Article by Anais Fernandez:
Spring is approaching quickly, and that means now is the perfect time to prepare your dog for all the exciting outdoor adventures you have planned. Hiking, especially, requires a lot of extra preparation if you plan on bringing your dog along. Our goal for this article is to provide you with all the information you’ll need to ensure the trip is safe and stress-free for both you and your canine companion. So whether you plan on taking a week-long camping excursion, or just a simple walk through the woods, you’ll be prepared for anything the trails (and your dog!) throw at you!
What to bring on your dog's first hike:
Hiking with your dog is supposed to be a fun and relaxing bonding experience for you both. For your hiking trip to go smoothly, there are various things you should bring. The last thing you want is to hike five miles up a mountain and realize you forgot a water bowl for your dog. Thankfully, we’re here to save your sanity and provide you with a complete list of everything you should bring to ensure you and your dog have a fun and successful hike.
Water - The reason for bringing water is rather self-explanatory–I don’t think it would be fun for anyone if you hike five miles up a mountain and realize you forgot to pack water! Don’t forget to pack enough water for both you and your pup.
Water bowl - When packing for your hiking trip, it is imperative to consider your dog’s needs just as much as yours. Imagine the outraged look on your dog’s face if you were to forget their water bowl! I recommend getting an ultralight, collapsible bowl that is large enough for your dog but conveniently folds up for storage.
Treats - Going hiking for the first time is a tremendous adventure for your dog. The sights, scents, and sounds are likely all new for your pup–and probably a little nerve-racking. Bringing some treats your dog highly values (like chicken or hotdogs) is a great way to encourage them when they feel a little nervous. Using treats is also a great way to reward your dog for good behavior and for tackling new obstacles. Also keep in mind that long hikes expend a lot of energy. Snacks and treats can help your dog get enough calories along the way.
Poop bags - I don’t think I have to explain why you should bring poop bags. Imagine this—a dazzling blue jay singing a melodious tune infatuates you. You are in such awe of the bird that you unwittingly follow it as it hops from tree to tree. As you trail behind the feathered creature, you suddenly step in something. You immediately know what it is without having to look at it. Yep, you guessed it—it’s a pile of dog poop. Don’t be the one to ruin someone else’s nature retreat because of your dog’s droppings. Not only are the dog remains unsightly and rather smelly, but it’s also a health hazard for people and animals. Keep the trails safe for everyone and dispose of your dog’s poop properly.
First aid kit - Let’s face it, accidents happen–especially on the trails. While you can’t always prevent injuries from happening, you can be prepared to treat them. Putting together a first aid kit with both human-safe and pet-safe products is a wise way to ensure injuries and cuts don’t get aggravated on your way back.
Bug repellent - If you’ve ever been outside in your life, you know there are bugs. And not just cute little ladybugs or pretty butterflies–bugs that are out to get you, literally. Mosquitoes, ticks, fleas, and other parasitic insects are abundant in the forest, on the beaches, and pretty much anywhere you’ll go hiking. And trust me when I say bugs know where the trails are and go there with the intention of ruining your day. (Is that an exaggeration? I think not.) Please pack human-safe and pet-safe bug repellent so neither you nor your pup gets attacked by these unpleasant creatures!
Leash - Even if your dog is remarkably loyal while off-leash, there are times when it is important to keep them leashed while hiking. We’ll get more into this later, but I especially want to note that you should bring an extra leash or two. In my experience, leashes tend to break when you need them the most. I recommend investing in a BioThane leash. BioThane is a lightweight, durable, waterproof material that is exceptionally easy to clean. Having a BioThane leash makes life a lot easier when your dog drags it around in the dirt (and hopefully not some droppings!) or goes for a swim.
Depending on where you are hiking, you can also pack a long lead. Keep in mind that a long lead can cause you more frustration if you aren't used to working with one, as they can easily get tangled on rocks, trees, and other things you’ll encounter on your hike so it’s best to only use one in open spaces with little to no trees, brush, or obstacles.
Muzzle - Bringing a muzzle is optional, but it’s great not just for nervous or aggressive dogs, but also for those scavengers that act as if they’ve never eaten a meal in their life. If you have a dog that likes to pick up and eat random things they find outside, you know exactly what I mean! Muzzling your dog can help prevent them from ingesting potentially harmful, and just gross things that they find while hiking.
Before you run to your local pet store and buy the first muzzle you see, I want to stress the importance of having a well-fitted basket muzzle. The muzzle should not rub or irritate any part of your dog’s face and it should have ample space for them to pant (which is crucial to your dog’s health!) and drink water. Muzzling your dog also comes with the task of properly desensitizing them and training them to wear a muzzle. Remember these "4 Key Principles of Training Your Dog." Please do your research on this topic to ensure the muzzling process is fun and stress-free for your dog!
Dog backpack - You’re probably looking at this list and thinking, “How the heck am I supposed to carry all of this stuff?!” Don’t worry! I have the perfect solution—invest in a properly fitting dog backpack and have your dog carry their things! Before selecting a dog backpack for your pup, be sure to review these important safety tips regarding dog backpacks.
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Before going on a hike with your dog:
Preparations for your hike go beyond a list of things you should bring. Making sure your dog is mentally and behaviorally ready for this endeavor is equally important!
Leash Train Your Dog:
Since many trails require your dog to remain on a leash, and since there are certain circumstances where a leash is necessary, your pup must be properly leash trained. Your dog should be confident and relaxed while on a leash. If your dog is leash reactive or thinks the leash is a toy, it might be best to do some more training before hitting the trails. Remember, you want hiking to be an enjoyable activity for both of you, and trust me, going out with an anxious or over-excited dog is going to ruin the experience for everyone.
Teach Your Dog To “Leave It:"
The next tip I have can literally save your dog’s life. It’s teaching the wonderful behavior of “leave it”. “Leave it” is pretty self-explanatory in that you’re simply teaching your dog to leave something or someone alone. While on your hike, you are going to encounter some things that you don’t want your dog to go near or eat. Trash, animals, and animal droppings are just a few things you’ll want to steer your dog away from. If your dog has a solid understanding of this behavior, it will not only protect them from ingesting something harmful, but it will also save your sanity! If you plan on muzzling your dog to prevent them from eating hazardous objects, make sure they are properly desensitized and trained to accept the muzzle.
For more helpful commands to use when hiking with your dog, take a look at this article: "5 Less Common Commands for Hiking with Your Dog."
Research The Park/Area Where You're Hiking:
Since you are bringing your dog, it’s important to check the rules of the park or trail you plan on hiking at. Many of the National Parks in the US, for example, are not very dog-friendly unfortunately. The last thing you want is to get kicked out of a park because they don’t allow dogs. Research the place you plan to hike at online to make sure your furry friend is allowed. If you can’t find any information online, most parks have a sign with rules at the entrance, or you can as a ranger. It’s also a good idea to have a backup trail in case the first one you go to doesn’t allow dogs.
Besides making sure the park is pet friendly, check to see if there are any events taking place at the time you plan on hiking. Similarly, try to go on days when there are typically fewer people (i.e., during the week). Since it is your dog’s first hike, having a ton of people and bikers passing by can cause unnecessary stress.
While on the hike with your dog:
You’ve finally made all the preparations, and you are ready to hit the trails! Before you go on this adventure with your pup, I want to give you some tips to ensure your trip runs smoothly and safely.
Keep The Leash Handy:
You probably guessed my first tip–keep the leash handy. Especially true for your first hikes together, leashing your dog can have some benefits: you can make sure they stay on the path, steer them away from harmful things, and easily escort them away from any wild animals you might encounter.
Stay On The Trail:
Next, I want to talk about the importance of staying on the trail. No matter how exciting it may seem to venture beyond the trail and explore some other areas, it is so much safer to stay on the path. The trail is a cleared path for you to hike on. Therefore, it’s typically clear of sharp objects, tangled vines, and even poisonous plants or foxtail grass, which can be dangerous for dogs. Also, if you or your dog get injured, it’s going to be a lot easier to get back if you’re on the trail. Imagine how stressful it would be to scamper through unmanaged vines and plants while being injured or carrying your injured dog. Staying on the trail also prevents you from getting lost, which, I think we can all agree, isn’t much fun!
Check Your Dog For Cuts and Injuries:
During the excitement of your adventure, your dog may get cut or injured without either of you realizing it. Before you leave the park, examine your dog for any cuts or blemishes that may need professional treatment. Story time, one time I was hiking with my dog and she had severely cut her tail. She was so excited that she showed no signs of being hurt, so I didn’t notice until we were leaving. While I could do some treatment with the first aid equipment I had, she still had to be treated by a vet. So, please, check your dog for any injuries before heading home!
Check Your Dog For Ticks:
As I mentioned earlier, there are going to be harmful bugs on the trail. If you are hiking in a heavily wooded area, it’s important to check your dog and yourself for ticks. Ticks can carry chronic and even fatal diseases, so catching and removing them as soon as possible is vital. These cruel insects are extremely small and tend to hide in warm and dark spots like underneath your dog’s collar, between their toes, under the ears, or even in your clothes.
Hiking is a fun activity for both humans and their canine companions. Whether you plan on hiking up steep mountains or just strolling through your local park trails, being prepared and taking precautions can make it even more enjoyable. Now that you have a complete list of everything you’ll need as well as some extra tips to help your trip run even smoother, you are ready to hit the trails and explore with your pup!
Anais Fernandez is an avid digital marketer and freelance writer with a passion for animals. Committed to helping dog owners lead their dogs in a zestful life, she has written for countless publications as well as her own blog, Malinois Unleashed. Over the span of her career, Anais has educated thousands of pet parents on a variety of pet-related topics including health, training, breed characteristics, and basic everyday care. In her free time, she enjoys exploring Caribbean beaches and forests with her spirited Belgian Malinois, Jayda. For more information about Anais and her services, visit kalitemedia.com.