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Hiking With Your Dog

Updated on April 19, 2010

Fresh air and beautiful scenery are great things to share with a happy, furry friend. Whether you're indulging in a gentle forest hike or a challenging climb up in the mountains, hiking with your dog offers many benefits:

  • Exercise. Fit dogs tend to lead longer, healthier lives.
  • Bonding time with your dog. Dogs really know how to live... just being outside, sniffing the air and trotting through the grass or the forest is enough to make them happy. Share in their joy.
  • Relaxation. Being outside in quiet beauty of nature can help you to get away from stress of daily life. Plus watching your dog enjoy himself is great stress relief too!
  • Tired dogs are happy dogs. A well-exercised dog is more relaxed, well-adjusted, and less likely to bark excessively or be destructive.

Preparing Your Dog for the Hike

Lots of dogs will happily burst out the door, ready to do whatever you want to do. But just like people, they need to be conditioned before tackling a hike. You wouldn't climb Mount Everest if you the most challenging thing you've done is walk around the block!

Even young dogs and active dogs should be conditioned. Start gradually increasing the time, distance, and difficulty of your walks. Don't push your dog too hard - you want him to still love his walks! - but steadily work towards the fitness level necessary for your planned hike.

Strenuous hikes are not appropriate for all dogs. Older dogs or dogs who are sick or injured, for example, may prefer gentle walks through the forest rather than climbing a mountain. Always choose a hike that's suitable, safe, and enjoyable for your dog too.

What To Bring

  • Waste bags. Yes, even on the trail or in the forest you'll need to pick up after your dog.
  • Water. You may also want to bring a portable pet travel bowl to make it easy to offer your dog water. To keep water cool, freeze the water the night before. As you hike, the water will gradually melt but keep cool. Offer water to your dog regularly so that he stays hydrated.
  • Food. A small amount of food can give your pooch an energy boost.
  • Flea, tick, and heartworm treatment. Dogs who live in areas where these are a problem may already be treated regularly. If you're travelling with your dog, check to see whether fleas, ticks, or heartworm are a problem in the area. Hiking through the bush gives much more opportunity for your dog to pick up fleas and ticks!
  • Leash. Even in off-leash areas you'll need a leash just in case.
  • Dog boots or clothing. Ok, this may sound strange, but in some cases boots or clothes for your dog is for their own comfort and safety - not for the "cuteness" factor! For example, if you'll be hiking over rough terrain, boots can help protect your dog's paws from cuts and abrasions.
  • First aid kit.

Trail Etiquette

  • Before you go: check trail conditions and rules. Don't take dogs onto trails where there have been bear (or cougar, or moose...) sightings. Try not to take dogs into the backcountry where encounters with wildlife are more likely to happen. Also check the trail rules as some trails do not allow dogs.
  • Keep dogs on the trail and be aware of ecologically sensitive areas. Always pick up after your dog.
  • Don't allow dogs to approach other hikers or their dogs unless welcomed. Not everyone appreciates a snout-poke, no matter how friendly. Step to one side with your dog as you pass other hikers or groups.
  • Always keep your dog under control. If the trail rules require your dog to be leashed, then leash him. For their own safety, as well as courtesy to other users of the trail, dogs running free need to respond to your voice commands. Otherwise keep your dog leashed even on leash-free trails.
  • Think twice before taking dogs on heavy recreational-use trails such as those used by horseback riders, snowmobilers, or ATVers. A collision or confrontation between your dog and one of these users can ruin what would have been a pleasant hike.
  • Do not hike in areas that permit hunting. It's too much of a risk for dogs.
  • Respect the wildlife. Dogs should not be allowed to chase or harass wildlife. Leash your pet and leave the area if you meet up with a bear or other large animal.


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    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Hiking with my dog is one of the best activities in my life.

    • Suhail and my dog profile image

      Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent 

      7 years ago from Mississauga, ON

      There is great information in this article.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Great article and nice photos. Thank you for the tips and ideas on how to make an enjoyable hike safe and fun for my furry friends. Ahhhhhh.

    • patdmania profile image


      8 years ago from waterford, mi

      Great article. Thank you very much. I love taking my dogs hiking. I wrote a hub as well on hiking with your dog. Thanks for the good info. My hub on hiking is I hope you enjoy it as much as i did yours.

    • pnerissa profile image


      9 years ago from Florida

      Good article. The weather's warming up and we're looking forward to getting back out and hiking with our dogs hiking. On a personal note, another good reason for keeping dogs on a leash while hiking is that you have more control over them when encountering dangerous animals such as snakes.

    • Jungle Talk profile image

      Jungle Talk 

      10 years ago

      What a great resource for dogs and hiking. You have some super tips, and I love your advice. Keep up the great work!


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