Can I Take My Dog Hiking? (5 Things to Consider)

Can I Take My Dog Hiking

As soon as we grab our dogs’ leashes, they’re jumping at the door just waiting to get out! If given the chance, they’d hike for miles. Dogs love to get outside and hit the trail, it’s in their DNA. So it comes as no surprise that your 4 legged pet would love to go for a hike with you!

However, it is not always that easy. Before we hit the trail, there are a few things to consider to ensure that you, your dog and other hikers around you will all have an enjoyable time.

After all, it’s not just you and your dog on the trail but other hikers as well, not to mention the native plants and animals.

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5 Things To Consider Before Taking Your Dog On A Hike

Not every pet is ready for a hike. Dogs can be just as much out of physical shape as humans. Some hikes may not even allow dogs. So before you jump into taking your dog out for an adventure, consider these few things first.

Is Your Dog Out Of Shape?

Quite often, our 4 legged friends can be found to be a bit out of shape. Either from too much food or just lack of activity, the idea of going out on a 4-mile hike for a dog in this physical condition is just as daunting as it would be for an out-of-shape human.

If you do want to get your out-of-shape pet to start hiking, start small. Go for little hikes first. Introduce them to different types of terrain or weather conditions. Even long walks around the neighborhood can be a good way to start building up stamina for your pup.

If you don’t work up to it, you may find yourself a mile out on the trail with a dog that refuses to go any further.

Is Your Dog Too Old Or Too Young?

It is recommended that you start taking your dog on hikes after it reaches 16 months of age. This is because they should be fully vaccinated at this point. The trail holds lots of hazards for our canine friends in the form of various viruses that exist in the wild. Vaccines will help protect them.

Dogs that are too young also have a hard time getting over simple obstacles, like steps that an older dog can navigate with ease. In fact, there is a whole other set of considerations to think about if you’re taking your puppy for a hike.

However, a dog that is too old may not have the physical strength or joint mobility to be able to go for a hike, even though their mind says yes.

Our oldest dog, Chompers, is 15 now and still loves to go hiking. However, we have to be more cautious with her than we used to be. 5 years ago she’d hike as long as we’d let her. Nowadays we try to limit our hikes to a couple of miles or less.

Are Dogs Allowed On The Trail?

Heading to the trail with the dogs
Two excited puppy dogs on the way to hike! Just make sure they’re going to be allowed on the trail when you get there!

Some trails just don’t allow dogs. It can vary state by state or simply park system by park system. I know that in California there were state parks that had zero-dog policies with county parks right next door that allowed dogs on the trails.

This can get a bit confusing. Luckily for us, a quick Google search of the trail you are thinking of hiking and you should find yourself plenty of information on whether or not dogs are allowed.

Take it from us, when you drive over an hour to a trail just to find out at the trailhead that dogs are not allowed does not lead to a fun drive home. Do your research. It’s worth it.

Can Your Dog’s Breed Tolerate Heat/Distractions?

Certain dog breeds can handle heat better than others. Short-muzzled dogs like pugs, boxers and Boston terriers do not take the heat well. In fact, they tend to get tired really quickly.

On the other hand, take a hound dog or some other hunting breed and a single noise will get them off chasing a ghost for miles, ignoring your calls for them to come back. If either of these are your dog, think twice about taking them out for a hike or prepare accordingly.

Is Your Dog Trained?

An untrained dog can be a danger to itself, to you and to other hikers. Imagine taking a dog on a trail that comes across a rattlesnake and instead of listening to you to leave it alone, it goes on the attack. Now imagine you try and grab your dog away from the snake at it bites you instead of your dog.

An untrained dog in the wrong situation can actually be the difference between life and death. If you are unable to control your dog at home, do not bring it with you out on the trail.

Trail Etiquette With Dogs

If you do get on the trail with your dog, it is important that you adhere to a little trail etiquette to ensure the safety and overall experience for everyone involved.

Keep Your Dog On A Leash

While it is understandable that you want to let your dog roam free on the open trails, it really is best to keep your dog on a leash. In fact, it is the law in most places. An unleashed dog is uncontrollable and can get into a lot of trouble.

Some people have a fear of dogs, keeping them on a leash means you understand that not everyone feels the same about your canine friend.

Bring Poop Bags And Take Them With You

When your dog goes poop on the trail, bag it up. Heavily trafficked trails can have a build-up of feces that can pollute the local water supply if left unattended. Get those baggies and scoop the poop.

Once you scoop the poop, bring that baggy with you. I don’t know how many times I see poop bags on the trail left by someone who thought that they’d be back to pick it up. This is almost worst than the poop itself.

Yield Right Of Way To Horses, Bikes And Other Hikers

Chompers and a Horse
Chompers isn’t sure how to react to horses when we pass them on a trail (which isn’t often). Do I bark? Am I supposed to chase this thing?

Your dog should be controlled on a trail simply for the fact tat when the time comes, you and your pet should be yielding to others on a trail. A misbehaved dog could cause a horse to panic or a mountain biker to have an accident.

When you see others coming, restrain your dog and move off to the side. It is the considerate thing to do.

Protect Wildlife

You are not alone out on the trail. A trail is home to numerous plants and animals that call these places home. By keeping your pet under control, you protect these critters, some of whom are unable to protect themselves.

Why You Should Not Bring Your Dog Hiking

As you can see, in most instances you can bring your dog for a hike, but should you?

If your dog is out of shape, leave them at home or start with small hikes.

Watch out for ticks that love to latch on to your dog and come home with them.

Poison oak can be prevalent on the trail and your pet could pick up some of the irritating oils and pass them on to you, (happened to me a few times).

Your pet could come across water that is filled with a deadly virus.

There are just as many reasons why you should not bring your dog hiking as there are reasons why you should bring your dog hiking. Ultimately the choice is up to you.

Final Thoughts

Can you take your dog hiking?


Just make sure to be very mindful of your dog’s hiking abilities and make sure to research the trail’s rules regarding dogs before you go. Also, understand that these aren’t these five tips aren’t the only things you should consider before taking your dog on the trail. (For instance, can I walk my dog 30 minutes after eating?)

Finally, be courteous to others using the trail, including other 4-legged friends, by using proper etiquette while you hiking with your dog.

Finally, have fun and enjoy the time outside with your furry friends!

Ryan H

I love hiking and being outdoors with Jen and our two rescue dogs, Chompers and Mia. I also enjoy a good weekend trail run. I'm also really enjoying sharing some of the knowledge we've learned along the way here on Zenful Hiking!

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