Can you take your dog hiking with you? On OutdoorsWithNoLimits. com, we do everything so that you can share a maximum of activity with your dog during the holidays but beware hiking with your dog needs to be well planned!
Remember I’m talking about hiking with your dog here, not just walking. Hiking is more than 10 kilometers over a few hours of walking, sometimes with a difference in altitude and even over several days with itinerancy.
Hiking with your dog: is it a good idea?
First of all, before starting out, you will have to choose a hiking route. When choosing your hiking route, remember to choose it according to your abilities.
700m of ascending elevation over 10km: if you suffer from hips, it is a very bad idea.
Your dog is rather athletic or prefers to cocoon?
Is he in good shape or is he having health problems?
So also consider your dog’s physical abilities when selecting your playground.
If your dog is not athletic, abandon the idea of hiking with him. He’ll suffer too much!
Once you’re on the way, you’ll have to assume and be competent because if your dog is too exhausted to finish the hike: you’ll have to carry him. Take that into account!
Depending on its weight, size, age, breed and character, hiking will be more or less an activity for him.
Not all dogs are fond of hiking. As with us humans, by the way. So if he doesn’t like this kind of effort, don’t force him.
It should be noted that small dogs will have more difficulty to climb obstacles and those with small muzzles will quickly have breathing difficulties for example.
But I’ve seen French bulldogs in the middle of mountains having fun like crazy, so no generalities on the subject. It depends on each dog.
In any case, hiking with your dog is a great activity to do with your companion.
Can my dog follow me anywhere?
So your dog is qualified for hiking? Now you just have to find the ideal place.
Dogs are prohibited (even on a leash) in national parks, some regional parks and nature reserves – so as not to disturb wildlife.
Some shelters and lodgings also refuse animals. It is therefore important to find out before you leave.
Breaching these rules can result in a large fine.
For more information on the different trails in the US that allow dogs, read the article “Top Dog Friendly Trails in the United States“.
Once the region has been identified, make sure that there are no obstacles such as monkey bridges (or rope bridge), climbing zones, cliff edge crossings.
You have to adapt to your hiking companion. It’s impossible to get a dog through these obstacles if he doesn’t fit in your backpack or if you don’t have a special harness to carry him.
Some dogs have kenophobia, a panic fear of voids. If a dog has to jump between two rocks with more than a meter of empty space, you may have to really reassure him before he decides to jump.
Some hikers have already had to turn back as they didn’t have anything to carry the dog safely or to make a few miles of detour to avoid an area that is too dangerous.
If you have a water dog, try to choose a route according to the water element. For some dogs every time they go swimming, they recharge their batteries. It really can be surprising! A few splashes and here they are again walking in front of you more motivated than ever.
So to make him happy try to plan your hikes to cross or runs alongside a river or a lake!
Hiking with your dog with adapted gear
There are three possibilities for hiking with your dog:
- He evolves in total freedom at your side which supposes that the recall is an acquired order to which he obeys very well.
- You practice canicross hikes: the dog helps you by being attached to you with traction equipment.
- You plan on going for several hours/days and you need your dog to carry his own equipment.
To go backpacking or hiking with your dog safely, you need a few essentials:
- water to avoid any dehydration (this is often what weighs the more)
- his necklace with a tag to identify him
- his leash and/or harness to attach him in case of danger or to cross certain protected areas or close to a herd
- a first aid kit for cuts on his paws, insects bites, sores of all kinds and of course a list of all the veterinarians close to the area of hiking.
- his passport
- a collapsible canvas bowl for refreshment breaks
- some energetic treats for dogs in case of cravings. Dogs also suffer from cravings! Your dog will remind you often when you forget the snack breaks! Dried salmon is a good example, it stinks, but it’s high in calories!
- dog boots in case of paws injuries. If a paw pad is damaged, your dog will limp and the hike will quickly turn into an ordeal.
- a rug? Always have a microfiber towel or something similar with you so that your dog can use it as a carpet. It takes up very little space in the backpack, but it allows when you stop to delimit a space for him like his carpet or bed at home. Most dogs will appreciate it very much as it will allow them to settle down and rest.
Now it’s up to you to choose whether you carry all this on your back or whether your dog can carry a little bit of it on his own back.
Know that your dog can’t carry more than 10% of his weight.
WARNING: it is also impossible to put 10% of his weight on his back without a habituation or training phase.
Before going on a hike with your dog, you will have to test the backpack on several walks with more and more weight and longer walks.
Attention, this is only possible with a dog in perfect health, without back, joint or osteoarthritis problems.
Think that your dog is like you, if you have back pain and someone made you carry 10% of your weight for several hours, what will be the result?
If you have the slightest doubt about his abilities: go to the vet for a check-up!
Go to your vet
Go to your favorite vet to check up on your dog and see with him how to make sure that he can be trained first for physical effort and then for carrying.
You will discuss the trails you want to take with the veterinarian, you will imagine the worst case scenario for the doggy, and based on that you will create a first aid kit for your companion.
As mentioned before, for backpacks and carrying equipment for dogs, the vet will usually explain that the 10% rule for a comfort load weight is safe and that you should never exceed 20% at the risk of making your dog suffer.
Note: as for you, the less he will have on his back, the better he will be; -)
Thus, a 36 kg dog could theoretically carry 3.5 kg without worries and a maximum of 7.5 kg. But there’s no question of equipping and loading it to the maximum directly! The poor thing…
So, a suggestion would be, assuming your dog is sporty, to start with small 20-minute walks with 1 kg on his back, then progress in time, weight and distance to get him used to it.
In a small amount of time your dog will carry his bag without noticing a difference.
I insist though that the vet is an essential partner in adapting training.
Some dogs are more suitable for hiking than others.
Some will be comfortable over long distances, others only on short distances, some in the mountains, some in the plains.
It depends on your dog’s breed, but also its size, age, character, etc. Talk to your veterinarian!
The choice of the backpack is also essential. It must fit perfectly with your dog’s anatomy to avoid injury during exercise.
Its weight is one of the first criteria of choice and as well as the accessories.
Coming soon, I will be offering you a comparative article on several dog packs and harnesses.
Tip: Remember to wrap all what you put in your dog pack, in case of rain or if your dog jumps in the water before you have time to remove his harness: it will avoid making kibble porridge for example…
Your dog can help you when hiking together!
Attention though, he will not be able to carry a pack AND help you at the same time.
You’ll have to choose!
Some dogs are more comfortable than others in this kind of exercise.
Some dogs feel comfortable enough to give you a pull. But others will prefer to be free, nose on the ground and sniff the good smells at will.
But in places that are a little dangerous or protected, for those dogs, better have them on a leash.
For practicing canicross you will have to wear a special harness attached to an elastic lanyard attached to your dog’s traction harness.
Here again, the choice of equipment is crucial. I’ll tell you more in a future article.
The dangers of hiking with your dog
- To hike safely with your dog, there are several points to be aware of.
Nothing really bad, just points of good sense that I prefer to repeat here just as a precautionary basis.
- You are responsible for your dog and what he does. Don’t allow him to wander around and meet all the hikers you will encounter or other animals. Some mountain cows are only moderately fond of your dog sniffing their calves up close. A hornstroke would be disastrous.
- Your dog must absolutely obey the recall if you want to let him loose. Some dogs have hunter instincts, others are runaways. Adapt to your dog and don’t hesitate to attach him when you approach a site with marmots for example or a place where some sheep or wild goats graze.
- You must absolutely refresh him and give him a bowl of water very regularly. You can also sprinkle him to avoid heat stroke. It exists cooling dog vest that you can wet regularly. Watch out for the strong sun in the mountains, light-skinned dogs can easily get sunburned. Protect them! It’s better to start your hike early than walking under a high sun!
- Take breaks to play with him or simply rest. If you feel the need, so does he. Slow and steady wins the… you know the rest:) You can even take bathing breaks or naps with your dog, he will adore them!
- Check the condition of his feet regularly! As for you in your shoes, his paws can really heat up! If you fear blisters, he also fears paws wounds. This is where the boots will be very useful in case of a glitch in a rough area. If your dog can’t put his leg down because you don’t have anything to relieve his pain, it’s back home faster than expected and the hike is over! For a quick healing, a wound under the paws is a few days of obligatory rest.
- Does your dog fit into your backpack? In case of problem, have you thought of a plan B to transport your dog?
- The mountain can be dangerous. If your dog runs in all directions, regardless of where he puts his paws and nose, he may fall into a ravine, cross the path of a nasty viper who will not hesitate to show him who’s the boss or a shepherd dog who may become very nasty if your dog goes to play in the middle of his herd. If he’s a little crazy dog, you’re gonna have to watch out for him!
- You may come across snow fields, these piles of snow are still present in some places even in the summer… Some dogs love to slide in the snow. Make sure your dog does not ingest this snow. He’d be sick for sure!
Is your backpack ready?
Just as a little reminder.
Have you thought about your dog gear?
Add in your backpack:
- a bowl,
- a quantity of water according to the heat and difficulty of the chosen hike,
- a first aid kit adapted to your pet
- and some treats.
And don’t forget his leash and collar.
In the mountains, you will sometimes cross herds of animals, make sure that your dog stays away especially if some shepherd dog watches over them!
Your dog will be able to walk in total freedom at your side only if he has a very good recall.
The mountain is an extraordinary playground but you must know how to respect the place and some terrain can be dangerous.