A Safety Guide to Hiking with Dogs

Dogs love to be out in nature enjoying some exercise. If you love to hike, or perhaps want to begin hiking as an exercise option, hiking with your best buddy can offer some great benefits from keeping you both active, improving health, and strengthening an already special bond.

Nonetheless, when setting out to hike on trails in open country, or in state and national parks, there are a few things to consider ensuring your and your dog’s safety. The top consideration will be having good command. A dog that responds to commands will be the first line of defense in hazardous situations.

Basic Training

If you don’t plan on keeping your dog on a leash or perhaps dealing with a dog that pulls in one direction or another, basic training is a must. As is investing in an ID tag in case your dog wanders off or gets lost. 

Taking an uncoordinated puppy or an untrained pooch on a hike is not recommended. Begin with short distances for your walks with your dog.

Before planning a long outing, make sure you have taught your dog basic commands. If necessary, enroll in a puppy class and engage in lessons with a qualified professional. Your dog should recognize and obey basic commands such as:

  • Come
  • Down
  • Leave it
  • Sit 
  • Stay

These basic instructions can save your dog’s life. Dogs are natural predators and hunters, so they will instinctively chase other animals, as well as investigate snakes, or dangerous terrain. They may also meet another hiker or another dog. This may not be a concern, but much will depend on if the other hiker dislikes or is afraid of dogs, or any communication between two canines upon meeting.

Information Update

Your dog should have a valid dog license. He or she should also wear dog ID tags that are always up to date with the correct contact information if you are separated. This single act could also save your life in case of an accident. Authorities will know whom they are looking for if they meet your dog. You can check out our ID tags here which we can engrave with your cell number. 

Many states require that all dogs older than four months of age be licensed yearly and this can often be done online. For techies, a technological option is a GPS tracker specifically made for dog collars or registered microchips.


All your dog’s vaccinations need to be current before hiking, particularly the rabies vaccine. Should your dog meet a wild animal that has rabies and transmit the disease to your dog, it will be fatal if your dog has not been vaccinated.

Follow the Rules

Before beginning your hike, take the time to inform yourself whether the park or trail has regulations you both need to follow. The first thing to inquire about is if dogs are permitted in the area you want to hike in. If they are allowed to enter, must they be on a leash, or is vocal obedience training adequate? 

The National Park Services have the B.A.R.K. rule:

  • Bag Pooch’s waste
  • Always on leash
  • Respect Park wildlife
  • Know where you are permitted to go

Dog Gear for Hiking

There are several items that Pooch will need when out hiking with you.

  • Leash.

Even if you have the most obedient dog in the world, or the trail allows off-leash dogs, bring one anyway for eventual situations that can evolve like a hiker fearful of dogs or another aggressive dog on the trail. 

  • A Dog Bowl for drinking.

You and your dog will both be thirsty at some point.  There are collapsible, fold-up bags that you can slip into a pocket or in your backpack. The same can be used to feed your dog if you are camping overnight.

  • Harness 

A dog harness can be helpful if you need to put your dog on a leash at some point or if you want better visibility. Most harnesses have more than one attachment point for leashes, and most have reflective detailing. Some will even feature an ID pocket in the event your dog loses his or her tag.

If you will be camping, consider a harness that has pockets or side bags, so Pooch can carry his or her water and food.

  • Dog Boots in the event of rough terrain or cold weather.
  • Poop bags and anything else that is necessary.

Canine Safety When Hiking


Consider temperature when hiking. If it’s cold for you, Pooch may need an extra layer of warmth as well, especially if a short-hair breed.

For excessive heat, bring extra water. Take rests in the shade and be watchful of symptoms of dehydration and exhaustion. Also, beware of hot surfaces like rocks or similar.

Insect Bites and Stings

If you are hiking in an area where ticks or wood ticks are present, make sure to have a repellent. At the end of your hike do a thorough tick search to remove any and use a specific tick-removal tool so as not to leave the head of the tick buried in Pooch’s skin. Bee and wasp stings will not be a concern unless your dog is allergic. Mosquitoes will bite you both.

Snakes and More

Snakes, rodents, bats, and porcupines as well as any larger animals should be avoided. Most of these animals are not interested in a confrontation and will not present a threat if their space is not invaded. This is the reason rabies vaccines should be up to date. If you will be hiking in an area known to have poisonous snakes, you should also consider snake training with a professional so your dog will know what to do. 

Canine First Aid

Basic canine first aid is a must, especially when adventuring out into the wilderness. If you are in the middle of nowhere and far from veterinary intervention, you will need to act. Research how to apply CPR, if there are toxic plants in the hiking area and consider any of Pooch’s pre-existing medical conditions or injuries.

Carry a few first-aid items with you such as cotton pads, a tick or stinger remover, disinfectant or hydrogen peroxide as well as non-stick bandages.

A Final Thought

Hiking is a wonderful activity to share with your four-legged best friend. With a bit of preparation, you’ll both have a fantastic adventure.