Now that the weather is warm, folks are flocking to the outdoors. Between visiting a national park, state parks, and local trails, there are tons of places to get out and enjoy nature. If you’re a pet owner, hiking with a dog is a great way to get some exercise in for both you and your furry friend.
But before we can say happy trails to you and your pups, read up on some common pre-hike precautions to take, and learn more about the best dog hiking gear we’ve tested and approved ahead of your next outdoor adventure.
How to go hiking with your dog
Check the trail or park website for dog restrictions. Many national and state parks have strict rules on where dogs can be. Some only allow pups on paved roads, in campsites or in parking lots, while others have designated trails that dogs can be on. Trails that allow dogs usually have a six foot leash rule, so don’t show up without a lead or with a long line, even if your pup is trained.
Check the weather and prepare accordingly. If it’s going to be over 85 degrees Fahrenheit, plan to bring dog boots. The ground gets significantly hotter than the air temperature, so your pup can burn their paws on almost any surface — even dirt — during the summer months. You’ll also want to pack enough water for you and your pup to stay hydrated, and bring sunscreen for both of you if you’ll be in direct sun. Dogs can get sunburn too!
Bring plenty of water, treats, and food if you’ll be out for a long time. This one is pretty self-explanatory, but be sure to bring plenty of dog treats, food, and water to keep your hiking buddy going for the full hike.
Get your dog accustomed to their gear ahead of time. If you’ll be using boots, a new harness, or a dog backpack, make sure you get your dog used to their gear in the weeks leading up to your hike. Practice positive association games with tasty treats so they learn to love their boots and backpack.
Start out slow. If your dog has never hiked before, plan to do an easy, short hike for your first go. You’ll be able to build up length and difficulty the more you hike together, but don’t go too hard the first time, or you might end up carrying a tired pup back to the car.
Does my dog need boots to go hiking?
As we noted in our Best Camping Gear for Dogs roundup, your pooch doesn’t need boots to head out on the trail, but they can help greatly reduce the risk of paw injuries and help with traction on slippery sections of the hike. For dog owners who want to hike during the summer, remember that if the air temperature is over 85 degrees Fahrenheit, most surfaces, even dirt, will be too hot for your dog’s paw pads. Hot ground temperatures can cause blisters on dog’s paws if exposed for too long, so play it safe and opt for a pair of dog boots.
A pair of boots will also protect from paw injuries that are common for outdoorsy dogs. Pups can rip paw pads, step on sharp sticks, rocks, or stray glass, and can even break their nails while hiking, so protecting their feet with boots will save you the stress of dealing with a paw injury later on.
Don’t plan on busting out the dog boots for the first time before a long hike, though. Not all dogs take to boots quickly, and your pup may refuse to walk or try to take their boots off the first time you try them out. Practice wearing the boots in the weeks leading up to your first outdoor outing, and be sure to bribe, I mean, desensitize your dog to boots with lots of tasty snacks.
Leave no trace when hiking with a dog
This might be a no-brainer, but adhering to leave no trace principles is of utmost importance when you’re in the outdoors with a dog. Every dog owner needs to remember that dogs can disrupt the natural flow of nature, so be sure to pick up any dog poop, keep your pup away from wildlife, and don’t allow them to dig anywhere on the trail. Following leave no trace and being a responsible pet owner keeps outdoor recreation spots beautiful and accessible for future generations of pets and hikers.
How we came up with this list
As an avid hiker, Miso (that’s my dog) helped me test every single piece of dog hiking gear in our list of the best hiking gear for dogs. Read on to get our gear review for each and see what we have loved the most after hitting the trail again and again: