Essential Safety Tips for Hiking with a Dog

Learn the best safety tips for hiking with a dog so that you can make the most of your day on the trail with your furry friend.

Dogs are natural adventurers and hiking with a dog can be a great way to strengthen your bond with them while keeping them active and healthy.

While taking your dog on the trail with you can add to both you and your furry companion’s life, it’s also important that you make sure that you do it safely and responsibly. Maintaining good command over your dog and taking the proper steps to make sure your best friend stays safe and comfortable in all types of trail conditions is essential.

In this post, guest contributor and German Shepard owner Chelsy Ranard shares some essential safety tips for hiking with dogs so that you can both stay safe and make the most out of your day on the trail. 

Before taking your dog out on your next adventure, here are a few factors to consider when hiking with a dog and some useful tips on how to keep them safe.


How to get your dog ready for hiking

Wait until your dog has basic training

Before deciding to take your dog on an adventure, be realistic about the type of training your pup has or needs. For instance, it is not the best idea to take a small, clumsy puppy on a backpacking trip or an untrained dog on a popular hike. Start small and let your dog build up to the level you are. Not many of us are able to hike 10 miles off the couch, so don’t expect that from your furry companion either.

Before taking them on a hike, your pup will need to learn basic commands like come, sit, stay, leave it, and down. They should be leash-trained and possibly be able to carry their own doggie backpack depending on the activity they are participating in.

Basic commands and training may mean the difference between life and death for your dog. You can’t have them running after a larger animal, investigating a poisonous snake, or heading for a known treacherous area.

Learn the best safety tips for hiking with a dog so that you can make the most of your day on the trail with your furry friend.

Keep dog tags & licenses up-to-date

Make sure your dog is licensed and has up-to-date contact information on their tags in case you get separated from them. Most states require dogs over 4 months old to be licensed annually and this can be done through the mail or online.

Make sure vaccines are current

Before you go hiking with your dog, it’s essential they have all of their vaccines up-to-date, especially rabies, which is fatal if they are not vaccinated.

Know the trail regulations

Before heading out on a hike with your pup, it’s your responsibility to know the trail regulations including whether or not dogs are even allowed on the trail, if they need to be on a leash at all times, or whether voice control is sufficient.

Learn the best safety tips for hiking with a dog so that you can make the most of your day on the trail with your furry friend.

Essential Hiking Gear For Dogs

Before hitting the trail with your pup, here are a few essential pieces of dog gear:

A Leash

Even if you are hiking on a trail that allows dogs off-leash, it’s important to bring one anyway. You never know whether you’ll meet an aggressive dog or even a hiker who is scared of them. The Ruffwear Roamer Dog Leash is a great choice if you plan on keeping your dog on-leash because it’s made with stretchy webbing so they have extended range to explore. It can also be worn around the waist.

Dog bowl

Any small, lightweight bowl will work for a dog bowl, but if you’re looking for one that folds up small and can be kept in your pack, the Ruffwear Quencher Dog Bowl is a great choice. It even has reflective trim, so you can easily find it when you’re packing up camp early in the morning to make the summit.

Learn the best safety tips for hiking with a dog so that you can make the most of your day on the trail with your furry friend.

Dog harness & pack

A dog harness like the foam-padded Ruffwear Front Range Dog Harness is great to use when taking dogs on a hike. It has two attachment points: one on the back and one at the chest to resist pulling. It also comes with a small ID pocket and reflective trim for late-in-the-day outings.

If you plan on doing longer day hikes or overnight adventures with your pup, consider using a dog harness fitted with bags so they can carry their own food and water. The Ruffwear Approach Dog Pack is great for 1-2 night outings or if you want something a bit smaller, check out the Front Range Dog Day Pack.

Dog Booties

What type of footwear do you have? Hiking boots? Well, the trail can be just as rough on your dog’s feet, too, and pad injuries are one of the most common injuries for pets that spend a lot of time outdoors. If you hike on rocky or rugged trails, you can protect your dog’s paws with a set of dog booties.

Learn the best safety tips for hiking with a dog so that you can make the most of your day on the trail with your furry friend.

Safety Considerations When Hiking With A Dog

Temperature

Being mindful of the temperature is an important consideration when choosing when – or when not – to go hiking with a dog. Think about your own preparation for your hike and put that plan into action for your dog. For instance, do you need extra layers to stay warm? If so, then you might want to get an extra layer for your dog too. Ruffwear makes an insulated jacket that can help keep your pup comfortable on those snowy winter days. Also, keep in mind that not all dogs have the build or insulation to withstand the cold. Smaller, short-haired dogs tend to get colder than larger, long-haired dogs.

For hot temperatures, remember to bring extra water and something for them to drink out of. Be mindful of hot surfaces, know the signs of heat exhaustion and dehydration, and make sure there is a body of water or shade nearby on your adventure.

Learn the best safety tips for hiking with a dog so that you can make the most of your day on the trail with your furry friend.

Bites & Stings

Bee stings, ticks, and mosquito bites are just a few of the common insect issues that you might run into when hiking with a dog. Typically, bee stings aren’t a serious issue unless your dog is allergic but diseases transmitted by ticks can be deadly. If you’re in an area known to have a lot of ticks, it’s wise to carry a dog-specific insect repellant like this all-natural repellant by Wondercide.

When you get home from hiking in areas where ticks are common, you should do a thorough tick search. If you do find a tick on your dog, don’t just grab the tweezers and try to pull it out. With tweezer, it’s likely that you’ll rip the body in half leaving the dangerous tick head buried under your pet’s skin. Instead, you’ll need an inexpensive tick removal tool to effectively remove the entire insect. If you are dealing with chronic tick problems, you should consult with your vet for the best preventative measures.

Snakes and larger animals

Be aware of snakes, rodents, and bigger animals as well. Keep your dog away from any areas that have snakes in order to eliminate this danger altogether. If you do choose to hike with your dog in areas where rattlesnakes are common, you should consider doing rattlesnake avoidance training so your dog knows how to behave during an encounter.

Many burrowing rodents, porcupines, and bats have long-lasting issues with dogs invading their space, so make sure your pup’s rabies vaccination is up to date and they are in your sight at all times. Many curious dogs have been bitten, scratched, or attacked by animals that see your dog as a threat.

Learn the best safety tips for hiking with a dog so that you can make the most of your day on the trail with your furry friend.

First Aid When Hiking With a Dog

Knowing some basic animal first aid is important if you are hiking with dogs. It may be necessary for you to give your pet some basic medical attention before you can get them to a vet, especially if you are far away from medical attention.

Ask your vet or research how to give your pet CPR, know the types of plants that are toxic to your animal in your region, and be prepared for any preexisting medical conditions that may become an issue such as low blood sugar for a diabetic pup or limping on a previously injured limb.

It’s also a great idea to keep some things in your first aid kit for your pet such as cotton swabs, a tick/stinger remover, and hydrogen peroxide. Or you can carry a dog-specific first aid kit which includes a muzzle, a tick removal tool, and bandages that won’t stick to fur.

Learn the best safety tips for hiking with a dog so that you can make the most of your day on the trail with your furry friend.

Spending time outdoors helps your body and mind relax, focus, and feel healthy and fulfilled and these perks apply to your dog as well. To have a positive and safe experience hiking with a dog, be sure to practice these safety measures and you and your dog are sure to have a great time!


What are your tips for hiking with a dog? Got any stories from the trail? Leave a comment below!

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Written by Chelsy Ranard

Chelsy is a writer from Montana who is now living in beautiful Boise, Idaho. She graduated with her journalism degree in 2012 from the University of Montana. She has spent time working in the Alaskan wilderness, is passionate about animal welfare, and loves taking her German Shepherd named Titan on outdoor adventures. Follow Chelsy on Twitter!

13 comments on “Essential Safety Tips for Hiking with a Dog

  1. Thanks for providing the useful information about hiking with dogs. I receive a lot of questions about climbing Kebnekaise (Sweden’s highest mountain) with dogs. Thanks a lot for your posting.

  2. Great article! We have a hiking pooch too. It’s great to see some advice out there for those who are new to hiking with the furry companions, we run into a lot of people who are ill prepared to bring their dogs into the backcountry. Thanks for posting!
    -Jim

  3. Loved the humor in this. Your dog sounds hysterical. My dog can also be terrible off leash (hound mix, nose…. deer…. you get the picture). My number one tip is a reflective vest! That way I can see her (as well as any hunters). Life saver for us! I also never leave without my dogs GPS. Girl has some fancy hardware!

    Katie @ Katie Wanders

  4. I live in California and take my dogs on every trail that they are allowed. Every year they get their rattle snake vaccination, which has proven to be a life saver as one of them has gotten bit. Something to definitely ask your vet about if there are rattlers in your area.

  5. We use the K9 Sport sack for our pup and she LOVES it! It’s basically a handy backpack that we put her in for when she gets tired on long hikes or for a ride on the motorcycle (for a cute pic of that, complete with Doggle, check this out: https://www.instagram.com/p/BUDgnB-jdXz/).

    Because she LOVES being outside but she has a small frame so she tires easily. This way once she starts to get pooped we can carry her around.

    It’s also great for bringing her to large festivals or farmer’s markets. We don’t need to worry about her getting trip over or stomped on.

  6. Hello! Thanks for the article. I\’m looking at finding a puppy partner soon. I\’ve always left my dogs at home on longer trips and hikes because I have had no idea how to get out and about with them. This time I\’m looking for a trial partner. After reading the (awesome) article above, I\’m left with a few follow up questions. How does one engage in rattlesnake avoidance training? Where is a good place (web based please, not the vet) to learn about doggie first aide? Also, what are appropriate things to allow your dog to carry in a dog backpack and what is more appropriate for their human to carry? Thanks for the great site!

    1. Hi Amanda. I hike with my three LARGE German Shepherds. Some other dog advice:
      1) I only hike with them in temps below 80, over this and it is way too hot for them (at least my girls)
      2) I have packs for them. They carry some of their water and snacks. Weight is distributed evenly on each side. And when it is a little warmer I freeze the water bottles which I THINK helps keep them cool. When it gets too warm I don’t ask them to carry a pack… my husband and I then carry the water. By the time we need the water it is melted, (as I carry a GALLON for them and so does my husband), after ours is gone that we packed for them… we use the bottles for them (this is on 8 -10) mile hikes. (yes a lot of weight, but on a shorter hike I am not that concerned (remember I have THREE!!!!!)
      3) I also carry water filtration system, as they can get Giardia just like we can, so I do not allow them to drink from the rivers etc.
      4)SNAKES: Once warmer out, I do NOT allow them to run off leash and I depending on where I am (how many cars in parking lot I make a call on this as I don’t want to run up on another NOT well behaved dog and I think when parking lots are full your dog needs to be on a leash but 1 car…. okay Ill probably let them off leash unless warm out as then there is the risk of snakes)…. snakes hide in the leaves/under logs etc. If your dog is running through the woods and not on path… you cannot see what is coming up and they can easily step on them, thus “on leash” in warmer hiking. Also we should always step on a log in the path NOT over it, as snake maybe on the other side and we may not see it until too late, thus if I have my dogs, when I come to a log that I must step over, I make them stay until I can step on it, and then go over to make sure no snake along the other side.

      As far as leaving snakes alone… not sure on that one… my dogs have been on leash and walked right over two black snakes and a corn snake (different hikes) without letting me know it was there, thus I ALMOST stepped on them!!!!! this has happened 3 times.. I was like.. WOW, thanks for letting me know!!! My girls don’t seem to care or mess with them… and thankfully I am NOT fearful of snakes… and I didn’t see the snakes on the clear trail because was early morning and very shaded so just didn’t see ahead in time. So even on leash there could still be risk.

      5) Dog first aide: well.. LOL, I have very accident prone horses in my life… and dogs are not much different than horses. I carry a small dollar store roll of duct tape. With this you can make a “make shift” boot. Criss-cross the tape and put a gauze pad in the center, fold up around the leg and then put a piece of tape around the leg to secure. Duct tape is VERY durable, this would last 2 days for my horse!!!! This is in case they rip open the pad of their foot gives some cushion and helps to keep clean until you can get to a vet. And these are light weight supplies. I also carry Vetericyn (GREAT STUFF) it GELS on the wound. And I carry Vet-Wrap (also typically a horse item) but works really well on dogs. – as far as vet medical training not sure where you might get that except from experience. As I said, my horses are about the MOST accident prone animals EVER!!!!!

      Hope some of this helps – I have been hiking with my three girls for 7 years and have not ever had any “incidents” and hope that remains the case!

      Happy trails! 🙂

  7. My husband and I are taking our dog with us to the Grand Canyon this summer. Do you have any suggestions on how to get her ready for the rocky terrain? We live in East Texas and the terrain is pretty flat and smooth.

  8. Hi Chelsy,
    Thanks for your great and informative post. I got a lot of inspiring from you to travel with my pooch. My pooch is my best assistant in both house and outside, it helps me more and provides me a good security.

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