Hiking with Dogs: Should You Bring Your Friend to the Trail?

Dogs can make great hiking companions, or be a nuisance if not properly behaved. Knowing what to do can help ensure a positive outdoor experience with a pet.

When in the backcountry, dogs can live up to their reputation as “Man’s Best Friend.” They make great hiking companions, and a walk in the woods is good exercise for them. However, dogs may also be an unintended intrusion. A misbehaving dog can dig up plants, chase animals, and defecates wherever it wants. Knowing how to handle a dog is important when in the field.

Know the Dog Rules Before Hiking

Different land management agencies may have varying rules for dogs in their areas. Some may be all right with dogs not having a leash, while others may require dogs to be leashed. Almost all will require hikers to clean up after their pets. Visit the agency’s website to learn what rules apply to dogs, and plan accordingly.

What to Bring When Hiking with Dogs

Before leaving home, make sure to pack along a few extra items for the dog for on the trail. These include:

  • Extra purified drinking water.
  • Dog food and treats.
  • Bags for picking up dog waste.
  • A leash if it is necessary to control the dog while hiking.
  • An updated dog collar with identification and contact information.
  • A dog jacket in case it is cold.
  • A favorite dog toy.
  • A doggie pack that the dog can wear containing some of its food, treats, and extra items.

Dog Behavior on the Trail

When on the trail with a dog, stay aware of what the dog is doing and where it is. If the dog is unleashed and out of sight, call for the dog to make sure it is visible and not lost. When other trail users, such as hikers, mountain bikers, or horseback riders approach, make sure that the dog will not chase after them. The dog could startle a pack animal, or cause bike rider to veer out of the way, and off the trail. Also, not everyone enjoys having a dog jump onto them. If the dog demonstrates that it cannot behave, consider enrolling the dog in a behavior management class.

Fun Ideas for Dogs in the Backcountry

Bring along the dog’s favorite toy and snack treats. These can make great rewards for when the dog demonstrates appropriate behavior. Tossing a tennis ball or Frisbee in an open field can be lots of fun. Bring along a camera for taking pictures.