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  • Writer's pictureDr. Keaton Massie

Hiking and Trail Riding with Your Dog: Tips for Beginners

Updated: Feb 18

by Dr. Keaton Massie, DVM Massie Veterinary Services

Hiking with your dog is a fun way to provide them with exercise. Taking necessary precautions to ensure your dog's safety when hiking or trail riding is paramount. Here’s how to ensure your dog's safety while hiking or trail riding.

Pick your trail wisely

It's important to learn about trail conditions before you head out. Don't bring dogs to any trail that has a strict policy against them. Dogs may be prohibited from entering a location because of the risk they provide to local species, contaminated water they could attempt to drink, or restricted trail use for other recreational purposes.

There is a good reason why dogs aren't allowed on that route, so please don't bring yours along. You must also be aware of the local regulations, including leash rules and trail closures.

Make sure you understand the terrain. If you want to spare your dog's paws from unnecessary harm, choose a route that is easy on the feet or bring booties.

View the forecast

Never go hiking without first checking the weather forecast. If the forecast calls for less than perfect weather, you may want to reschedule your trek. Wet trails increase the risk of falls and other accidents. Take good care when hiking while the sun is directly overhead. Learn the symptoms of dehydration so you can keep your dog safe on hikes.

Make sure your dog has an ID tag

Make sure your dog has a way to be identified if they ever go missing. Microchips are ideal, having a collar with your information is paramount. Verify that the contact details are correct and that you can be reached should your dog ever go missing. The 5 top GPS dog tracker collars of 2022 are featured here.

Safely evaluate their level of fitness on the trail

You should train your dog for hiking the same way you would for a walk, starting slowly and gradually increasing the difficulty. In this way, your dog will be able to build up strength and stamina as you progress. Shorter excursions are safer for dogs who are more prone to overexertion, such as puppies, elderly, and overweight dogs. Keep an eye out for excessive indications of weariness, and be prepared to turn back if your dog appears to be struggling.

Ensure the protection of your dogs from ticks

Make sure your dog is protected from ticks with a simple monthly chewable preventative. We can prescribe one at your annual wellness appointment through our online pharmacy. Keep to the trail and away from long grasses and bushes to avoid ticks. Always keep a tick remover on hand and regularly brush and check your dog.

Do not forget the first aid supplies.

You might be tempted to take only the minimal essentials with you when you go trekking. A pet first aid kit is an absolute must. The Rayco International Ltd Pet First Aid kit from Amazon is one of the best we’ve seen. It comes with all the necessary essentials you will need, a flashing collar (LED) with 3 settings and a writeable tag, saline solution, styptic pencil which is a hemostatic agent (that stops bleeding) ... all in one convenient strong soft nylon carrying case.

Teach your dog about behaving with others, including horses

When you go hiking with your canine friend, it's important to know how to behave around humans, other dogs, and horses on the trail.

As a rule of thumb, you want to maintain a three-foot radius from other dogs when walking your dog on the trail. This is for safety purposes so your dog can stay focused on you without getting distracted by other people and animals.

When meeting horses on the trail, pet parents must first yield the trail and ensure their dog stays calm, does not bark, and makes no move toward the horse. Horses can be easily spooked by strange dogs, and the pet parent is responsible for keeping their pet quiet and under firm control.

When you encounter horses, move well off the trail (downhill from the trail when possible) and stay off the trail, with your dog held close to your side until the horses pass well beyond you. Be calm, stay in clear view, and talk in a regular volume to the riders.

Obey leash rules at all times

You must make sure you are familiar with any laws that may be in place on a hiking trail. When in doubt, leash your dog. When going on a hike, a harness is also a good idea. The dog may feel more at ease with a harness and you may have greater influence over them.

Accurate Instruction

Keep your dog safe while hiking by teaching them some simple commands ahead of time. Your dog should be reliably responsive to the come and stay commands before you allow them off leash in the back country. It's also a good idea to train them to return to you instantly if you issue an emergency command to stop what they're doing. The command "leave it" is essential training for your dog before you take him on a hike. This can protect them from pursuing an animal off the track or nibbling on poisonous plants.

Take plenty of supplies with you

When going on a hike with your dog, be sure to have enough food and water. It's important to keep in mind that you're supposed to pack for two people. Calculate your anticipated needs and add some extra to be on the safe side. The two of you need to drink a lot of water to avoid being dehydrated. Also, remember that your pet will expend more calories than normal when hiking and will therefore require more food. If you get your dog a hiking backpack, they can take some of the weight off your back by hauling around their own gear. To avoid straining them too much, it shouldn't be more than roughly 10–15 percent of their whole body weight. Here is a list of the best dog hiking backpacks of 2022.

Keep a close eye on them

Keep a close eye on your dog at all times to ensure their safety when out on a hike. Don't allow them to consume any of the plants they find along the way, as some of them may be harmful. Be aware that allowing your dog to drink out of streams and lakes can pose risks as the water may contain bacteria that can make them sick or cause other serious issues.

Follow these guidelines to maintain dog safety and ensure good dog behavior during hiking. Responsible dog owners know that safety of their beloved canine is first priority. If you have any questions or need additional advice please feel free to reach out to me.

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