Hiking is one of the most fun things you can do with your dog.
I love love love hiking with my dog. It’s one of the single most fun things you can do. There’s nothing I love more than being out.
The Benefits of Hiking With Your Dog.
For your dog? Hiking has new smells, hiking has new sights, sounds and stimulus for your dog. It’s not only enjoyable for you to get back to the wild, but it’s awesome for them too. These sorts of activities can be massively invigorating for your dog. Not to mention that changes of incline, walking surfaces, and new things to engage with will all provide new challenges, to keep your dog fit and healthy — and that’s not to mention your challenges!
It can also help a dogs confidence, their balance, dexterity and agility and is an awesome place to take pictures!
Then there’s the health and wellbeing effects for you too, healthy heart, lungs, and great exercise – not to mention the mental health side of things! So, why would you not go hiking with your dog? It’s a wonderful experience for you both.
Training Your Dog For A Hike
Or recall, as we trainers say! When hiking with your dog, this is paramount – on or off lead, but especially for any dog that you’re planning on keeping off lead for the majority of the hike. Having control over your dog is imperative. I don’t want any of you calling “It’s okay, he’s friendly!” That’s not what being a Rebarkable dog owner is about, right?
We’re considerate, kind and thoughtful. So ace that recall before you go hiking with your dog!
As part of the manners? Knowing a sit is really helpful to help bring you out of certain situations such as passing on trails, and if you’ve really aced that sit like our Rebarkable Pupdates suggest? You’ll be a pro at this part and you won’t need an additional Stay cue (ugh, bragging rights are yours right now! Well done!) If you need tips on getting a sit like that? You need to get the pupdates… simple!
Not being pulled is so freaking important for your own safety (and enjoyment!) a loose leash walk is really important. No tripping, no dragging, no accidents or slips when you’re trying to navigate a tough bit of trail. Hiking with your dog has to be safe as well as enjoyable folks!
Try A “Hike”
Sometimes teaching your dog to pull on a leash, at a strategic moment? Can actually be pretty handy! Why not consider teaching a Hike cue (like the ones mushers use!) to encourage your dog to pull – it might just help you get over a ridge — well if you have a big dog at least!
And now onto your tips!
These are all things that I learned to do as a dog walker, handling groups of four medium and large dogs (this was before I moved onto Rebarkable and creating the wonderful pupdates which I know you love!).
There was always a lot of responsibility on me to juggle large, powerful dogs, off leash and keeping control, and knowing how to anticipate issues and how to problem solve them. Some of that will come with practice – but we can definitely get you a leg (or a paw!) up.
These actions were often the best way to ensure your dogs health, safety, and your happiness! There’s nothing worse than being stressed when you’re out walking your dog because you’ve gotten yourself into a pickle you hadn’t planned or have no way to manage.
Here are my best pieces of advice to help keep you and your dog safe whilst hiking with your dog and enjoying nature!
1 – Consider The Age Of your Dog, Their Breed & Their Health.
This is the first step in anything. Any dog younger than the age of 18 months should not be doing sustained hiking. After this stage, it’s important to consider whether they’re healthy dogs and the breed that you’re bringing, for example, a brachycephalic such as a Frenchie or English Bulldog may struggle to breathe after sustained exercise.
Conversely, our border collie owners know for a fact that their dog will go all day. Remember Altitude can play a part in this if you’re going to be going up quite substantially!
2 – Consider The Weather
Weather is a big consideration when hiking with your dog! Too hot, too cold, to wet or icy, or even when dawn or dusk is! This will affect whether you can (or should) hike or if it’s just too hot or too cold for your dog to be doing extended periods of exercise in these climates.
Too hot and too cold are both incredibly dangerous for our dogs as they have limited temperature control abilities for heat loss and can become overheated quite easily, and a cold dog in a cold climate may struggle to avoid hypothermia. And that’s not a hike you want to take with your dog…
3 – Consider Your Dogs Overall Fitness
Next, if your dog is not that fit or maybe overweight? It may be a good idea to work them up to this, think of the couch to 5k approach for humans, but for dogs! If your pup is a bit of a sofa-loving sloth – then mediate your expectations and don’t expect them to be able to do a long trek. If you’re unsure? Ask your vet before you embark on a hiking with your dog!
4 – Consider Trail Requests
Some trails don’t allow dogs, some specify that they must be kept on leash and others allow total freedom. Some also allow horses – so do be aware of what you’re getting into before you go off exploring. These restrictions might mean that you need to consider running harnesses and bungee leashes for runners, or proper joring safety equipment for cyclists.
Something really useful, is that sites like All Trails give you all this information so you can plan ahead for your hike!
5 – Consider Your Equipment.
Now, compare the trail and your route vs the equipment your dog will be using. Do you need climbing gear? If so, you’ll not only need to desensitise your dog to hanging but get a strong, sturdy harness that can support that. Maybe you’re crossing rugged terrain on this hike that might be sharp? Consider adding boots to your dogs’ equipment.
If there is likely to be a lot of dust or sand in the air, protect your dogs’ eyes with doggles! Then, with the weather considerations, make sure if it’s cold they have the option of a coat, or if it’s warm, you have a cooling coat available. These items are great to invest in if you’re planning on regularly hiking with your dog and ensuring you’re getting quality products.
My favourites for these? And I’ve tested them all are the ruffwear items below, they should really help you to conquer hiking with your dog, be that in water, or carrying their own gear.
6 – Pack The Right Things!
Water bowls and water (because streams aren’t safe to drink from), towels, snacks and a first aid kit for dogs and poo bags! These are all your musts. Don’t go lighter than that. If you’re going for a camping-style expedition? Make sure you include dinner and breakfast too! Because otherwise their growling tummies might keep you up overnight and it’s really going to put a dampener on your fun trip hiking with your dog.
7 – Ensure Your Dog Is Up To Date On Flea, Tick & Worm Medication!
The wild can be just that. Wild. There are going to be higher exposure rates to fleas, ticks and worms whilst you’re hiking with your dog. So make sure they’re up to date on these and their vaccinations to avoid any potential backlash like Lyme disease. And – even better – apply some dog safe bug repellent for them too.
8 – Know Your Flora
Whilst hiking with your dog, you are going to encounter plants (aka fauna) and being able to identify some highly toxic plants is definitely advisable, deadly nightshade, hellebore and others will be really important. Some plants are just as toxic to us as they are to dogs. So that one should keep both of you safe! Also, remember that foxtails and such can be just as dangerous.
9 – Know Your Fauna
Big one here. Sometimes the trail is the trail for a reason. Going off trail can be fun, but please remember that there are animals out there too. Know your area and know what you might encounter, and consider a get out strategy.
A reliable recall for off leash dogs is a must and even an emergency cue might be something you consider training before your dog decides to square up to a bear… To be fair, it might not be wise to go to a deer dense area during the rut either… Still! Either way, before you go hiking with your dog or dogs, make sure they’ve got their recall sorted.
10 – Be Polite & Consider Other Trail Users
This starts at picking up your dogs poop (and you brought those bags, so use them!) and doesn’t end at considering children, the older, the less able. Your dog should know manners, should respond to a recall, and should be able to sit or stand nicely whilst others go past. Trails can be narrow in places, so be mindful of others! This does mean that if they are off lead? Your dog should never be out if your line of sight. You are responsible for your dog at all times, not being able to see them is not an excuse for anything.
11 – Consider An Escape
Make sure people know where you are. Make sure that your phone is charged. Make sure that you have a way to get your dog out of there if they (say, and let’s pray it’s not the case!) break a limb in a remote spot… you have to get them out. How are you going to do that? Please, just make sure you have a plan in place.
12 – Is Your Information Up To Date?
Ensuring that your microchip information and any tags are up to date is a great thing too. I encourage this regularly anyway, but these are your last line of defence when you are out in public. This way if anything does happen? You’re prepared. If your dog and you get separated? You have back up. So make sure your chip and your collar ID tags are entirely up to date.
13 – Consider A Tracker
This one was a game changer for me, I get scared with my dogs (because my hounds are very, very nose driven, and if they escape in any way they’re gone gone) that they’re going to get themselves lost. Having these GPS trackers honestly gives me so much confidence having them out, because even if they slip their harness, which is where their leash would be attached, they go with their tracker. This means that if they get separated from you? You can definitely get hold of them asap!
We use the Fi Collar (series 2) and so far we are loving them for the hounds!
Looking to Get More Out Of Your Walks?
Why not teach your dog to adjust to a backpack? They’re safe, and can just add a little more challenge to your dogs walk when a Hike might not be appropriate (or even when you’re on a hike or camping trip!)
Enjoy your hikes!!
Hiking with your dog might now seem a little more complicated than you thought, huh? Well, I’m really not trying to take the enjoyment out of it! I just would love to keep you and your dog safe whilst you enjoy nature. And guess what?! With all of this in your arsenal, you and pup are definitely off to a great start. You have every tool you could ever need to make sure that you are safe and in control of your own destiny! Hooray!
Have fun, be safe, and tell us if you loved these tips, and share them with a friend.
Oh! Almost forgot!
Last REALLY QUICK EXTRA IMPORTANT tip? Make sure to give your pup a good check through their coat when you get home, no foxtails, burrs, pesky ticks or other yucks!