How to Introduce Your Pet to Hiking

Source: Zivica Kerkez/

Getting out on the trails with your little furry friend can be a great way to get outdoors, have some bonding time with your dog and get a bit of exercise for the both of you.

If you’re thinking about heading out on a hike with your dog, there are some things you need to consider and some items you will need to bring along for the journey. Just like you would need to get a rugged travel case for a camera if you were going off to shoot some far-flung destination, there is a bit of gear your pup will require on the hike.

That said, here is what you need to think about and bring on a hike with your dog.

Assess Your Dog’s Age and Fitness

Before you find yourself on a trail with your dog, it is important to first consider your dog’s age and physical condition. For instance, you won’t want to take an adolescent dog on a long, strenuous hike until it has finished growing. Otherwise, you might cause the dog pain or even future developmental issues.

On the flip side of that coin, older dogs can suffer from osteoarthritis, thereby making longer hikes unenjoyable and possibly even damaging. That said, it is important for older dogs to still get moderate, low-impact exercise to stay healthy. Therefore, you might opt for a shorter, easier trail and take frequent water breaks with your older pooch.

Build Your Dog’s Stamina

If you or your dog are not used to getting that much exercise, you both will need to gradually build up to doing longer, more strenuous hikes (lest you both regret it the following day).

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Therefore, when you decide to take your dog hiking, start out with easy hikes that have a small incline and last for no more than an hour. Additionally, assess your dog’s condition the next day. If your fluffy friend seems overly tired or beat up, go for a shorter hike next time.

Prep Your Pup’s Paws

Your dog’s paw pads can get torn up or sore if they aren’t used to walking on various types of terrain. Moreover, dogs can burn their paws if the ground is too hot. This means that you might want to invest in some paw protection wax or dog booties.

However, you don’t want to take your dog out on the trail wearing boots if they have never worn them before. Many dogs require practice wearing boots before they can figure out how to walk properly in them, so it is best to introduce these at home or on walks around the neighborhood before hitting the trail.

Items to Bring on a Hike with Your Dog

Since there is a list of things you will need to bring on you and your pup’s hike, you can opt to stash it all in your bag or even get your dog its own dog backpack. However, if you opt for the latter, it is wise to first check with your veterinarian to ensure that your dog can physically handle the weight and that it has the right body type for the job.

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That said, there are a number of things that you will need to bring on a hike with your dog, including:

  • Portable water bowl and water: Just like if you were to hike alone, it is critical to bring plenty of water for the journey. Since you will have your four-legged pal with you, it is prudent to bring along a collapsible water bowl or similar drinking solution for your dog. Additionally, never let your pet drink from wild water sources.
  • Dog food or treats: Just like you might need to munch on a protein bar, your dog needs some snacks while out hiking, too. Therefore, it is advisable to bring along some kibble or something the two of you can eat together like plain, unseasoned beef jerky.
  • Dog first aid supplies: You and your dog need your own dedicated first aid kits. Fortunately, there are a variety of travel-size pet first aid kits on the market. However, it is wise to purchase an LED flashlight to throw in one or both of them as it could be harder to see on cloudy days or closer to dusk.
  • Poo bags: Even when out in nature, you should always pick up your dog’s poop. Therefore, bring along plenty of poo bags and a larger Ziploc bag to pack it out until you can dispose of it later.
  • An extra leash: Things sometimes break. You certainly don’t want it to be your dog’s leash while out on a hike, so bring an extra one – just in case.
  • Towel: Your dog might (or might need) to get wet while out hiking. Bring a towel to dry them off before the ride home.

Hiking with Your Four-Legged Friend

Getting out and hiking with your dog is a wonderful activity for both of you to engage in and enjoy. Just be sure to follow the tips outlined above to ensure that your furry friend stays safe on the trail and has everything necessary to have a great time.

Andy Higgs
Andy Higgs

I know what it's like to go from being a crazy backpacker without a care in the world, via being a vaguely sensible parent to being an adventurer once more. In other words, evolving into a Grown-up Traveller.

Like everyone else, I love to travel, have visited a lot of countries and all that but my big thing is Africa.

I also own and run The Grown-up Travel Company as a travel designer creating personalised African itineraries for experienced adventurers

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