For those adventurers who prefer to get out there with their furry best friend in tow, hiking with your dog can be some of the best quality time you spend with your pup. Not only will you be exhausted and happy at the end of a long trial, but so will they. Hiking with a dog does have some nuances: you must bring along supplies for them, be more aware of other hikers on the trail, and pay extra attention to your dog’s body language and energy levels. In this article, we’ll go over some quick tips from our Mountain Tech community and their 4-legged trail companions, to make sure you and your pup have the best time possible out on the path!
**Please consult your veterinarian with specific questions or concerns regarding your dog’s ability to join you on the trail.**
Be Aware of Trail Restrictions
When planning a trip that you intend to bring your dog on, it’s important to first do some research and figure out what trails in your area are dog friendly. There are some great resources on the web, and a quick google search of “Dog friendly trails near me” will quickly get you on your way.
Another trail restriction to be aware of is leashing requirements. Many trails happily allow dogs, but with the stipulation that you keep them leashed at all times. Keeping your pup leashed on hikes not only ensures they stay safe on the trail but also protects other hikers who may not be as comfortable around dogs as you are.
Train with Your Dog
Spend time building up your dog’s stamina. They need to train just like we do before big adventures. This process can take some time, but consistency is the key. Start with short distance walks daily, and slowly increase the intensity and distance over time. In no time at all, your pup will be ready to tackle any trail you can.
Get Your Pup a Hiking Harness
During your training hikes and walks its a great time to introduce your dog to carrying some weight on their backs via a harness or dog-specific backpacks. Not only is a harness more comfortable for your dog during long hikes, but they also usually come equipped with pockets so your pup can share some of the load while you’re on the trail. We usually prefer to have our pups carry their own water, snacks and waste bags; it helps them feel like part of the team!
When looking for a dog harness, there are a few features to look for: pockets, ergonomic straps and design, reflective elements, and a handle. You want to make sure the harness you buy for your hiking buddy isn’t going to rub or chafe them while you’re both putting in the miles. Reflective elements in the design are also very important, especially if you hike in low light, or along roads. Making sure you and your pup are both highly visible is the best way to stay safe on the trail. Harnesses with reinforced handles are what you should be looking for, especially if you hike in remote areas where trails are rough and lightly maintained. Handles allow you easily hoist Fido up and over obstacles that they might otherwise not be able to leap over!
Supplies Your Pup Will Need on the Trail
One of the biggest adjustments to bringing your pup on the trail with you is remembering to pack all their necessities. Not only are you packing the gear you need, but you’ll also need to ensure your pack (or theirs) can bring along the necessary provisions.
These are often required in more trafficked or urban hiking areas and are the best way to ensure you “Leave No Trace” during your adventures with your dog.
Water and Bowl
If the trail you’re hiking doesn’t cross running water, remember to bring along extra water for your pal. Keep an eye on their body language and be sure to offer them some water in a packable bowl every time you stop to take a break yourself.
High Protein and Calorie Treats
Carrying around a full bag of dog food for your pup’s trail meal can get heavy. Bringing along high-calorie and high-protein treats instead is an easier, and lighter method of getting your dog the fuel they need for strenuous hikes.
K9 First Aid Kit
Every hiker should be carrying a simple first aid kit with them on the trail, and when you bring along your four-legged friend, you should also bring along a K9 first aid kit, just in case your pup gets injured while you’re far from help. These will feature supplies designed to be used with dogs in mind, like materials meant to wrap securely around fur, and equipment for closing serious wounds when you’re in the back country.
Packable Dog Rescue Harness
Another K9 first aid necessity is a packable Dog Rescue Sling. These lightweight webbing harnesses are designed to help you evacuate your pet if they injure themselves to the point of immobility. The straps go over your shoulders just like a backpack, making it far easier to cover distance as you hike out while carrying your dog. These are especially important if you are hiking with older dogs that may have joint issues.
We hope this quick guide has been helpful as you prepare for your first outing with a dog in tow, and we’re certain your pup will thank you for taking them along for the ride!