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Tips For Hiking & Backpacking With Your Dog

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

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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