What you need to know before hitting the trails.

By Bailey McGough and Patricia S York
Hiking with Dog in Backpack
Credit: Christina A. Schaffer

Taking your dog with you on your hike can be fun for him and you, but you need to be prepared. Follow these guidelines to make for a successful hike with your dog.

Know Your Dog

Check your pet's fitness level. Rule of thumb: If you can't feel his ribs, then he may need to shape up before a long trek. Although dogs of any size can hike, larger ones have an easier time getting over rocks. Don't take puppies under 9 months on hikes to avoid potential damage to developing joints. And if your dog doesn't respond promptly to voice commands, he isn't ready for trails.

Adventure Dog Series Trail Dog Medical Kit
Credit: Laurey W. Glenn

Be Prepared

Factor in the current weather and forecast when choosing your route. Don't take the steepest trail on a hot, humid day. Avoid letting your dog drink from stagnant or brackish pools of water where parasites can thrive. Lead him to clear running water instead. Or better yet, carry water and a bowl. Bring along waste bags and some basic first aid items like gauze, antiseptic, and paw pads in case he gets injured on a sharp rock. This Adventure Dog Series Trail Dog Medical Kit includes an assortment of tools to address injuries or remove ticks. Before heading out, make sure your pup is up-to-date on all vaccinations and microchipped.

Follow the Rules

When off-leash, your dog should still remain in sight and within range of your commands. Leash him if you're likely to be near steep drop-offs, pass other hikers, or encounter loose dogs. Be courteous and step aside to let hikers without pets have the right-of-way on the trail.

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Limit your Companions

Keep the dog-to-human ratio at 1 to 1. In the event of an emergency, it can be too difficult to control multiple pets. Don't hike with more than two dogs—three dogs together make a pack.