11 Safety Tips You Should Know Before Hiking With Your Pet

by Kaitlyn Wylde
Mike Powell/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images

If you love hiking, you know the only thing better than hitting the trails alone is hitting the trails with your furry companion. Hiking with a dog is a mutually beneficial activity that enriches the experience for both parties, exponentially. Trust me, most dogs are more excited about a trail hike than a human. But if you or your pet are new to the trails, you'll want to make sure you're familiar with some standard safety tips for hiking with your dog.

Hiking is a relatively safe sport, but only if you follow rules of the trail and take careful and thoughtful precautions. When you bring a dog on the trails, you become completely and constantly responsible for their wellbeing, as they're not able to walk to the water bowl for water scratch at the cabinet for food. So while hiking with your dog is totally rewarding, it's a lot of extra work.

On the trails, you have to check in with your dog and make sure they're comfortable, satiated, dry, and energized. Here, I've put together a list of safety tips you should always follow when hiking with your pup. Before you even bring your dog to the trails, there are a few things you need to assess and address, so be safe and start by ensuring that your dog is healthy enough for a trail hike. Once you've received an OK from the vet, follow the checklist of puppy precautions on the trail, off the trail, and after the trail.

Consult With Your Vet

Before you bring your dog with you on the trails, check with your vet to make sure that your dog's health is good enough for potentially rigorous exercise. If your dog has a pre-existing health condition, you'll especially need to make sure you're in the clear for an all-weather hike. While you're there, make sure that your dog is up-to-date with vaccination. If the trail is dog-friendly, there's always a risk of a less-than-friendly encounter with another dog, so make sure your pup is protected.

Read Trail Rules

Before you bring your dog on the trail, make sure that it's dog friendly. If it's not, likely there's a good reason. If the trail is too narrow, steep, rocky, or slippery, your dog could be in serious danger if they attempt to travel it. Most public trails are dog friendly, so keep in mind that if the particular trail you're interested in is not, it's way too dangerous to risk your dog's safety, and a ticket or fine.

Assess Trail Hazards

At the head of a public trail, there should be a sign that outlines wildlife in the area and what to be cautious of on the trail. If there are poisonous or dangerous animals on the trail, you might want to think twice about bringing your dog with you, or make an effort to keep them on an extra tight leash.

Pack Necessary Gear

If it's cold, pack some booties and a jacket for your dog. If it's hot, pack a bandana that you can soak in water to cool your dog down. If it's raining, dress your dog in a cover to keep them as dry as possible. If it's nighttime, make sure your dog has some reflective gear on. You never know what kind of weather or conditions you're going to run into, so pack all possible gear items whenever you hike with your dog.

Pack Extra Water

Make sure that you have a separate water bottle for you and your dog. When your dog works up a sweat, they'll become extra thirsty, and if your dog gets too hot, you'll need to cool them down with a few splashes of water. So when you're packing water, make sure you bring more than you think you need.

Bring Treats

Even if you're taking your dog on a short hike in between meals, you'll want to bring some snacks with you. If your dog's energy starts to fall on the hike, a treat or two will help them regenerate some energy. Additionally, having treats on you will keep your dog by your side, and will give you a great distraction in case you need it. For example, if your dog becomes curious with an animal or hazard on the trail, you can redirect their attention to you with a treat in hand.

Use A Leash, Always

No matter how good your dog is, no matter how close they stay to you on the trails, keep them on a leash at all times. If your dog sees a bear or coyote and takes off after it, you'll wish you kept their leash secured.

Protect Against Ticks

At least 12 hours before you hike, make sure that your dog has been given a flea and tick preventive. If it's a warm weather season, you'll also want to ensure that your dog is protected from Heartworm.

Take Breaks

Your dog might be so excited to be out on the trails and so concerned with keeping up with you that they forget to pace themselves. To ensure your dog doesn't get over-heated or worn out, take a few breaks to sit down, slow down your breathing, have some water, and chill.

Leave No Trace

Just because a trail is dog friendly doesn't mean it's dog poop friendly. Make sure you bag your dog's waste and bring it back with you to the garbage. Before you leave the park, make sure that you have every single thing that you brought with you as you should never leave any evidence of your hike if you want to be a respectful hiker.

Do A Post-Hike Check Up

When you get home from the trail, do a very thorough tick check. If you don't plan on bathing your dog, make sure you at least wipe down their paws to ensure nothing irritating from the trail is left behind. Post-hike, make sure your dog has plenty of water and some space to chill out.