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Tips for Hiking With Your Dog

Updated on May 19, 2015
Border collies at the top of Mt Guemes
Border collies at the top of Mt Guemes | Source

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

Monte Cristo Trail Log River Crossing
Monte Cristo Trail Log River Crossing

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!

Green Trails Map
Green Trails 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.

Stormtech - Packable Rain Poncho, Forest, One Size Fits All
Stormtech - Packable Rain Poncho, Forest, One Size Fits All

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:

  1. Map and Compass or GPS
  2. Water for both you and your dog
  3. Food/Snacks for both you and your dog
  4. Rain Gear - I prefer rain ponchos and I carry a couple of mylar blankets, too
  5. 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
  6. Knife - I prefer a Swiss Army knife or Leatherman with tools for almost any problem
  7. Waterproof Matches
  8. 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
  9. Extra clothes - layering is especially important in the fast changing weather of the Pacific Northwest
  10. Sun protection - a hat, sunscreen, lip balm and sunglasses

No-Slip Collars

PetSafe Martingale Collar 1" Medium, Red
PetSafe Martingale Collar 1" Medium, Red

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:

  1. Collar with ID tag. Include your cell phone number! I prefer Martingale aka "no-slip" collars
  2. Leash
  3. Doggie Clean-up Bags

Basic Tips for Hiking with Your Dog

Dangers to Dogs on the Trail

A dog after a porcupine encounter.
A dog after a porcupine encounter.

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.

Mountainsmith Dog Pack (Medium, Heritage Red)
Mountainsmith Dog Pack (Medium, Heritage Red)

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

Tagg GPS Pet Tracker - Dog and Cat Collar Attachment, White
Tagg GPS Pet Tracker - Dog and Cat Collar Attachment, White

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:

  1. A treat Bag and dog treats
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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

Please Leave Your Paw Prints Here! - We don't mind if your paws are muddy!

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    • Adventuretravels profile image


      4 years ago from UK

      sadly I don't own a dog because we travel quite a lot and the UK has all sorts of rules. It's a shame though, my son would love one.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      It looks to me like you get a little piece of heaven every time you hike with your dogs....Tom and Hank look absolutely contented. When I lived in the country, one of my favorite things was to go out with my dogs on woodland trails...and they did lead the way too, delightful! :)

    • sbaiju profile image


      5 years ago

      great lens and nice selection of gadgets for the pets

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I love your lens. Thank you.

    • DANCING COWGIRL profile image

      Dancing Cowgirl Design 

      5 years ago from Texas

      Looks like you and your doggies have a great time on your walks. They are so pretty.


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