How to Safely Hike with Your Dog

Hiking dogMany dogs love a good hike, and bringing your pooch on an outdoor excursion can add a new layer of fun to any hike. However, if you take your dog hiking you must bear in mind that dogs have different needs than humans do, and be prepared to accommodate your pup. Here are some tips on safely hiking with your pup:

1. Plan an Appropriate Route

Hiking is a great way to exercise with your dog, but it’s important to plan an appropriate route. Especially if you’re not in the best shape of your life, don’t plan too challenging of a route for you and Fido. The amount of exercise you get is probably pretty close to the amount of exercise your dog gets.

If you plan a hike with your dog that’s much longer and more vigorous than your usual jaunts around the neighborhood, you can expect to exhaust both of you. Start with relatively mild hikes and work up to the longer and more challenging routes.

2. Keep Other Hikers and Their Dogs in Mind

Is your dog well-behaved enough to go on a hike with you, potentially meeting other hikers and their dogs on a trail? Make sure your pup knows how to sit, stay and come at your command.

He should also be well-socialized with dogs and humans, and shouldn’t bark too much, so as not to disturb wildlife and others on the trail. If your dog is very over-protective, he may not be good to take hiking. Realize that you may come to narrow parts of the trail and be in close proximity to other hikers, so your dog’s behavior will be very important.

3. Keep Your Dog’s Health in Mind

Make sure your pup has all the necessary shots before you hit the trail with him. Don’t take him in conditions you’re not sure he can tolerate. For instance, if you know your pup gets cold or tired easily, don’t take him on an especially long hike on a very chilly day.

4. Help Your Dog Stay Hydrated 

Prevent your pup from drinking too much from rivers, puddles, or streams. Make sure you take plentiful water breaks. Even if it isn’t hot out, vigorous exercise calls for hydration. When you get thirsty, stop for a drink for both you and your pooch. Every 15 to 30 minutes is a good water-break interval.

5. Protect Your Pooch’s Paws

Use paw balm or wax to protect your puppy’s paws from any rough or sharp objects that might be lying on the ground. You could also get booties for your pup for this purpose. If your puppy has soft paws from being inside a lot this winter, this is especially important.

You can also pick a more pooch-friendly route, perhaps a trail with leaf- or needle-covered surfaces, rather than one with lots of sharp rocks. To help you find an appropriate and safe trail to traverse with your pup, ask other dog owners for suggestions.

6. Pack Smart

If you and your pup are going on a long hike, make a list of what you’ll need beforehand and give yourself the time to revise it. If you’re making your pup carry his fair share in a pack, make sure that it fits well and doesn’t strain or rub him uncomfortably.

These are just a few tips to safely hike with your dog. It’s important to make sure you both can handle the route, start to finish, don’t overheat, stay hydrated, and more.