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Tips For Hiking & Backpacking With Your Dog

Even the most responsible dog owners sometimes forget doggy etiquette and safety!

Editor's Note: Please follow the DEC and CDC guidelines to adhere to social distancing while hiking and recreating outdoors during this public health crisis. Hikers are asked to stick to trails close to home and only hike with immediate household family members. Read more from the DEC »

woman at summit with dog

Dog Hiking Etiquette:

  • Check with park rangers on their dog rules - there is a leash law in the High Peaks Wilderness Area, but isn't always the case on other trails
  • Be aware that some parks and trails will fine you if your dog is off the leash
  • If you are in a park that allows your dog to hike leash-free:
    • Only allow your dog to go within your field of vision
    • Although they aren't on a leash, you must still have control
    • Beware of other dogs, animals, and smells
  • Only bring your dog if he or she is well trained, obedient, and enthusiastic
  • Be respectful of other hikers - not everybody likes dogs
  • Always clean up after your pooch
  • If you come upon horses, yield the trail and keep your dog calm - horses spook easily
  • Hikers heading uphill have the right of way - your dog doesn't know this, but you do
  • Try to keep your dog from disturbing the local scenery and wild animals

Things To Bring:

  • dog with backpackMake sure you always have a leash, even if the trail doesn't require one
  • Have enough food and water for both you and your dog
    • You may want to invest in a collapsible dish that can hold water and fold down small enough to fit in a pack
  • Consider purchasing a pack so your dog can carry his own food, water, and waste
  • Bring either bags to carry out waste or a shovel/trowel to bury what your pup leaves behind
  • Carry a basic first-aid kit for yourself and your dog
  • While your dog should have ID tags, you should also carry a photo in case you are separated
  • In the colder seasons, your dog may need a sweater or paw covers
  • If your dog will be swimming, you may want to purchase a life jacket
  • During hunting season, you and your dog should be outfitted in blaze orange
  • Bring treats to motivate your pup along the way
  • Use a tick repellent before traveling through wooded areas
  • If staying overnight, bring at least a 3-man tent (if you have two people) and bring a towel or something for the dog to lay on

Dog Hiking Safety:

  • dog climbing ladderRead up on basic hiking safety
  • Be sure that your dog is in good shape
  • Research the trail ahead of time to know how much experience your dog should have
  • Avoid trails that are excessively long, steep, or have high ledges - many dogs are afraid of heights
  • Look out for birds of prey and coyotes
  • Teach your dog the "wait" command so he doesn't pull you down the mountain
    • Use a retractable leash and make him wait while you hike down tricky spots, then tell him he can come down to where you are
  • If your dog will be entering your tent, be sure his toenails are clipped so they don't rip through the floor

After Your Trip:

  • Always check your dog for insects, like ticks
  • Groom your pooch's fur to be free of burrs and other items
  • Bathe the pup to eliminate irritating dirt and pollen
  • Give him or her a treat for being such a great companion

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