These days, many people are changing their vacation plans to explore the great outdoors. Hiking through a national park or forest is exhilarating. You’ll see the most beautiful parts of this country’s diverse landscape. Plus, you’ll love the endorphin-filled feeling of a great adventure.
One of the best parts? Your dog can join you! Of course, certain national parks do not allow dogs or only allow them on specific trails. So, you’ll want to do a little homework first. But there are plenty of dog-friendly hikes out there.
Perhaps you’ve already picked the park, planned out the hikes, and booked your pet-friendly stay. Now, it’s time to purchase gear and pack. Is there hiking gear specifically for dogs? Do they really need it? We’ll help you with what to consider.
Is it Good for Dogs to Hike?
Yes, yes, a thousand times… yes (As long as your dog doesn’t have any serious medical conditions, terrible joint pain, or anything else that would make this a physically concerning activity)! Many dogs love nature and hiking.
Exercise, fresh air, adventure… bring it on! And, of course, your pup will love getting to sniff out the scent of all those critters hiding in the woods. Just beware of any dangerous animals living in the park where you’re hiking. Bears, mountain lions, and rattlesnakes are severe dangers, and you should be prepared for any unwanted encounters with them.
Do Dogs Need Hiking Gear?
Most gear is not necessary but could be especially helpful when hiking (especially if you’re doing an all-day hike or an overnight backpacking hike). There are a few items, though, that every dog owner should bring along to keep their dog safe when hiking.
How Do I Prepare My Dog for Hiking?
If you’re concerned about your pup being physically ready for a long hike, there is some preparation you can do ahead of time. Although many dogs are natural hunters and workers, others have embraced the couch potato lifestyle. So, if you’re working your way up to a big hiking trip with your dog, here are a few things that could help train and prepare them for the trip.
- Get your dog to a healthy weight: Believe it or not, about 56% of the dogs in the United States are overweight or obese. As Americans, we don’t always have the healthiest relationship with food, which tends to extend to our dogs. Sometimes we overfeed them, give them extra snacks, or pass them fatty table scraps. Even though we think we’re making them happy, it’s, unfortunately, hurting them. Obesity can cause many health problems, like “arthritis, chronic kidney disease, bladder/urinary tract disease, liver disease, low thyroid hormone production, diabetes, heart failure, high blood pressure, and cancer.” So if you’re hoping to take your dog on a big hiking trip—or even more regular hikes—consider their diet. Check with your veterinarian for advice about your dog’s appropriate weight and a proper diet.
- Start going on walks every day: In addition to eating right, it’s helpful for your pup to go on daily walks. Daily exercise is great for their physical and emotional health and prepares them for adventures ahead.
- Go on smaller hikes nearby: Once your pup is used to daily walks around the neighborhood or on a walking trail, it’s time to up their game! Find a park near you with hiking trails that are harder than your daily walk—preferably ones with inclines. Again, this will help prepare your dog for longer upcoming hikes.
- Consider a hip and joint supplement: Consult with your veterinarian first, but it may be helpful for your dogs to be on a daily supplement. Every dog’s body and health needs are different. But if your dog needs a little extra help with their hips and joints, start them on a daily supplement ahead of time.
- Flea & tick preventative medication: All dogs should regularly be taking a flea and tick preventative medication. But if they’re not on one yet, it’s time to start (especially before spending extended time out in the woods).
Which Items Are Essential When Hiking with a Dog?
Now that you and your pup have spent some time conditioning and preparing for your upcoming hike, let’s talk about what gear to pack for your crazy canine. We’ll give you a list of the essentials, plus some extras that could come in handy!
- Dog water bottle: Always bring clean drinking water for your pup. Dehydration in dogs is a serious condition. And it’s all too easy to accidentally let this happen when you’re out hiking with your dog. They are exerting energy and getting warm. Just get a dog water bottle rather than worrying about a regular water bottle and a water bowl. There are many variations, but most have some kind of drinking bowl attached to the water bottle for easy dispensing.
- Collapsible dog bowl: A collapsible dog bowl works for water and is super handy to feed your pup. Make sure to bring their meal portion in a baggie—or a dog treat and food pouch, like the one listed below. Don’t make your dog skip a meal just because you’re gone for an extended portion of the day.
- Comfortable dog harness & leash: All dog harnesses are not created equal. And while you always need a leash for your dog, don’t forget about their harness! Tugging at your dog’s neck can be damaging, but a Y-shaped harness helps evenly distribute the pressure across your dog’s midsection. This gives you more control and helps avoid physical injury to your dog.
- Dog poop bags & dispenser: If you’re going on a dog-friendly hike, you must pick up your dog’s poop! You don’t want to leave a messy trail for someone else, and you don’t want to disrupt the local ecosystem by leaving unfamiliar pet waste. Make sure you get a handy dispenser that can clip right to your belt loop. The best types of dog poop bags are the compostable ones. There’s enough trash in the world as it is… let’s not add to it!