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A Guide to Hiking With Your Dog: Tips, Tricks, and Advice to Make the Most of Your Adventure

Updated: Feb 3


Dog wearing a hiking dog shirt on a hiking trail

Hiking with your dog is one of the most fun, and usually most easily accessible outdoor adventures you can have together. There's no one size fits all trail either. From simple walks in the neighborhood park to conquering rugged nature trails, there are all sorts of places to go hiking together! This activity allows you and your pup to spend quality time together, explore the outdoors, and get some amazing exercise, in one incredible experience.


Just make sure you and your pup are prepared with the right equipment, training, and know-how so that you can enjoy all the benefits that hiking with your dog comes with. Our hiking guide will take you through the benefits, preparation tips, safety precautions, and best practices. So get ready to embark on an unforgettable adventure together in the great outdoors!


Always consult your physician and veterinarian before any strenuous and/or high-risk activities. This content is not medical advice and should not replace consultation with a physician or veterinarian.


 

Benefits of Hiking With Your Dog



Taking your dog on a hike not only betters their overall health and well-being but also strengthens the bond between you. Here's just a few reasons why you should hit the trails with your pup:

Exercise

  • Stretch your legs

  • Breathe in fresh air

  • Reduced stress levels.

Exploration

  • ​Escape the familiar

  • Enter nature

  • Uncover hidden plants, rocks, and intriguing wildlife in your backyard

Adventure

  • Navigate challenging trails

  • Find the perfect spot for a picnic

  • Every hike becomes an adventure with your pup by your side

​Socialization

  • ​Meet new friends on the trail

  • Can help your dog become more confident in different environments

Mental Stimulation

  • ​ Stimulation helps keep our minds active and healthy

  • Discover new and interesting stimuli on the trail

  • Can improve mood and reduce boredom

​Bonding

  • Connect on a deeper level

  • Fosters a stronger sense of trust


 

Prep Tips for Hiking With Your Dog

Man and a woman walking their dog on a trail in matching teal blue hiking shirts

Getting ready for a safe and enjoyable hike with your dog is paramount. We've laid out a list of preparation tips to best ensure you and your dog have a safe, and fun, hike together. Always consult with your vet to ensure your dog is healthy enough for the hike and that their vaccinations are up-to-date. Gather the necessary supplies such as water, snacks, waste bags, and a first aid kit. Always check the weather forecast to see if it's safe to hike; needless to say, you should avoid hiking when there's lightning present. Lastly, research dog-friendly trails beforehand to find one suitable for your pet's age and abilities as some have varying difficulties or wildlife encounters. Lastly, review safety tips and precautions to ensure a fun, safe adventure.


Essential Gear for Hiking With Your Dog

  • Dog ID - make sure it's firmly attached and possibly have a secondary ID like a microchip

  • Water, Snacks, and Food - I cannot stress this enough, pack enough water and food for both of you

  • Sunblock - yes some dogs do need sunblock. But also don't forget yours.

  • First Aid Kit

  • Harness/Leash - should be comfortable enough for longer wear durations. Leash should also be comfortable in your hands and should be strong enough to hold your dog on the trials; you never know when a rabbit is going to cross the trail in front of you!

  • Poop Bags

  • Cell Phone

  • Weather Check - Assembling your gear list is another good reason to check the weather to see if there are any other items you need to bring and for any weather that you may encounter

If your dog is large enough, in good shape, and healthy, you can look into options for them to carry some of this gear for themselves. I don't make my Jack Russell mix carry as he's pretty small and a small water bottle would bog him down! I do use a doggy day pack from Ruff Wear for my Golden Retriever mix.


Finding a Dog-Friendly Hiking Trail

Pomeranian sitting on a dog friendly hiking trail

The Search: Finding a dog-friendly trail may seem difficult, but with the right resources, it can be somewhat easy. Check out your local trail websites or use an app that specialize in finding pet-friendly areas such as BringFido or AllTrails. You can also check for nearby state parks or national forests with hiking trails that allow dogs, just make sure to research and follow any rules or restrictions they may have. Joining outdoor adventure communities or groups can also be a great way to find new trails and connect with other dog owners.



Research: No two hiking trails are the same and there are some important considerations you need to take into account before taking your dog hiking. Once you find some dog-friendly hiking trails in your area, you'll have to choose the appropriate difficulty level for your pet’s age and ability. Some trails are flat while others can be very steep and rough. Some trails may have streams that you'll have to cross over and some may even have wildlife that you should be aware of. One of our dog's has a very high prey drive and whenever a rabbit crosses our path she tries to dart after it. Knowing your dog's instincts/reactions and what kind of wildlife is present will help keep you ready for those eventual encounters.


Check the Reviews: It may be helpful to look into reviews from other dog owners who have done the same route. Whether you’re looking for other people’s thoughts on a trail’s difficulty, terrain type, or overall dog-friendliness, reviews can be a great way to get an idea of what to expect from the hike. We love to use BringFido's enormous database of dog-friendly hiking trails to find new spots and also read reviews from their millions of users. And best of all, you can use their site to find other dog-friendly locations across the United States, Canada, and Mexico!


San Diegans: If you're local to San Diego, check out our other adventure blogs that review dog-friendly hiking trails in and around San Diego County. The links are provided below in the "Learn More" section.



Safety Tips and Considerations When Hiking With Your Dog

  • ​Make sure your dog is properly secured on a leash or harness.

  • ​Make sure your dog is up to date on vaccinations and healthy enough for activity

  • ​Keeping your pup hydrated and fed before, during, and after. Bring extra water and snacks for both you and your pup.

  • ​Check the weather - expected inclement weather or extreme temperatures may warrant a postponement

  • ​Monitor their behavior and taking frequent breaks

  • ​Being aware of potential hazards (e.g., cliffs, wildlife, rolling rocks, etc.)

  • ​Limit the distance based on your dog's abilities (Dogs can overheat easily)

  • ​Be aware of other potential dangers such as ticks, foxtails, etc…


 

Training Tips for Hiking With Your Dog


A woman petting her dog during a hike and wearing matching teal shirts

It's important to ensure that your dog is trained and knows basic commands before venturing out on a hike. Keeping your dog under control is essential for everyone’s safety while navigating trails, crossing streams, or encountering wildlife.

Basic Commands

Trail Etiquette

Application of Agility Training


 

Getting the Most Out of Hiking with Your Dog


With all of the preparation out of the way, now comes the time for the fun part: actually going on a hike with your dog! Here are some tips to help ensure your adventure is one to remember!

Explore, sniff, and simply enjoy each other's company

A cute Pomeranian dog smelling yellow spring flowers

​Whether it's a short or long hike, focus on having fun


A little Jack Russell Terrier standing on a hiking trail in Fall

​Bring along some toys for an interactive game of fetch


Large Husky on a trail wearing a hiking dog shirt

Take a moment to appreciate the unique foliage of the area you're exploring​


Golden Retriever taking a rest on a dog friendly hiking trail in San Diego

Keep an eye out for fish in the creeks and ponds​


Woman getting the paw from her dog on a nature trail

Don't forget to capture the special moments by taking photos of your journey​