Our dogs are members of our families, so naturally we want to take them along on all our adventures. If you have a taste for the outdoors and exploring, then a great adventure is hiking with your dog.
“What dog doesn’t love a chance to be in the great outdoors?” asks Barrett Meckel, DVM, professor and dean of the School of Veterinary and Applied Sciences at the State University of New York in Delhi, New York.
A little preparation can go a long way. Before hopping in the car and heading for a hike with your pup, make sure dogs are allowed in the state or national park you have in mind. If so, find out which trails are cleared for hiking with dogs, and whether they are allowed to be off-leash or must be on a leash at all times.
“If you are letting your dog off leash, ensure ID tags are on your dog’s collar, just in case,” Dr. Meckel says.
You also need to make sure you pack the right dog hiking gear. The 11 essentials below can help ensure your dog’s comfort and safety.
Plenty of water is a crucial take-along for your dog, notes Elizabeth Rogers, park ranger and public affairs specialist for Fire Island National Seashore in New York, where many pet parents hike with their dogs.
A real space saver in your backpack, this stainless steel bottle doubles as a bowl. Fill the bottle with water, and then pour it in the lid for your dog to drink from. As a bonus, it’s 100 percent recyclable and sustainably made.
“Snacks for your dog are important to bring along,” Rogers says, so, while you’re packing your energy bar, pack for your pup, too.
One snack idea is American Journey’s grain-free biscuits, which have lamb as the first ingredient and can help keep hunger at bay while exploring.
Or, make your own hiking treat, which both you and your dog can eat.
“Depending upon the trail conditions, especially if [they’re] very rocky, some dogs can get sore feet on longer hikes,” Dr. Meckel says. “I caution against trying to do too much too fast. This applies to us people as well.”
Dr. Meckel suggests starting off with short outings and working your way up to longer ones to gradually condition your dog’s paws.
“While a dog’s foot pads are naturally hard, to protect from abrasions, they may get sore spots after a hike, somewhat like a blister in people,” Dr. Meckel explains. “In that case, applying a pad cream after your excursion might be beneficial.”
Tomlyn’s pad cream is one option to take along for hiking adventures. It’s formulated to protect sensitive paws from both icy conditions and hot surfaces.
While going hiking with dogs, why not take an extra backpack along for them? Outward Hound’s daypack comes in handy as extra storage space for all of your dog hiking gear, including dog toys, a collapsible water dish and dog treats. Plus, this daypack is designed with adjustable straps for a comfortable and nice, snug fit.
These protein-rich bars help fuel your furry partner for a fun day on the trails. Beef, blueberries and other good-for-her ingredients come in a convenient bar for easy packing. Plus, for any allergy-sensitive dogs, this bar is grain- and gluten-free.
Keeping your dog securely on leash is required on many hiking trails. Frisco’s nylon dog leash is ideal for the trail because the nylon offers strength and durability. Plus, it comes in two lengths—4 and 6 feet—which meet the leash length limit in most state and national parks.
Dog poop bags definitely are a must! Not cleaning up after your dog on hiking trails is both rude, unhealthy and may well get you fined.
These bags are built to be durable and leak-proof, so they should last until you reach the next trail trash can. The included handy dispenser attaches to your (or your pooch’s) backpack, so a bag is always within reach.
When out on the trails, “be prepared to clean water, sand and mud off of your pet at the end of your hike,” Rogers says.
One of the easiest ways for a quick cleanup is using multipurpose wipes for dogs. Burt’s Bees makes multipurpose wipes that are formulated specifically for your dog’s coat and skin. Plus, these wipes are enriched with honey for a shiny, soft coat.
For those especially long hikes, you might want to consider this Frisco harness. Made with soft, breathable mesh, it’s designed to help keep your fur baby comfortable and cool on warm days. It also includes four reflective bands, which are designed to be easy to spot for an extra measure of safety on trails, especially during dusk or dawn.
Cold weather needn’t be a deterrent when it comes to hiking with your dog.
“Most dogs have no trouble with weather,” Dr. Meckel says. “If we humans can tolerate the conditions, dogs will do just fine.
“[However,] if it’s really cold, or if dogs have lots of fur or feathering on their feet, they can get ice balls, which can be uncomfortable,” he continues. “Trimming feet or [using] booties may help in both these situations.”
Kurgo’s dog boots are lightweight yet tough with grippy soles designed to help shield dogs’ paws from snow during winter hikes, as well as thorns and insect stings in warmer weather.
“Ticks are becoming more and more prevalent in most regions,” Dr. Meckel reports. He advises using a flea and tick preventative prior to your outing and checking your dog’s fur for ticks afterwards.
Seresto’s flea collar is one flea and tick preventative to consider. Designed to last for eight months, this flea collar starts killing fleas within 24 hours. Plus, it’s water resistant in case it rains on your hike.
Consult with your vet to find out what preventative is best for your dog.
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Christina Vercelletto is a pet, travel and lifestyle content specialist and a former editor of Parenting, Scholastic Parent & Child, and Woman’s Day. She lives on Long Island with her Chiweenie, Pickles, and 20-pound Calico, Chub-Chub.