9 Tips for Backpacking and Hiking with Dogs

There are huge benefits to hiking with dogs. It is good for you both physically and mentally. You will get fresh air, enjoy more space than where you live, feel more active, get some decent exercise and it will also improve your mental health.

The UK has some of the best scenic dog walking routes on offer for both you and your pup. It can be easy to forget that there are so many scenic routes out there.

If you are lucky enough to live in one of the many areas that have designated footpaths, then it is ideal for taking your dog hiking.

Hiking with your four-legged friend is more than just getting some fresh air and exercise. It provides a getaway from city life where you will find wildlife and amazing scenery which you might have been unaware of.

There are some important things to consider, though. Below are some essential tips for hiking with dogs

Should you Hike With Dogs?

The answer is a resounding “yes”, but…

The problem many face when taking their beloved pet on hiking trips is the lack of adequate information available. If you are new to the world of long-distance walking, it can be difficult knowing where to start, let alone what equipment to take.

What Should You Take?

Equipment is vital to any hiker, and it should be no different when you are with your dog. This does not need to be expensive but simply practical. You cannot expect Fido to walk for miles without adequate water, so make sure that you carry enough water for both of you. They will need some high protein kibble, too; finally, have some basic first aid supplies for sore feet and any emergencies.

Is Hiking Good For Dogs?

One of the main reasons for hiking with your four-legged friend is to give them some much needed fresh air. Fido can sniff his way along the path and explore new places giving him much needed mental stimulation.

Hiking is also a great exercise for your dog, allowing healthy muscles and bones to develop. It is essential to go at their pace to prevent injury. However, even short hikes will build muscle tone and help maintain a healthy weight.

It is also great fun taking Fido hiking! It is a great way to spend quality time together.

So should you hike with your dog? The answer is a resounding – YES.

Can my puppy go hiking?

When your dog is young, its body is still growing and developing at a startling rate. All those rapidly forming bones and tendons need time to strengthen before being tested on challenging terrain. Hiking puts a lot of strain on young joints and if the dog is not physically mature, it will be prone to injury.

A puppy’s body cannot cope with jagged rocks, steep or uneven trails. And even though your beloved friend may seem fine during a hike, there can still be some damage done that you won’t see until they are older. Hiking with a puppy under one-year-old is not a good idea.

Best Hiking Dog Breeds

While taking Fido along on a hike has many benefits, it’s important to remember that not all dogs are created equal when it comes to hiking. Some breeds have more endurance or strength for longer hikes than others do. A lot depends on the individual dog’s age, physical condition and stamina.

Below are some of the best breeds for hiking

  1. Siberian Husky
  2. Border Collie
  3. German Shorthaired Pointer
  4. Labrador
  5. Bernese Mountain Dog
  6. Bearded Collie
  7. Hungarian Vizsla
  8. Rhodesian Ridgeback
  9. Australian Cattle Dog
  10. Jack Russell Terrier
  11. Springer Spaniel
  12. Beagle
  13. Irish Setter
  14. Australian Shepherd

Essential Tips for People Hiking with Dogs

Be prepared

Before you go on a hike with your dog, there are a few things to consider:

Your canine’s physical condition (are they healthy and capable of completing the planned route), Do they have up to date vaccinations and flea and tick treatments

Weather conditions (in winter especially and choose more moderate trails), the age of your dog and terrain (some dogs don’t like mud or water).

Take your canine’s equipment too: Is the harness good enough? How about the leash? Will, you need boots to protect your dog’s feet against sharp rocks on slippery trails, cold weather,

Let your friends and family know where you’ll be and when you are coming back; this is especially important if you are walking on off-trail routes or going on a mountain hike.

Make sure your pooch has had some basic obedience training and will follow basic commands as well as having a good recall training and socialise them with other dogs, so they don’t act up.

Dispose of your dog’s waste

There is nothing that will ruin a good hike like stepping in a pile of doggie doo-doo and getting it all over your boots. Not only is this unsanitary, but it can also be hazardous for the local wildlife and other dogs and pets. Leaving your dog’s business behind on a trail can also destroy fragile eco-systems

It’s imperative to always carry poop bags with you on a hike to ensure that your dog’s waste is disposed of properly.

Some people ask if it’s Ok to bury a dog’s poop when hiking and that depends on the area of your outdoor adventure; if you choose this option, take a small trowel with you and bury the waste at least 500 metres from any water source.

Filter water before letting your dog drink it

Dogs will stop at every water source along the trail and take a big drink if you let them.

Of course, that’s risky because all sorts of parasites and diseases can spread through water sources, such as giardia.

Fortunately, there’s an easy way to prevent that from happening: invest in a portable water filter. They’re small enough to fit into your pocket or backpack, and they offer peace of mind whenever you’re out with your dog and you want him to be able to drink from a water source. They also allow you to carry less water in your pack.

Portable water filters for trail hiking can be found online; they range in price from around £20 upwards but are an essential item if you are a serious hiker and dog owner.

Invest in some dog booties

Booties are like an extra layer of clothing for your dog, protecting them from the elements and rough terrain. They come in many shapes and sizes, making it easy to find one that will fit most dogs’ paws comfortably. For starters, booties can protect your dog’s paw pads from hot surfaces in summertime temperatures. Dogs that live in places where it snows will benefit from booties to keep their feet warm and dry.

Before buying booties, you should measure your dog’s paws. Additionally, be sure to check for sizing charts on each bootie’s product listings. This way, you can find the perfect pair that won’t fall off while your dog is walking. Check out our dog hiking boots buyers guide

Use a GPS Tracker

Hiking with dogs is a great way to enjoy nature and get some exercise, but it also brings about its own risks. One of these risks is losing track of your furry friend when hiking trails or when the weather turns poor quickly.

A good GPS tracker for dogs that you attach to your dog’s collar can make it possible to find your pet quickly if they are lost, helping to prevent any hazards they might face. You can find out more about the best GPS systems for dogs here.

Always pay attention to your off-leash dog.

You must pay attention to where your dog goes off-leash. Make sure they don’t go too far ahead or behind you in case anyone else is coming along the trail or you may come across farm animals or other animals.

Not all people like dogs, so if yours rushes over to jump over everyone he meets, perhaps keep the leash on. Another thing to consider when letting your dog off-leash is they may run into trouble; there could be a steep drop nearby, a clump of poison ivy or deep water.

Pack a first aid kit

There are several injuries that dogs may suffer on hiking adventures. The most common injuries to your dog’s body include sore feet, sprains and strains, insect bites or stings and cuts or lacerations from broken glass, rocks or other sharp objects.

When hiking in the great outdoors during hot summer months, dogs can also suffer from heatstroke especially brachycephalic breeds

Here is a list of essential first aid items for a dog first aid kit:

  • Elastic bandage for wrapping up sprains, strains and so on
  • Gauze pads for applying pressure on wounds
  • Tweezers for removing foxtails or thorns
  • Scissors for cutting through clothing or gauze
  • Antiseptic wipes or spray for cleaning the cut or affected area before bandaging it
  • First aid tape for holding the bandage in place

If you notice any injuries on your dog, stop what you are doing and apply first aid as quickly as possible. If there is any bleeding, it should be controlled using gauze pads and pressure applied. The wound should then be cleaned and wrapped up with bandages.

If there is any swelling, it can be iced to reduce the swelling and pain. Your dog may need some oral medication or pain relief injections, so speak to your vet before you set out on a hike as to what you should do in an emergency.

Dog ownership is a big responsibility and they rely on us humans to help them when they get into trouble while hiking on trails. So packing a first aid kit in your dog’s pack is crucial.

Let Fido carry his own gear.

While you may wonder if it is a good idea to let your dog carry his own backpack while hiking, you can find many benefits in letting them do this. The benefits range from you having less to carry, your pooch being more focused and proud he has a job to do

In addition, dogs are pretty strong, so they can carry a dog backpack easily. The maximum load that a dog can carry is about 10-30% of the animal’s weight.

It is crucial to keep in mind that you should not overload your dog with too much stuff. When doing so, you run the risk of your dog getting hurt while on a hiking trip.

Typically, dogs use their backpacks for carrying gear such as water bottles, first aid supplies, dog food, necessities and other items that you would typically bring when going on long hikes. For reviews of the best backpacks, dogs wear it’s here.

Follow trail etiquette

Keep in mind to pay attention to these simple rules of hiking etiquette when walking in the country with your dog:

  1. Horseback riders – When you approach a horse, make your dog sit at once and keep it on a leash until the rider has passed by. Horses can be easily scared, so it’s essential to be considerate of this fact when you meet them on a hiking trail.
  2. Keep your dog on a leash near livestock- In the UK, a farmer has the right to shoot a dog chasing their livestock, so it is just not worth the risk and if you have a large dog, they may even injure the sheep.
  3. Talking of livestock, always make sure you close any gates behind you, so they don’t escape.
  4. Pay attention to signs. If it says keep your dog on a leash, then do so; this may be for several reasons. It could be dangerous for your canine companion if you ignore the signs, especially if you have a reactive dog or one that exhibits aggressive behaviour.

Hazards to Watch out for When Hiking with Dogs

If you happen to be hiking with your dog(s) in the UK, then there are some additional hazards that you may face.

Temperature and extreme weather – The weather in the UK can be extremely unpredictable; always check the forecast before setting out and pack the right gear for your hiking adventure, especially if you’ll be camping overnight.

Toxic plants – There are tons of toxic things that can do severe damage to your dog when hiking, some dogs will eat anything and this could be fatal if it’s a poisonous toadstool or other nasty.

Water As we mentioned above, water can contain all sorts of nasties, so don’t let your pup drink from streams and rivers. Also, there are strong currents in many rivers where your dog could be swept away, so keep them on a short leash near water.

Ticks Ticks are more prolific in some regions of the UK than others; these ticks attach themselves to dogs, feeding off their blood. They can carry Lyme disease, which, if left untreated, can be fatal in animals.

Steep falls – Steep drops could kill your best friend, so always keep them on a leash if there are any nearby; this is especially important for small dogs.

Challenging terrain – Not all dogs have the physical ability to cope with rugged terrain. If your pooch is not physically prepared, it could be disastrous; needle-covered terrain is more gentle on their paws, especially when hiking long distances.

Wild animals – We’re lucky not to have things like bears and mountain lions in the UK, but there are still dangers such as adders to look out for

FAQ’s

How long can a dog hike for?

It depends on what breed you own and how active they are. Dog owners with a little dog should start with short hikes, but if you own a Border Collie who gets lots of physical exercises, they may be able to tackle up to 10 miles daily.

What can I feed my dog when hiking?

It’s best to feed your dog some high protein kibble as they will be burning more calories than usual.

How much hiking is too much for a dog?

There is no set amount; if you notice your dog’s body temperature becoming too high or they show signs of fatigue, stop for a rest.

Conclusion

If you’re a dedicated dog lover and an avid hiker, then sharing your favourite pastime with your canine best friend is almost a no-brainer. Hiking with dogs presents many advantages for both pet and owner: it provides excellent exercise and helps burn off extra energy.

Hiking with your dog also has its considerations: you have to watch your pet closely for signs of distress or fatigue, carry supplies such as waste bags and freshwater, know how to pack a canine-friendly first aid kit and be aware of potential dangers such as poisonous plants.

Hiking with a dog is sometimes restricted in national parks and some other areas. Be sure to check leash laws and other regulations before hitting the trail.

John Devlin

Blogger and owner of George and Henry. Two gorgeous goldens that couldn’t be more different. One is a dream loving and caring, and his sibling is as naughty as can be. When I am not blogging about dogs, I love watching sport and travelling with the family.
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