Trail Etiquette and Safety Tips for Hiking With Your Dog

5 min read

Reviewed for accuracy on May 13, 2019, by Dr. Katie Grzyb, DVM

 

Nothing beats hiking with a dog. A brisk walk or even a stroll through natural surroundings can be great exercise for two-legged and four-legged family members.

 

And, because hiking exposes your canine companion to new and interesting things, it’s mentally stimulating for your pup too, says Katherine Aromaa, avid hiker and owner of Cooper’s Dog Training and Behavior Modification in Portland, Oregon.

 

Before you hit the trails, you want to make sure that you and your dog enjoy the park responsibly by following both safety and hiking etiquette rules. That way, everyone else can enjoy the park, too.

 

Keep Your Dog’s Safety In Mind

 

During hot or humid summer days, take your dog hiking in the early morning or late evening when the weather is cooler. This is especially important if your dog has a short snout (like French Bulldogs, Pugs and Boxers).

 

In colder months, hit the trails midmorning, recommends Katy Chadwick, owner of Brightside Dog Training and Boarding in Dacula, Georgia. Always remember to take water or food breaks.

 

Also watch out for unfamiliar terrain if you’ve got a newbie hiking dog—cliffs and drop-offs to fast streams or icy ponds. “Lots of young and inexperienced dogs can get perilously close to the edge or think that they can go down just fine. Sometimes that is true, but then they can’t get back up! Keep your inexperienced dog on a leash in these situations,” says Aromaa.

 

Practice Trail Etiquette When Hiking With Dogs

 

With these tips, you’ll be prepared with the right knowledge, training and dog supplies so you can enjoy hiking the trails with your pup.

 

Follow Dog Leash Rules

 

Make sure you always adhere to the rules for each hiking trail. Many state parks and nature preserves allow hiking with dogs, but only if they’re leashed. Do not ignore this guideline.

 

The leash rule is there for a reason. It makes it safer for other hikers that are there with or without pets, says Aromaa. Having all dogs on leashes eliminates the potential for negative interactions between dogs or between your dog and other people.  

 

The leash rule is also in place to protect the environment. Many parks are preserving habitats and animal species, so a loose dog could end up disrupting nesting sites, trampling natural flora or getting injured themselves.

 

There are many off-leash hiking trails available to dogs, but that still doesn’t mean you should just let your dog run free, especially if your dog is reactive to strangers or other dogs. You need to make sure that your dog is properly trained to be loose in a public space.

 

Let Other Hikers Pass

 

It is also important to remember that you are not the only ones enjoying public hiking trails.

 

If you pass other pups or people, step to the side and let them go by. “It avoids so many problems, especially on single-track trails,” says Aromaa.

 

To help other hikers or dogs pass, Aromaa has her dog come to her and sit. Chadwick likes to keep her dog’s attention by offering dog treats. 

 

“A dog with basic training and manners will greatly improve your experience,” says Chadwick. Your pooch must be able to obey the commands “sit,” “come,” “stop” and “leave it,” even with distractions.

 

Help Prevent the Spread of Disease

 

It also important to make sure your dog is all up-to-date on their vaccinations, flea and tick prevention, and heartworm prevention. The National Park Service says that by keeping your dog up-to-date on these, you can prevent the spread of disease to and from wildlife. Tick-borne diseases are especially concerning in certain regions.

 

Make Sure to Bring These Hiking Dog Supplies

 

Having the right hiking supplies with you can ensure that both you and your pup have a safe and fun hike. Here are a few of must-have hiking supplies when out with your dog:

 

Dog Leash

 

Chadwick recommends a durable 6- to 9-foot dog leash that easily lets your hiking dog explore but keeps him close by so that you still have control.

 

You will want to steer clear of retractable leashes because they can break or tangle if your pup takes off after something.

 

A dog leash like the Hertzko hands-free running dog leash is a great option because it allows you to have free hands but also keeps your pup close and under control.

 

Fresh Water

 

Always make sure to bring enough water for you and your dog. (along with portable water bowls to drink from) so she can stay hydrated.

 

“I try to avoid letting my dogs drink from unknown water sources as it can cause an upset stomach, diarrhea or diseases like giardia,” says Chadwick. 

 

Dog Treats

 

It is always smart to have dog treats with you—they can help to get your dog’s attention. Treats are great for rewarding your pup when she comes back to you or sits quietly by your side as other dogs walk by.

 

Dog Poop Bags

 

Yes, your dog’s poop is biodegradable, but dog poop can also transmit diseases that can affect local wildlife and ecosystems.

 

The National Park Service suggests you use the “Leave No Trace” principles when hiking with dogs, so it is super important that you always remember to bring dog poop bags, and pick up after your dog while hiking.

 

It’s the polite thing to do, and it will help to ensure that you keep the local wildlife safe and healthy.

 

Dog First Aid Kit

 

Finally, you will always want to make sure you have a dog first aid kit on hand. This will help to make sure you are prepared for any unplanned circumstances while out hiking with your dog.

 

Your dog first aid kit should include:

 

  • An emergency contact card

  • Blunt-tipped scissors

  • Bandages

  • Sterile eye solution

  • Latex or rubber gloves,

  • A plastic syringe

  • Tweezers

  • Antiseptic wipes

  • A thermometer

 

You should also have a stash of your dog’s medications just to be safe and prepared.

 

By: Linda Rodgers

Featured Image: iStock.com/Ben Harding