Updated: Dec 14, 2021
Hiking with your dog can be an extremely fun bonding experience with your pet. Both you and your dog should have daily exercise and what better way than to get out into nature and hike a trail.
Unfortunately, my dog (Leo, a Catahoula Leopard Dog) isn't the long-haul hiking type, but we learned this through trial and error. Not every dog is the same, while Leo is supposed to be an energetic breed, he won't go beyond a mile unless it's below 70 degrees (honestly sometimes I think he's just being dramatic, but I don't push it).
But because I have this type of dog I've learned so much, from reasonable distances to temperatures to picking up after them, there are many factors that go into taking your dog on a hike besides just walking a trail. Here, I’ll go over some of the factors you should take into consideration when hiking with your dog for the safety of your pet and the wilderness we all love so much.
While it may seem like a beautiful day for a hike for you, your pet may beg to differ (pun intended). Since a dog’s internal temperature is roughly 101-102 degrees and they can only cool off through panting, they don’t have the opportunities that we do to prevent overheating. So even at 70°F make sure to watch out for the signs of possible heatstroke:
loss of coordination
If it seems as though your dog is experiencing one of these symptoms, find shade and cool them off immediately! Get them water to drink and use wet clothes or water on their body to mimic perspiration. The best options are air-conditioned indoors or a cool pool of water.
Also, be aware that if you’re walking your dog on pavement that asphalt gets a lot hotter than you expect with temperatures reaching about 125°F on a 77°F day. When the ground is this hot it can cause serious burns to your dog’s paws even scorching them to the point of 3rd-degree burns.
All of that to say, take extra caution on even a slightly warm day, as dogs are a bit more fragile than we would assume, and even if your dog has handled the heat before, every hike is different and it’s best to be cautious.
How far your dog can walk is partly due to their breed, with hunting breeds being able to cover greater distances than let’s say your average golden retriever. It has been said that an average dog can cover roughly 10 miles a day depending on breed and conditioning.
If you plan on making a long trek with your pup, I would say start slow and easy with short walks around the neighborhood. As I said before, even Leo which is supposed to be a breed full of energy that can walk forever gives up after a mile some days. Even though I’ve been trying to train him for longer distances for months, he just doesn’t have the stamina for it.
So take it slow with your dog, they may just not be the type to go long distances, or they may need more time to adjust. Either way. You don’t want to push it or else you could be carrying your dog on your back all the way back to the car. (My dog weighs 75lbs so no thank you!)
3. Pick Up After Your Pet
This is probably one of the most talked-about points on hiking with a dog, but always pick up your dog’s poop. Make sure to bring extra bags so you don’t miss any and carry them with you through the trail, do not leave it!
When a dog’s feces is left in a natural area, it not only is a possible stepping hazard for other hikers, the smell also wards off all native wildlife. Dog’s are predators and have a lot of ammonia in their excrement which is a natural deterrent for native prey animals. That ammonia is also too much for the native plants, and can ultimately kill them if the levels are too high.
It is helpful to bring along either an extra ziplock bag, mason jar, or purchase a dog poop holder of some kind. That way you can keep the smell away and protect yourself from a ripped bag disaster.
Another popular option is to have your dog carry it, either tied to the leash, in a backpack, or through a key chain type pieces you can buy. I don’t personally like this option because my dog takes some huge freaking poops, and I’m a bit afraid of that dreaded bag leakage issue.
4. Dog Laws
Always make sure to check your trail before you leave for the dog laws. If the trial goes through Federal Land it's most likely there will be no dogs allowed. This goes for most National Parks where dogs are only allowed in very specific areas of most parks and not on the trails, for the facts mentioned earlier on disturbing native wildlife.
Otherwise, there are still other areas that may have the rule that dogs aren’t allowed, and this is not to be ignored. These rules are there for a reason (which is probably to protect the beautiful natural wilderness that we all want to keep safe) and you can be fined in many places up to $100 for bringing your dog where you shouldn’t.
Also, make sure to look out for leash laws. There are trails that allow you to have your dog off-leash, but otherwise, the law is usually to keep your dog on a 6-foot leash. Even a retractable leash that goes beyond 6 feet could get you a fine, so it’s always best to grab one at a fixed 6ft length.
These are all of the points to look out for when taking your furry friend out on the trail with you. Just make sure to bring them extra water, pay attention to their health and take it slow to start out, and you’ll have a great time out there. Hiking can be a great experience with your pet, and great exercise for both of you, so get outside and start training!
I’d love to hear all about your best hiking pal and what kind of adventures the two of you go on together!
Until next time,