Tips for Hiking With Your Dog
Take a Hike with Your Dog
One of the activities I most enjoy is hiking with my dogs, Tim and Hank. Fortunately for us, we live in the Pacific Northwest and there are lots of great dog friendly hiking trails. Since the weather is Western Washington is fairly mild my border collies and I are able to find dog-friendly hikes to enjoy year round. We come prepared for all kinds of weather and don't let a little drizzle stop us from having a fun adventure.
Hiking with your dog requires a little extra research and planning, but is well worth the effort to have a ready-to-go companion with you on the trail.
All photos by the author, Vicki Green, unless credited otherwise.
Obstacles to Dogs on the Trail
Can Both You and Your Dog Do This Hike?
Using a log to cross a swift-moving river may not seem like an obstacle to you, but it may not be as easy for your dog. It is important to do an honest evaluation of not only your own physical condition and limitations, but also that of your dog. If your dog is small, older, has been a couch potato or has physical conditions like arthritis or hip displasia, it may not be easy for him or her scramble up large rocks, cross a log or hike a number of miles with thousands of feet of elevation gain. Research a hike by talking with a friend who has recently hiked it or finding a current trip report posted by a hiking group website or some other blog or website that you trust that has information about the trail conditions.
If you encounter a situation that you don't think is safe for either you or your dog, it is better to acknowledge that this is not a good hike for you and your canine companion and turn around instead of pushing on and having a tragic accident.
Finding Dog Friendly Hiking Destinations
There are a number of ways to find a dog-friendly hike. You can use recommendations from friends who hike with their dogs, blogs and websites with trip reports or by borrowing or buying one of the many books that are available that focus on hikes that are suitable for dogs. I use several that specialize in hikes in the Pacific Northwest, the area where I live. Best Hikes for Dogs in Western Washington by Dan Nelson is the one I use the most. For those who haven't hiked much with their dogs, the additional pointers about first aid for canines, essentials to bring along when hiking with a dog, environmental considerations and trail etiquette is especially helpful information.
Don't Get Lost - Take a Map!
Know Where You're Going
It is never a good idea to hit the trail without a map and compass or GPS. Some areas may provide a free map at the trail head, but it is better to come prepared by printing it from a website, or better yet, buying one that has a waterproof coating. It is easy to become unsure about which way to go when trails intersect without any signs pointing the way. Even well-used game trails can cause confusion when they cross the trail. Every year rescue efforts are mobilized when people become lost in the forest. Most are found, but some don't make it out alive.
In the Pacific Northwest, taking along rain gear is a must. This Stormtech lightweight rain poncho works great for hiking with your dog because the poncho is large enough to huddle your dog (or two) underneath with you to keep both of you dry.
The 10 Hiking Essentials
I've taken the scouting 10 essentials and modified them a bit. Here is a list of what I think are the top 10 essentials to take in your backpack for hiking in the Pacific Northwest:
- Map and Compass or GPS
- Water for both you and your dog
- Food/Snacks for both you and your dog
- Rain Gear - I prefer rain ponchos and I carry a couple of mylar blankets, too
- First Aid Kit - You can get by with one designed for humans, but remember that some human medications like Tylenol, Aleve and Ibuprofen can be deadly to dogs
- Knife - I prefer a Swiss Army knife or Leatherman with tools for almost any problem
- Waterproof Matches
- Flashlight or headlamp - I prefer a headlamp because it keeps my hands free to hold onto my dog leashes - especially important if you hike with more than one dog
- Extra clothes - layering is especially important in the fast changing weather of the Pacific Northwest
- Sun protection - a hat, sunscreen, lip balm and sunglasses
I prefer a Martingale type collar which is also called a "no-slip" collar. This type of collar will prevent your dog from slipping out of their collar. Of course when a dog slips out of their collar, they are not only out of your control, but even worse, they are also are no longer wearing their ID tags.
Additional Recommended Items for Hiking With Your Dog
These are some of the additional essential items you will want to have when you go hiking with your dog:
- Collar with ID tag. Include your cell phone number! I prefer Martingale aka "no-slip" collars
- Doggie Clean-up Bags
Basic Tips for Hiking with Your Dog
Dangers to Dogs on the Trail
Avoiding Injuries to Your Dog on the Trail
Hiking with your dog is not without potential dangers. Dogs, especially those running off-leash can encounter wildlife, fall off cliffs or sustain other injuries. If your dog has a tendency to chase wildlife, it is usually better to keep them on leash.
This is a great dog backpack if you'd like to have your dog carry some of their own supplies. It can also be loaded with some weight to help to slow down or tire a dog who has perhaps a surplus of energy.
GPS Pet Tracker
This Tagg GPS Pet Tracker has apps for both iPhone and Android phones that will use your mapping program to locate your dog. It attaches to your dog's regular collar. A monthly service contract is required.
More Suggested Supplies for Hiking With a Dog - Some Additional Recommended Items for Hikes with a Dog
Some other items that are handy to have when hiking with your dog include:
- A treat Bag and dog treats
- A dog backpack - if your dog is large and young enough to handle a little weight, let your dog carry their own water bottle. It can also help slow down an energetic dog.
- GPS Pet Tracker - Thunder or an encounter with a wild animal can frighten a dog and send him running. Even a leashed dog can pull free from your grasp or break a loop or clasp that attaches them to their leash. If my dog became lost, I can use my iPhone to find my dog with my pet tracker.
- A first aid kit.
My Border Collies, Hank and Tim on the Trail
Stay Safe and Have Fun
Hiking with your dogs as your companions is a great way for both humans and canines to get some exercise. With some planning and preparation you can have some wonderful experiences. See more photos from our hiking adventures on our blog, Border Collies in the Burbs. Hank, Tim and I hope to see you on the trail!
© 2013 Vicki Green