Hiking with dogs: What you need to consider

13 August 2018

September is on the way and the weather starts to get a bit colder, which means it’s...

hiking with dogs

September is on the way and the weather starts to get a bit colder, which means it’s a great time to go hiking with your dog. But wait! Have you ever tried hiking with dogs? Read this checklist before you set off for the trail.

Health Check

You never know what you’ll run into on the trip, so make sure that your dog’s vaccinations are up-to-date before you hit the trail. It’s always a good idea to have your veterinarian give your dog a checkup to make sure he/she is fit for hiking. If you’ve mapped out a 10 km hike but your daily dog walk consists of a casual stroll around the block, you might want to reconsider the route. If your dog is not used to long treks, start with shorter hikes before attempting longer, more difficult ones. And last but not least, before you load up your backpack, make an honest assessment of your dog’s fitness level to be sure it can comfortably go the distance. You know your dog better than anyone else!


A well-mannered dog can be a great hiking partner, so it’s best if your dog is well trained before you bring it on a long hike. Be sure your pup can heel, sit, stay, and come at your verbal command. But even with a well-behaved dog on your side, you should always bring a leash. Even the best-trained dogs can ignore voice commands and chase a squirrel through bushes, which can be dangerous to the dog and damaging to sensitive off-trail habitats. Your dog should, therefore, be comfortable on a leash as well as off-leash. Additionally, your dog should be completely socialized among other dogs and humans. Trails are narrow, often with dense undergrowth on either side. You will be close to others when you pass on the trail or at the top of a mountain. If your dog is aggressive or overly protective, it will not be a good hiker-dog.

Find a trail appropriate for hiking with dogs

Look for places that are “easy on the paws.” Pick trails with soft, leaf- or needle-covered terrain and avoid paths with sharp rocks, off-trail routes with steep drops, or any surface that gets very hot. It’s a good idea to do a bit research and get yourself familiar with any restrictions such as which areas allow dogs, and whether they have to be leashed at all times.

hiking with dogs

Size and age

Almost any breed over 15 kg can be a good hiker-dog. This doesn’t mean that small dogs cannot join you on a hike. However, small dogs have to take a lot more steps to cover the same piece of ground, and they cannot stretch as far up or down a rock, so they may need a lift where a larger dog would not. There are some trails that any dog can handle, of course, and others that only “real mountain dogs” should attempt. For everything in between, it is up to you to decide whether or not your dog can do the hike.The age of a dog is actually more of a factor than size. Old dogs, like old people, have stiffer joints and maybe illnesses that reduce their physical abilities. Any dog age 10 or older should should only do easy routes (if any hiking routes at all). Be gentle with puppies too. Lack of obedience training aside, hiking up and down steep, uneven trails can affect the development of a growing puppy’s hips, shoulders, and other joints.

Breaks for water and snacks

As dogs get dehydrated much faster than humans do, dehydration and overheating are common problems for dogs on hiking trails. Bring plenty of water and a collapsible bowl and be sure to continuously hydrate your dog (and yourself!) every half hour or so. If your dog is panting excessively or slowing down, find a shady spot to rest until he or she recovers. Bring enough dog treats and snacks. Just like you, your dog needs a little fuel during the day to keep the energy level up and finish the hike.

Does your dog have a gps tracker?

Putting a tracker on your dog’s collar is a great way to ensure that should anything go wrong and your four-legged friend gets lost, there’s a way to find him and get him home. A Tractive GPS tracker is a great investment for camping and hiking in an unknown area. Some dogs are rather adventure-seeking and you never know if your pup suddenly escapes to explore the area. The Tractive GPS Pet tracker helps you locate your four-legged hiking partner anytime, anywhere – even in the mountains.

hiking with dogs

Checklist: What to bring when hiking with dogs?

  • Collar with a Tractive GPS tracker
  • Leash
  • Doggy poop bags (always clean up after your dog and yourself)
  • Water and a collapsible water bowl
  • Treats and food
  • Tick repellent/Bug spray
  • First aid kit (including tweezers, cleaners and disinfectants, bandages and tape). If you don’t know what to bring, you can always ask your vet.


Are you ready to go on a hike with your dog now?


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