Honestly, one of my favorite things about taking care of dogs is going on hikes and walks with them. Some days, it’s hard to get the motivation to go outside but once I’m out there with a dog, it’s so amazing. Even on the rainiest days, hiking and walking with dogs is such a fun adventure! And I’ve learn so much over the past few years and wanted to share some of those things and other tips for hiking with dogs:
- Do your research on the trails and hikes you’re planning on going on. Some parks and trails don’t allow dogs for a few reasons. Other trails might allow dogs but aren’t great trails for dogs to hike (i.e. there are a lot of obstacles like boulders, stream crossings, rocky/rooty trails, etc).
- This also means knowing what trails are open during the year and preparing for the day’s weather. Because of the rainy weather in the Pacific Northwest, not all trails are going to be open year-round (for safety reasons).
- A part of researching a trail should also mean making sure to know if the hiking trails are off or on leash. Some trails are on leash for specific reasons, i.e. for safety reasons or because the trail is in a wildlife reserve. Explorer Dog has a list of hikes and parks in Western Washington that are dog friendly and even lists a few that are off leash. Most are in the Puget Sound area but if you’re in that area, it’s a great list for trails!
- If you decide to let your dog off leash, have a tag with their name and your information on their collar in case something happens. And it might be helpful to have the dog microchipped with your information in the very rare chance that something really bad happens. (This is also really great to do in general!) It’s also important that your dog be under voice control if they’re off leash.
Consider getting paw protectors if you’re going hiking in snowy areas (or if you’re worried about your dog’s paws during the hike) and making sure that your dog has a reflective color/harness. If you have a husky or a dog that looks like a wolf/coyote from a distance, it would be good to have your dog wear a bright bandana or harness to distinguish them as a domesticated animal/pet.
- And if you’re planning to hike for most of the day, have an LED light attached to their collars and a flashlight in your bag in case it starts to get dark while you’re still hiking.
- Plan for the weather! There have been too many times in which I’ve been caught in the rain while walking a dog and just so glad I was wearing my rain jacket.
- If you’re going on a hike that will take a few hours or an entire day, have enough water for you and your dog. There are a bunch of great collapsible bowls available both online and in most pet stores that can easily fit into a day bag. If you’re planning to hike for an entire day, it’ll be important to have water for you and your dog during the day!
- In addition to water and a bowl for day trips, I also recommend carrying plastic bags, a trowel, a small first aid kit for humans and dogs, flashlights/lights, and dog treats/food in a day bag.
- Scoop the poop! This is self-explanatory but during a hike, either pick up and carry out your dog’s poop or bury it. There’s a few reasons to do so (other than just being courtesy to other hikers). Doing so can help prevent diseases from being transmitted through the poop to local wildlife and can prevent poops from being carried off by storm water into waterways.
- Have a general idea of what your dog is capable of and remember that going any distance in one direction generally means you have to travel that same distance on the way back. Many dogs, especially young healthy ones, will probably be able to go on long hikes but it’s important to keep an eye on how they’re feeling throughout the hike. If they’re starting to slow/seem tired, it might be a good time to take a break and eventually head back!
- Over the years, I’ve unfortunately had a few close calls with Rooster on long walks. He was already a senior dog when he came into my life but seemed to really love going on walks. On a couple occasions, we went for too long and we had to stop and take a lot of breaks on our way back to the car. This has only happened 2-3 times over the years and he was fine afterwards. But this is an easily preventable thing if you keep an eye on how your dog is feeling.
For more ideas and tips, there are plenty of places online to check out!
- 9 things to keep in mind when you go hiking with your dog – Mojo and Friends
- Hiking with dogs – Washington Trails Association
- Hiking or backpacking with your dog – REI
- Hike with your dog – this is a site with a bunch of resources dedicated to helping you hike with your dog!