hiking is best for dogs greater than 40 lbs...but that’s not to say smaller dogs can’t hike too! My 6 lb Maltipoo loves going on short hikes by my house, but since her legs are short than most other dogs, certain hikes with a steeper incline are too difficult for her. The truth is, dogs of all sizes, and those in good health can hike; however, their size may restrict you when it comes to deciding how difficult of a trail you’d like to tackle.

Pre-hike Preparation:

Your pet is well-rested:

Prior to taking your pet hiking, consider whether or not they are fit for doing so. Do they tire easily? Do they walk well on a leash? Do they have any physical limitations? Hiking should not only be exciting for you but also an enjoyable experience for your pet. Ensure your pet is well-rested and still has enough energy to hit the trail. If you are unsure if your dog is fit for hiking, consult your pet’s veterinarian.

Even while on the hike, it is important to keep checking in with your pet to make sure they are comfortable and not over-exerting themself. A good rule of thumb that I use with my own dog, Fiona, is to stop every 15 or so minutes for a little break—even if it doesn’t seem necessary. Of course, Fiona’s quite small, so that window of time may be a little longer for those of you with larger pets.

The trail is pet-friendly:

If you are hiking on unfamiliar trails, it is best to check whether or not pets are allowed. Certain trails may not be fit for dogs, so it is important to follow the regulations of the park you’ll be hiking at. I personally use the Outdoors Mobile App, which allows you to explore nearby dog-friendly trails.

You have the appropriate hiking gear:

Depending on where you are hiking, you may want to consider what gear your pet needs to stay comfortable. For example, if you and your pup are headed to Utah to hike on red rock, doggie shoes are a must to protect your pet’s paws. On the other hand, if your hike is going to involve water, it may be wise to invest in a doggie life vest.

Trail Etiquette:

Though your pup may be in great physical condition, if they are not well-behaved, they may need a bit more training before hitting the trails with you. Taking your pet on a walk around town will give you a glimpse into what hiking with them will be like. Do they get along with other dogs and humans? Are they easily distracted by squirrels and chipmunks? Do they pull a lot? While hiking, your pet is going to be exposed to different animals, people, and other scents. It is important that they are not easily distracted by these outside factors.

If you find that your dog gets along well with others, but is are easily distracted on walks, they may just need a bit of training. Teaching them simple commands such as heel, sit, stay, and come can certainly come in handy, and make the entire hiking experience more enjoyable. On the other hand, if your pet is outwardly aggressive toward other people or dogs, they are likely not fit for hiking. Many trails are quite narrow, so avoiding other people and pets can become difficult.

Popular trails, such as those in national parks, are known to be crowded with both two-legged, and four-legged hikers. It is important to keep your pet leashed and in your line of sight at all times. For trails near your home, you may feel more comfortable allowing your pet off their leash, however, you should only do so if your pet obeys each of your commands and is under complete control. If you happen to see an unleashed pet approaching you, make sure to leash your dog to ensure you have control if things go awry.

The same rules apply to your pet as they do for you while hiking: pack out what you pack in, and stay on the marked trail. Never leave any garbage, food waste, or doggie bags along the trail you’re hiking. Dogs are not considered wild animals, therefore, their waste must either be picked up or buried at least 6 feet underground and over 200 feet from water sources. Also, do your best to remain on the trail, as not to disrupt the native wildlife, or step on native plants.

What to Bring:


The worst thing we could imagine is losing our pet on the trail, but however rare, this, unfortunately, does happen! Before heading out, make sure your pet has an ID tag with their name, your phone number, and/or address. Also, consider microchipping your pet: not only is it inexpensive, but if they are brought to the vet, there is a great chance you’ll be reunited.

-Water bowl:

Hydration is crucial, not only to you but also to your pet. There are many options when it comes to purchasing a water bowl for your pet, however, my favorite is the water bottle bowl. This bottle carries water, and if you turn it sideways, it also turns into a bowl for your pet. I personally use this for my dog, and we love it. You can also purchase a collapsible or soft bowl for your pet, and bring the water in a separate bottle.


No matter where I am hiking with my dog, I always bring extra water just in case. If however, you do run out, only allow your pet to drink from clear running water. Although you may be tempted to allow your pup to drink pond and lake water, the truth is that many still bodies of water contain harmful pathogens that may sicken your pet.

-Doggie Shoes:

Dog’s paws are very sensitive, so purchasing them some booties is a great way to keep them comfortable no matter where you are hiking.


I prefer to keep my dog on a leash, so I tend to carry both of her leashes: a 6-foot regular leash and a retractable leash. I tend to start out with the 6-foot leash, however, the retractible does come in handy when I want to give her some more room to roam on wider trails.

-Dog Food and Snacks:

No matter how short I hike for, I always seem to build up an appetite: and the same goes for pets! No matter how short of a hike, I always pack some snacks for my pup. If you’re hiking a difficult trail, consider bringing along lots of treats, and maybe even a meal for your pet.

-First Aid Kit:

Just as you may bring some first aid supplies for yourself, it’s a good idea to bring a first aid kit for your dog as well. Consider this inexpensive dog first aid kit that also includes a tick remover, collapsible water bowl, and LED collar.

-Waste Bags:

It is important to follow Leave No Trace principles while hiking. Always remember to clean up after yourself, and your pet.

-Insect repellant:

If you are easily bothered by bugs, chances are your pet will be too. Purchasing dog-safe, DEET-free, insect repellant will keep them comfortable and safe from insect-borne diseases. Consult with your pet’s veterinarian if you are unsure whether your insect repellant is safe for your dog.


If you plan on hiking a trail exposed to a lot of sunlight, it may be a good idea to purchase dog-friendly sunscreen to prevent your pup from getting sunburnt on your hike.

These recommendations are not given by veterinary specialists, as they are our personal recommendations. It is advised you look into each product prior to purchasing, and consult with your pet's veterinarian regarding any questions. Traveling Creatures is an affiliate and is in no way responsible for circumstances that may occur with the use of any of the recommended products.

Traveling Creatures may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links.

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