Hiking With Dogs
So you have decided to take your good doggo out on an adventure. You scouted Instagram, you saw some of the amazing travel inspiration images and then you looked deep into the eyes of your favourite little living creature and thought, “you and me buddy. . . we could totally do that”.
Hiking With Dogs Is Good For The Soul
Its a great idea, good for the soul, good for the wallet, not spending thousands on holidays in Ibiza, a few days out in nature with your doggo will make you feel incredible. But hiking with your dogs is a little bit of an emotional minefield, its not as simple as grabbing the lead and heading out. For even shorter hikes, planning and prepping is key. That’s why we thought we would put together the ultimate guide to hiking with dogs.
The Ultimate Guide To Hiking With Dogs- Let's Break It Down
We thought to yourselves, how can we break down the ultimate guide to hiking with dogs so that it’s easy to digest, containing all the most valuable information with plenty of travel hints and tips to maximise your time out in nature with your dog. We have broken the guide down into a few sections, first up we dive in with the preparation section, then into the packing section. Then we thought we would suggest 5 excellent starter hikes in Europe to adventure with your doggo and 5 in the US. Finishing up with some FAQs.
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Let’s get straight into it. . .
First things first is to see if your doggo is ready. Before doing anything, it would be a good idea to take your doggo to the vet and see if their fitness, stamina and overwell wellbeing is ready to begin a more active lifestyle. Your vet may also have some useful bread specific suggestions to ensure your dog is in the best possible position to head out on his/her first hike.
Now that the first stage is done let’s dive into the best hints and tips for preparing your four-legged friends.
Now comes the first of many fun stages. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect, this has never been truer. Remember when you tried to teach your dog to facetime? You had to repeat the moves over and over again, well this is like that. . . Not at all. Sadly your dog will never have the dexterity to face time, BUT practice hikes are a great way to build your dogs endurance, you can stay fit and overall it’s great for bonding.
Select some excellent local hikes, starting at 2 hours for a round trip, all the way to slightly longer ones like 5 hours round trip, these brief walks to half day walks help you train your dog and understand what they need or what they will need. For example, some larger dogs, for example, don’t need paw pad protectors aka cute little booties. . . but smaller dogs might need protection.
The next step is to select a trail that’s right for you and your dog. Where do you want to go? Further afield? Travel on a plane, are you driving far? Further down in this article, we will cover some excellent trails in the E.U. and in the U.S.
But if none of the trails we lovingly put together float your boat, I mean I don’t know why, they are epic BUT if they don’t fit your style or what you want from the hiking experience, contact your county, area, communes local tourist board and get a trail map or head to the website. You can also join Facebook groups, and most countries in the E.U. and U.S. have hiking associations who have all the up to date trail info.
Always check on the regulations for the areas where you’ll be hiking or backpacking. Some trails, namely in the U.S. national parks, for example, do not allow even a leashed dog to share the path. Many national parks/forests, do allow dogs on their trail systems, though rules may vary. Leashes are a must almost everywhere. So head to the national park’s website and do your research to ensure to stick to the rules.
Nature & Wild Plants
You know that feeling when you see your doggo chewing on something, and then you yell “What’s in your mouth” and you immediately engage in a game of cat and mouse? Well, this is sadly one of the hazards when out in the woods/nature. Halting chewing directly is your best defense against poison or tainted plants, as well as digestive-system problems. Watch out for the dastardly nettles, as well as poison oak, ivy and sumac, these nasties will cause discomfort for both you and your dog.
There are also a few hazards with where your precious little pet steps. Some plants and shrubs are poisonous, like nettles so check online which potentially hazardous plants are indigenous to the area then you can watch out. No need to panic but its always good to have all the info before you travel.
Animals and Other Four-Legged Delights
Your leash is your best defense against big carnivores and prickly herbivores. Even though Lyme disease ‘doesn’t show symptoms in many dogs, ticks are also a concern, so check your dog carefully and remove any unwelcome hitchhikers after the hike.
If you are hiking in Northern Europe, its good to know in dance if any predators are lurking, casual encounter with brown bears may be reasonable for the local Swedes for example but when in Sweden and hiking in the forest, maybe look online first!
Watch Out For Heatstroke
Dogs only perspire, aka pant and sweat through their pads to cool off. Be cautious and conservative—rest and drink often, take it easy and enjoy the journey. Bust out the cooling collar if your doggo keeps lying down in shady spots, that’s a sign a more extended rest is needed.
Dogs are susceptible to most of the same waterborne pathogens as humans. Again this is another chance for you to do some prior research online. Your safest choice is to treat water for both you and your dog. Chlorine or iodine are always trusted choices and available and most outdoor specialist stores.
Splish Splash, Its Swim Time
Okay, that’s cringe but isn’t it the most adorable when your dog sees a body of water and dives in with reckless abandon. You still need to be safe! If your dog can’t swim, pack a dog life jacket (adorable, google it). Don’t let even a good swimmer try to cross say, a whitewater section of a creek or river: Lift and carry your dog instead. In colder temps, the wet fur can chill your dogs body temperature. Even if the weather is temperate, you’ll have a major towelling-off job before bedtime to warm them up.
Leave No Trace
Dont forget, the same rules apply here as if you were hiking without dogs. . . Leave No Trace! This means picking up after your doggo and if there aren’t any bins (which there aren’t likely to be) you can buy secure, hygienic bags to store rubbish in and dispose of it as soon as you are able. Easy Peasy!
Now, let’s move onto the next stage “Packing”!
In this section, we will learn more about packing your ever-important equipment and also what your little pooch will be carrying. *Googles dogs in backpacks*.
Not quite as cute as a little backpack but still sweet, your dog will be able to carry some necessary items as well.
Yes, man’s best friend can make an excellent hiking and adventure partner… but just like their fave human, the dog needs the right equipment! Afterall this is more than just your average daily walk! Thankfully, dogs well-suited for climbing often have plenty of energy, they can carry their own gear (or some extra for you that doesn’t quite fit in your pack).
Your Packing Essentials
Food & Drink
Start with life’s most important things, food and drink. Begin by planning your meals and food for your k-9.
Meal prep both your meals in advance, pack them in Tupperware for shorter trips protected by a cooling bag. On longer trips consider meals specific for hiking that you can prepare over a campfire. For your doggo, stick to treats and dry food as its much easier to transport.
You are your dog’s guardian, you are 100% responsible for the well being of this little angel, and therefore you need to arm yourself with ALL the vital information to ensure a stress-free trip. A first air kit specific for your dog is critical. These are available online from Amazon and the red cross, but what is essential to accompany the kit is to know how to use it.
Head to your local Vet’s with the kit and ask them to talk you through the products inside but also get some hints and tips on how to spot warning signs of exhaustion, dehydration and bites, sores or any other common ailments. For example, would you know how to remove a tick correctly? How to ensure your dog doesn’t become dehydrated? This information can be easily found, and it makes you an excellent superstar dog parent.
This starts with the size of your tent—now “one-creature larger” to accommodate your dog. A piece of foam and a small (down/fluffu) comforter make an excellent backcountry doggie bed. Plan to do several backyard sleep-outs, too, so your dog will be entirely comfortable with whatever sleep system you choose before you hit the trail. Test “sleeps” will help you get used to the situation. Plus, did you know that women, would statistically prefer to sleep next to a dog to de-stress? We read that somewhere. . .
Dog GPS– You can now buy small and light mini GPS devices that contact to an app on your phone to help keep an eye on your dog. Just a precaution if the trail is poorly lit, the weather gets bad or if there are lots of trees or tall grass. It attaches easily to your dogs pack or collar.
Hydration sources– Buy a stainless steel flask, this keeps the water for you and your pooch nice and cool.
Safety Light– You and your little one will need safety lights. You can use a head torch hiking during dawn or dusk (you shouldn’t be walking at night with your dog on all terrain trails. It’s not best practice and invite unnecessary danger).
But for your dog, you can buy hand held or small fixed lights to the pack.
For Your Doggo
Dog Coat- Be sure to pack a dog coat that your dog is used too. Temperatures have a habit of changing drastically out in the wilderness so, be ready for the colder rights or indeed in the rain/snow to keep your dogs core warm!
Cooling Collar- All dogs struggle to dissipate heat, so this soak-and-wrap accessory is worth every added ounce when the temps start to climb.
Dog Towel- Dogs love diving into bodies of water even if the water is as dark and murky as a mystical swamp, BUT if you have a dog towel, you can give them a good dry down. Especially before they get into bed, Hiking/camping and dogs, in general, are just a bit gross but embrace it and keep it under control where you can.
Dog Boots-Once you have got over the initial concept being literally too cute to handle, dog booties are to protect the paw pads. They offer protection from sharp rocks, thorns and snow. It’s not uncommon, though, for a dog to lose a bootie. So if you choose booties rather than simply toughening up paws on training hikes, you need to pack spares. And you’ll still need to allow time for your dog to get used to wearing booties. You can also make your own from tape and soft foam padding or indeed recycle old padded socks!
Top 10 Hikes To Get Started- Adventures With Your Canine Pal
Considering this is “The Ultimate Guide To Hiking With Dogs” we thought we simply had to include a section of some recommended hikes with your k-9 friends right? We picked out 5 options in the E.U. and 5 in the U.S.; these hikes are easy to moderate but what they do have is varied terrain and excellent sights. Treks that will be beautiful visually and easy to plan when you begin heading out with your fave four-legged friend.
Top 5 Starter Hikes In Europe
The Old Man Of Storr
Where: Old Man Of Storr, Trotternish, Isle Of Skye
When to visit: Winter and Summer offer totally different experiences.
Nearest Airport: Inverness 2.5hr Glasgow 3.5hr
Why: Its a well-known trail with plenty of sights and stops along the way plus the path is well worn and safe.
“The ‘Old Man’ is a large pinnacle of rock that stands high and can be seen for miles around. As part of the Trotternish ridge, the Storr was created by a massive ancient landslide, leaving one of the most photographed landscapes in the world” Isle Of Skye.
A spot somewhat shrouded in mystery, The Old Man Of Storr offers many a spooky and ominous story to a curious traveller. Adding additional character to the already raw and rugged Skye landscape, the hiking possibilities are peculiar, intriguing and exciting. The terrain is more unpredictable than our first list entry, offering a more trekking like experience. Of course, the Man himself is an unmissable sight to behold, but the surrounding area offers plenty to discover. With the beaches and lakes looking like the first strip of a Scandi Noir film, the Isle Of Skye is less like its southern British counterparts with rolling hills and soft greens, raising the bar with intense and dark colours and challenging ground.
Where: Giants Causeway, County Antrim, N. Ireland.
When To Visit: Winter brings with it a fairy tale air and summer the beauty of the light.
Nearest Airport: Belfast International airport, Belfast City airport and City of Derry airport are all within an hours travels
Why: It’s by the sea and dogs LOVE the sea, its a little more challenging but still a well-known and mentioned trail.
Ireland is one of those islands that has done well to keep its secrets. Aside from what many around the world know with Ireland- Guinness and upbeat and cheerful folks with funny accents, Ireland is home to natural sights of enormous significance. Giants Causeway is one of many spectacular things to see. Beaten by the harsh winds of the North Atlantic and carved by the ever-changing weather of N.Ireland, there is no wonder so many artists are inspired by this rugged landscape.
Still totally shrouded in mystery, curiosity is enough to encourage you to take a visit and hire a guide or audio guide to discover what or who produced this natural phenomenon. The landscape naturally offers a challenging place to hike. Scrambling from rock to rock, over uneven terrain, the Causeway coastline is the perfect way to explore. A real Irish Adventure and a once in a lifetime view await you.
Bolzano Chesnut Trail
Where: Bolzano, Trentino, N Italy
When To Visit: Summer, when the colours are so vibrant
Nearest Airport: Innsbruck is 2hrs away, or Bergamo is 3 hrs away.
Why: Its a well-known path, easy terrain and stop s along the way, it total 61.9km so stay in local hotels along the way, most of which are dog-friendly.
A genuinely beautiful part of Italy and a great hike if you love the mix of Italian culture and adventure. The chesnut trail, is as you would imagine, a trail of chesnuts starting from (and hold you breath here guys) “Varna/Vahrn near Bressanone/Brixen along the slopes of the Isarco Valley up to Bolzano/Bozen and the Ritnen High-plateau”- Bolanzo tourism. Phew, said that without a breath, then the trail heads down into the Bolzano Valley Basin. The trail, which is conveniently marked, guides you through colorful forests and lush pastures, passing chestnut trees. Another charming touch is that along the “Keschtnweg” Sellers of Local Produce offer local products. SNACKS!
Where: Swiss Alps, Switzerland
When To Visit: Summer into Autumn, just avoid the snow
Nearest Airport: Bern 45min and Sion 1hr
Why: It’s the most challenging on the list but a good way to train your dog on inclines.
In total there are about 270 hiking trails for you to discover within the region of Lauterbrunnen. The hike to Schilthorn will have you on the side of a valley. Schilthorn is famous for its feature on ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’ movie (a James Bond Movie).
The mountains and the valleys are quiet, peaceful and beautiful. However, it is a climb of about 2000 m. Once you scale the heights successfully, you’ll be rewarded with stunning views of the region and places to camp or local refuges to rest your head.
Where: In The Mount Blanc Area, France
When To Visit: Spring, as the snow melts the mountain comes to life
Nearest Airport: Geneva 1hr
Why: Get your dog comfortable with other wildlife (the not dangerous types!) Plus its simply gorgeous.
There are so many famous and awesome walks in Chamonix. If you pride yourself as a hiker, you must cross this trail off your bucket list. The Tour du Mont Blanc is one of the highlights of the trail. Lac Blanc is right next to a beautiful refuge where you can rest if you please. You also have The Paradis des Praz, the Petit Balcons (Nord and Sud) and Les Houches.
On this hike, you’ll be treated to a sight of wildlife in the high alpines. Speaking of which, when you visit, be on the lookout for marmots, listen to their whistling and see if you can spot them.
Top 5 Starter Hikes In The US
Kenai Fjords National Park
Where: Kenai Peninsula, Southern Alaska
When To Visit: Autumn, as the cold returns you have the most beautiful colours
Nearest Airport: Anchorage, AK 3hrs
Why: All terrain training for your pooch
Upon first glance it seems as if the mountains are cascading into the sea, surrounded by mystical and mysterious fjords and ice caps, Kenai is a stormy place. It’s a great way to train your dog on a varied terrain path too while dealing with some wetter weather. The Harding Ice field Trail is an 8.2-mile round trip so, the perfect place to start. Views for days!
Yosemite National Park's Vernal and Nevada Falls
Where: California’s Sierra Nevada mountains
When To Visit: Summer & Autumn
Nearest Airport: Fresno-Yosemite International, 1.5hrs
Why: Stunning views for your and your doggo
Known and loved by the locals as one of the best day hikes in the area, you are stunned by the views at every turn of the head. Imagine the photo ops for the gram with your and your doggo with Yosemite as the back drop. The path is well marked, its reliable terrain, and you can push the walk to be around 5 hours, a great starter walk. The Waterfalls are an excellent reward for your efforts.
The Highline Loop, Glacier National Park
Where: Glacier National Park, Kalispell, MT
When To Visit: Spring, Summer
Nearest Airport: Glacier National Park 1hr
Why: Getting used to colder temps, even in the Summer
Glacier National Park is blessed in its beauty, it’s really stunning. With too many lakes to mention, the epic Glacier itself its a feast for the senses. Among all the perfect trail options, we think The Highline Loop; an 11.8-mile hike is an excellent place for you and your dog to start. It’s a day adventure; it gets you acclimatised to the altitude and colder temps, even in the Summer. The trail is also known to be windy; this is excellent training.
Devil's Garden Trail, Arches National Park
Where: Utah, USA
When To Visit: Spring
Nearest Airport: Salt Lake City International Airport 4 hrs
Why: Reliable Terrain, warm temps and great scenery
Breathtaking and inspiring terrain, there is nowhere on the planet quite like Arches National Park. With a whole host of excellent hiking trails, spanning from 1hr to a few days, the Devil’s Garden Trail is an intermediate 7.5 miles round trip. The terrain is super reliable, and in the spring it’s nice and warm. Plus the arches are a playground for your pooch.
Cadillac Mountain South Ridge Trail
Where: Maine, USA
When To Visit: Autumn
Nearest Airport: Boston’s Logan Airport 1hr
Why: Waterfalls, lakes, mountains, and harbors- A k-9 playground!
You simply cannot visit the area without heading up to the tallest peak. Autumn is the best time as the Summer has ensured the Ice has fully thawed which leaves the trail clear to hike, it’s steep one so ensuring there is no ice helps with your footing. Its good altitude and interval training for your pooch as you ascend and get used to the climbing and scrambling. Little less than a full day but given the terrain is a little more challenging, its a super place to start.
Frequently Asked Questions
Now we thought we would put together a FAQ’s section. If you are too busy to read the full article, you could scroll down here or indeed if we didn’t make anything clear above you can have any niggling worries cleared up. After having read the article, you should be nearly ready to start the first stage or prepping, a world of adventure awaits for you are your dog. Shall we get stock in and answer any questions you might still have. . .
Is my dog old enough?
This one is a tough question, it’s not an exact science, it’s mainly on ensuring the dog is fully developed. You cant take puppies hiking, point blank, their bones are so soft and fragile, they are still growing and adapting, repetitive exercise is the WORST thing for developing bones. You need to keep it varied and exciting for them as well, so they don’t get bored.
Girlswhohike.net recommend “The Five Minute Rule is that puppies and dogs who haven’t reached maturity should have no more than five minutes of led activity and exercise for every month of his or her age. That means that a four-month-old puppy should have no more than twenty minutes of organised activity per day.”
This means your dog won’t be ready until around a year old when this rule doesn’t count. However, we recommend taking your doggo to the vet around the 1yr mark, getting the dog checked and ask your vet for advice. They will know best.
Is my dog fit enough?
Fitness for you AND your dog is a spectrum and a journey. It can be taught. This is where the practice hikes come into play. Try 30 mins, work up by adding 10 minutes daily before you are working up to 3 hours waks, half days and then beyond. Your dog will adapt and grow as you do. Take regular breaks and keep a careful close eye on them. Are they sitting down a lot, are they limping? Do they just seem fatigued? These are all signs you are pushing it, slow down, take it easy, it’s not a race, once your dog is fully ready, it will be magical. Something to look forward to.
How do I train my dog?
Practice hikes, as above. We cover this in the preparation section of the article, but this is a great chance to explore your local area.
How do I know what to pack in my backpack?
It’s not fine art. It’s more a case of following the golden rule that your dog’s pack shouldn’t be more than a 1/3 of the dog’s collective weight. Meaning any small items that you cant pack you can give to your dog. But it makes sense to pack a few treats, the first aid kit and maybe smaller items like the torch, penknife/army knife and spare booties in with the dog.
What do I do if my dog gets sick?
This is a scary one, but if you have all the knowledge them, you can avoid the situation. It goes back to what was mentioned above about keeping a close eye on your dog to learn to recognise warning signs. But if they eat something or step on something they shouldn’t have and it begins to make your dog poorly, first things first, stay calm.
If your dog has been bitten by something or stepped on something poisonous then water and administer antihistamine. The seek medical advice by getting the nearest local vet.
If your little angel has eaten something, they shouldn’t have?
Firstly, how to spot it. Signs of toxicity can vary depending on what your pet has ingested. But they could include things like vomiting or diarrhoea, shaking, lack of coordination, coughing, sneezing, trouble breathing, or seizures. Watch for unusual behaviour, too. Lack of appetite, drinking more than usual, sluggishness, and even extreme excitability all suggest that something could be up.
Either way, sadly, medical attention is the only course of action. Call your insurer, they will help you locate the nearest vet.
How do I know if my dog is getting enough water?
An easy rule to follow is when you get thirsty, stop and give your dog some water too? Even if they refuse it, you ensure you provide them with the option often. If it’s scorching, just pop some water around their mouth just in case.
How long should the “training” hikes be?
Start small and work up, its a moving scale between your average daily walk of 30 mins adding on to or so minutes every time. Then when your daily walks become a little longer, you can head out on longer adventures, 3hrs, 4 then to half days then so on and so forth.
Where are the best place to buy hiking equipment for my dog and I?
Amazon is a great place to start. However, many national outdoor retailers sell equipment for dogs. Check above in the “packing” section of our blog then get googling. But Amazon is a trusted site.
When should I get started?
Now! There is no better time than the present. A world of adventure awaits!
PS. Get pet insurance. That’s the best advice we can give. We said it above, and we can’t stress it enough, it isn’t just love that makes you a good dog owner, it’s being responsible and knowing you are the guardian of this little angel. Spend more on the insurance and your vet and insurance provider will give you an emergency number to call where you are. Helping you locate the nearest help centre.
Let's Wrap It Up
That’s it for the moment, guys, we hope you find this article useful! If you are heading on an adventure, send us a pic, tag us online and let us know how you got on tag @dopesnow or @ridestore using #Dopesnow #Ridestore.
We did just want to share one thing with you before we go, something to inspire, something to make you think about the bond between man and his best friend. A little something that will demonstrate how vital, how essential and just how impactful, quality time in the outdoors with your fave four legged friend can be.
It’s a real tear jerker, we will warn you but it’s a must see to make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside and get you pumped to enjoy the great outdoors with your fave creature!