If you’ve been out hiking, chances are pretty good that you’ve seen plenty of people with their dogs. For those who have dogs, you may be thinking of taking your pet along with you when you go hiking. If you’ve never done it before, you might wonder what are the benefits as well as the dangers.
In this article, we’ll cover some things to take into consideration before hitting the trails with your canine friend. While many dogs love going hiking, there are definitely things to keep in mind before your first hiking trip to make sure it’s a success.
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Benefits of Hiking with a Dog (Pros)
- Safety and Protection
Chances are that you will feel much safer and more confident hiking when you aren’t alone. Even if your only companion is a dog instead of another person, you’re still more likely to feel secure and safe out on the trails.
Depending on the kind of dog you have, you may be able to rely on your pet for some security. Although a smaller dog won’t be able to scare off any wild animals, just having a dog that can bark and alert you to the presence of wildlife can be used as a precaution.
Larger dogs have been known to fight off unwanted advances from other animals or simply warn them away by barking. If you’re also worried about danger from other hikers, a dog is a great way to put your mind at ease. And, although it’s no guarantee, there is a chance that your dog could end up saving your life if you’re ever in a bad situation while hiking.
- Friendship and Companionship
A dog provides a friend to enjoy nature with. If you aren’t concerned about safety or are hiking on a local trail, you still may not want to go by yourself. Hiking with your dog means you will never feel lonely.
Even though your dog might not be able to engage in witty conversation, at least he will be there to share the experience and enjoy nature with you. Having a pet with you is also a great icebreaker and can help you make friends or strike up a conversation easier with other hikers on the trail.
If you’re planning to camp or are backpacking, then a dog is the ideal friend for keeping you warm on cool nights. You can snuggle together in the tent and share body heat. Not only that but having your dog nearby can be relaxing and help you destress.
For those who aren’t camping, bring a hammock along and take a break during the hottest part of the day. Climb into the hammock with your dog and have a nap to recharge your batteries for the return back to the trailhead.
- Making Hikes More Enjoyable
Most people just love to be around animals of all kinds and dogs are one of the most beloved pets no matter your age. Spending time with animals has been shown to have many benefits for physical and mental health.
Going for a hike with your dog is a surefire way to improve your mood and make you feel better overall. Getting to share in your dog’s joy can also bring you a lot of happiness. Seeing your pet run wild and enjoy their freedom as they explore, smell new things, and have new experiences is one of the best parts of hiking with your dog.
You’ll also get to make new memories with your dog and create a stronger bond. Not to mention you can take a lot of cool pictures of your dog having fun. Some people feel they enjoy being outdoors, even more, when they get to experience it together with their pets.
- Hiking is Good For Your Dog
Many dogs need a lot of exercise to remain happy and healthy. Certain breeds like Border Collies and Dalmatians, for example, are very energetic and won’t be satisfied with a walk around the block. If your dog stays at home while you go to work, they might be wishing they could spend more time outside playing and running around.
So hiking provides a great outlet for all their pent up energy. If you can get outside on the weekend and hike with your dog, they will get to have an extended period of time in nature where they can exert themselves. Overall, hiking is a wonderful way for your dog to get lots of fresh air, exercise, and sunshine.
How To Take Your Dog Hiking (Video)
Dangers to Taking Your Dog Hiking (Cons)
- Lack of Training
Untrained dogs can lead to problems when out hiking. If your dog doesn’t respond to basic commands, it will be challenging to keep him safe. It’s important that a dog come when they are called and leave things alone that could be dangerous.
It could take some extra obedience classes and time spent training before your dog is ready to hike with you. This could be quite an investment depending on the breed of dog you have and their current level of responsiveness.
At the very minimum, your dog should be trained to walk beside you on a leash. Many trails that allow dogs will require them to be leashed. If your dog isn’t used to being on a leash, then you must practice with them on walks around the neighborhood before bringing them to a busy trail for the first time.
- Wildlife Encounters
Although some dogs can offer protection while hiking, there is always a risk should you encounter other animals. Small dogs could be a target for wolves, coyotes, or mountain lions. Pets that aren’t as large won’t be able to defend you or themselves so hiking in certain areas could be dangerous.
In some parks, dogs are prohibited because the wildlife will associate them with wolves. If some animals such as elk, for example, see a dog, they could get spooked and charge or become more dangerous. Other animals may not like smelling a dog near their territory and become aggressive.
Curious dogs may try to eat things like snakes which could be poisonous. If your dog roams and goes off the trail, they could encounter some non-lethal yet still dangerous animals such as skunks or porcupines.
Whenever hiking in areas with a lot of wildlife, know the rules and regulations in advance. Exercise caution and always follow guidelines about whether or not your dog is allowed and, if so, keep them on a leash if necessary. After all, it’s the best for you, your dog, and the wild animals that call nature their home.
- Extra Gear and Supplies
Not all dogs can carry supplies on their back. Even if your dog can carry a few pounds, they will likely need much more than what they can carry on their own. You will need food and water for both yourself and your dog. Treats are a good idea too because they will incentivize your dog to come when called and be more obedient.
In addition to the basics, you may need to bring first aid for your dog and, depending on the weather, perhaps a doggie raincoat and an extra towel or blanket to dry off. Some dogs might require special shoes or a cooling vest if the weather is hot.
You’ll also have to bring bags to pick up their droppings, along with a food dish or bowl so they can eat and drink water. If you’ll be out on the trail all day, consider bringing toys to entertain your dog and make the hike more enjoyable.
With all that extra gear to carry, your back may be hurting before you’ve put too many miles behind you. If you’re not prepared properly, you could end up sabotaging yourself by not bringing enough, or by getting tired quickly.
- Health Concerns
Dogs that are under two years of age are usually still growing and should not undergo vigorous exercise. It’s also dangerous for them to carry packs that are very heavy and put stress on their young joints.
Before going on a hike, you also need to make sure your pet is in good health. You may need to schedule a visit to the vet to make sure their shots are up to date and that they have an adequate flea or tick prevention as well as heartworm.
Like you, your dog can also suffer from heat exhaustion and dehydration. Keep an eye on them and make sure they have enough water to drink. Take breaks if necessary and rest in the shade during the hottest parts of the days.
Don’t allow your dog to eat the scat of other animals which could cause health problems. After the hike, check them for burrs and ticks as well as injuries. Pay special attention to the pads of their feet in case they hiked over rough or abrasive terrain.
- More Responsibility
Anytime you take your pet with you, you are responsible for them and must always keep them in mind. Some hikers may find that this limits their freedom and enjoyability while out on the trail because their dog can suddenly seem quite high maintenance.
You will have to plan better and know which trails your dog is allowed on as well as the best times to go. Always do your research to make sure you can bring your pet along. There’s nothing worse than showing up at the trailhead and finding out you can’t hike it together.
It’s also necessary to be vigilant at all times. Watch your dog and make sure they don’t get into trouble, wander off the trail, chase animals, get into burrs or thorns, become dirty or wet, or eat anything they shouldn’t.
A dog could also slow you down if they need to cool off by drinking water or resting in the shade. Some dogs may not be able to put a lot of miles in each day so this could also restrict how much you can hike.
You should also never leave your dog unattended so you’ll need to have a plan in mind if you need to use the restroom or go somewhere your pet is not allowed. In short, you may need to think of your dog’s needs first and this can be somewhat of a challenge if you’re not used to it.
Overall, the benefits of hiking with your dog are numerous and you’re sure to enjoy time together outside. While there are some drawbacks to consider, being aware of them in advance can mean fewer surprises. You’ll also be able to plan and prepare yourself so you can make the most of your hike.
Most of the dangers of hiking with a dog can be prevented with planning and preparation. Anytime you are hiking you need to be mindful of your surroundings and this is no different even when hiking with a dog. So do your research, plan, and then get out and enjoy the trails with your dog!