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What better companion for a hike than your trusty canine? Always full of energy and keen for adventure, bringing your dog along on a hike is always good fun, but there are a few things to consider before you head off. Being considerate of other people and pets out on the trail is an important part of dog-hiking etiquette so it’s important that you understand how to navigate your hike with your furry companion in tow, without disrupting anyone else.

Everything from dog training skills that your pup will need to know, to safety precautions and the best trails near you, read through these steps to discover everything you need to know about hiking with a dog.

1. Be Certain Your Dog Is Fit For Hiking

While many dogs love to be active outdoors, that does not necessarily mean they will be up for hiking. Brachycephalic dogs (short-muzzled breeds) such as pugs and boxers are known to have poorer stamina than other breeds and can also overheat quickly. Likewise, puppies and elderly dogs may also lack the strength for the trip so in these cases it is important not to expect too much, or plan shorter routes with these pets.

If your dog has any health conditions or pre-existing illnesses, consult a veterinarian before taking your furry friend on a long walk, so that your vet can advise you whether they are healthy enough to do so.

However, even if your dog ticks every box and is one of the more active breeds, they may not be used to hiking and should be eased in gently with some practice hikes to begin with. Typically the larger breeds of dog enjoy hiking. A few examples include huskies, the German short-haired pointer and the Bernese mountain dog. 1

2. Find Dog-Friendly Hiking Trails Near You

To find dog trails you can simply type into Google ‘hiking with dogs near me’ or ‘hiking trails with dogs near me’ and lots of results will show up. To help you with your search, we have gathered a list of dog-friendly hiking trails in all 50 states:

  1. Alabama
  2. Alaska
  3. Arizona
  4. Arkansas
  5. California
  6. Colorado
  7. Connecticut
  8. Delaware
  9. Florida
  10. Georgia
  11. Hawaii
  12. Idaho
  13. Illinois
  14. Indiana
  15. Iowa
  16. Kansas
  17. Kentucky
  18. Louisiana
  19. Maine
  20. Maryland
  21. Massachusetts
  22. Michigan
  23. Minnesota
  24. Mississippi
  25. Missouri
  26. Montana
  27. Nebraska
  28. Nevada
  29. New Hampshire
  30. New Jersey
  31. New Mexico
  32. New York
  33. North Carolina
  34. North Dakota
  35. Ohio
  36. Oklahoma
  37. Oregon
  38. Pennsylvania
  39. Rhode Island
  40. South Carolina
  41. South Dakota
  42. Tennessee
  43. Texas
  44. Utah
  45. Vermont
  46. Virginia
  47. Washington
  48. West Virginia
  49. Wisconsin
  50. Wyoming

3. Prepare with Obedience Training

When going hiking with a dog, it is essential that you fully trust your pup to listen to your commands for your safety and theirs, particularly your recall. Ensuring your dog is properly socialized is also important - if your dog is not used to being around other dogs, they may get nervous or reactive out on the trail.

Most importantly, it is your job to ensure your pet is behaving and can be easily kept under control at all times. For instance, they should have strong recall training and will come immediately when called, despite whatever has piqued their interest.2 Other handy commands are “sit”, “stay”, “heel” and “leave it” – there are many potential hazards to your furry friend along the route, whether it’s other hikers’ trash or poison ivy.2

More often than not, even if your dog is a well-behaved, respectful pooch, it is still a good idea to keep them on a leash as you never know when your pup could get frightened and go whizzing off in fear or pursuit of other wildlife. Consistently practicing obedience training will keep your dog in top form, but you do not want to risk any unpredictable behavior during your hike that will disturb other dogs and their owners, hikers, or the natural landscape.

Begin with some practice hikes to test the waters with your dog. Unlike a normal walk with a trail they know well, hiking can provide so much stimuli for your pup that they may be more likely to ignore your or disregard your calls and their behavior is not as calm or well-trained as it normally is. Short practice sessions will test this and help you to discover which skills still need to be worked on with your furry friend.

BARK acronym

4. Practice Good Hiking Etiquette

This point seems obvious but is worth emphasizing. BARK is an easy way to remember the agreed upon code for a respectful dog-human hiking duo.3

  • Bag your waste: Abide by the ‘Leave No Trace’ ethics and pick up your dog’s waste and ensure all litter is put in a bin rather than discarded on the ground to protect other dogs and wildlife. Dog waste can cause disease and pollution so it should be discarded in a proper, effective manner.
  • Always leash your pet: Especially as some trails have specific ‘On-Leash’ zones. Be aware of which zone you’re hiking in and make sure to keep a watchful eye on your dog and keep them on leash.
  • Respect wildlife: Don’t let your dogs chase wildlife or trample over the natural flora and fauna along the hike.
  • Know where you can go: Stick to the pathway mapped out for you on the trail rather than veering off and trying to find your own routes. Those pathways are recommended for a reason and are the safest for both you and your beloved pet.

Checklist for supplies for hiking with dogs

5. Pack Supplies For You & Your Pup

Packing a bag full of hiking essentials will benefit both you and your dog. Ensuring there is enough water and food for the both of you, as well as precautionary first-aid kits and pet-safe insect repellants. If the terrain is particularly rough or the weather conditions particularly extreme, you may want to pack dog booties or paw balm to protect their paws. Just like any walk, ensure you have stocked up on enough poop bags or have a small shovel to effectively bury the waste, alongside your leash and a dog brush/comb.4 Lastly, of course it is important to stay prepared for any occasion so ensuring your dog is microchipped and has an ID collar is an excellent precautionary.

Keep this simple checklist handy before your hike:

  •  ID collar/microchip
  •  Water
  •  Food
  •  First aid kit
  •  Poop bags
  •  Pet-safe insect repellent
  •  Dog booties (as needed)

Reasons to keep your dog on-leash

6. Keep Your Dog On-Leash

If your dog has particularly acute obedience capabilities, this may be a rule that you feel confident and comfortable in not following. Off-leash walking can be a preference for you as a pet-parent and you can use your best judgment with this decision. Having said this, there are a multitude of benefits to having your dog on a leash. First and foremost for your dog’s safety. Other wildlife on the trail, such as deer for example, could be aggressive if they see your dog on its own and can be reactive towards your pup. Keeping a close eye on your dog regardless of how well-trained they are is always recommended on long hikes.

Reducing habitat damage caused by your over-excited pooch is also vital in keeping the hiking trails beautiful and functioning. With your dog on a leash, you can guide your pet away from disrupting the other wildlife on the trail and focus on enjoying the hike yourself. This is also less distracting for other hikers, especially those without dogs, in which you can easily move from their path and let them pass by without disturbance.

7. Safety First

The safety of you and your dog should always be your first priority on your hike. If you notice your dog is exhausted, uncomfortable or acting strangely, it is best to end the hike early. To avoid this, check up on your dog and ensure that you take plenty of breaks throughout your route for you both to recover before continuing on. Come prepared for all events, even the worst, with enough food and water to last you the whole trip, as well as a first-aid kit to cover all bases.

After you have finished the hike you should also assess your dog’s overall well-being. Did they seem to enjoy the hike? Were they healthy and fit enough to partake in it without difficulty? Should you opt for an easier route next time? You should also check their fur for fleas and ticks, ensuring to treat them if any of these parasites do make their way into your pup’s fur.

Hiking With Dogs: FAQS

How long of a hike can a dog do?

This is dependent on the breed, personality, age and health condition of your pet. For the best advice, discuss with a veterinarian who knows your dog and can personally advise you. For instance, energized, athletic dogs such as the Vizsla will most likely be more durable on a hike than one of the shorter legged breeds.1 Either way, starting off with shorter, 1-2 mile hikes is a good way to ease into hiking with your pet so your dog gets more comfortable.

What dogs are best for hiking?

Although some breeds are widely known for being more “active”, such as the Weimaraner and Rhodesian Ridgeback for example,1 each dog has a distinct personality with their own preferences. While some Weimaraner’s may love hikes, others may not enjoy them, it is entirely down to the dog themselves and how soon the owner introduces them to hiking. However, consult your veterinarian before opting to go on a hike with any dog with health conditions or less active dogs such as brachycephalic breeds.

How do I protect my dog’s paws when hiking?

In many circumstances some paw balm will suffice as dog’s paws are hardened and made for running on all types of terrain. Having said this, if the trail is known for having sharp, rocky ground or is known for being susceptible to severe weather conditions, then it is best to invest in some dog boots to protect your dog’s paws. This goes for extremely hot conditions with boiling tarmac, as well as extremely cold temperatures with sharp ice, snow and corroding salt or chemicals that are often used to clear paths.

Man petting his black lab on a break during a hike

Final Notes

If your dog is well-trained and has good recall then hiking with your dog makes for a great bonding experience and is definitely worth trying. Dogs make for excellent company, keeping you fit with their eager excitement to explore new terrain. If you stick to the rules of the trail, hiking can be a wonderful experience for both human and dog alike.

Consult our other Dutch blogs for more information on the best care tips in exercising your dog, camping with dogs and more. Whether you’re a dog-owner or a dog-fanatic, there are some handy tips and tricks on dealing with these adorable furballs, as well as interesting facts.

Browse the website to learn more about our services and explore other Dutch blogs for more information on your favorite, furry, four-legged friends.

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References

  1. “Hiking with Dogs: 10 Breeds That Make Great Trail Partners” American Kennel Club, 30 Sep. 2019 https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/lifestyle/10-best-dog-breeds-for-hiking/.

  2. Gibeault, Stephanie. “Hiking with Dogs: Tips for Hitting the Trail” American Kennel Club, 29 Sep. 2019  https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/lifestyle/tips-for-hiking-with-your-dog/.

    1. “Hiking with Dogs” American Hiking Society https://americanhiking.org/resources/hiking-with-dogs/.
  3. Sionna, Angele and Kwak-Hefferan, Elisabeth. “How to Safely Hike, Camp and Backpack With Your Dog” Backpacker, 8 Aug. 2018 https://www.backpacker.com/skills/the-manual-take-your-dog-hiking/.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Who is Dutch?

Dutch is an online veterinary pet telehealth service, created by pet parents and board-certified veterinary specialists. We use a science-backed approach to provide pets relief for their everyday physical and behavioral health issues. Dutch connects you with licensed veterinarians over video chat and messaging to help you get care for your dog or cat quickly wherever you are — without the stress or expense of a vet visit. We also partner with pharmacies who can deliver prescription medication (in applicable states only) and over-the-counter treatments directly to your door. Dutch isn’t a veterinary practice or pharmacy, but a company that helps facilitate these services for pet parents to make veterinary care more accessible to all.

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When booking a video call with a vet, you'll be asked a few questions about your pet’s health issue. Depending on the issue, you may also be asked to fill out a longer questionnaire about their symptoms and share photographs of them so our veterinarians can better understand what’s going on. You’ll then pick an appointment time that works best for you.

During your video call, one of our licensed veterinarians will talk to you about the symptoms your pet is experiencing, ask you questions, review your pet’s medical history if you’ve provided it, and answer any questions you have. The vet will ask to see your pet and their environment. And they may ask you to perform some simple checks on them if needed.

After your video call, the vet will send you a message with a custom treatment plan to help your pet feel better, including a link to buy any recommended prescription or over-the-counter medications. Place your order and we’ll ship it free.

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The Dutch membership starts at $7/mo for unlimited access to the vet. No more long waits for appointments or surprise bills.

In addition to the base membership plan, our veterinarians may also recommend additional medication (Rx and/or OTC) that you will have the option of adding to your plan at an additional cost.