Ample room to roam, ample opportunities for frameable photos — there’s a lot to love about exploring the outdoors with your dog. But with so much to sniff, chase, and eat on the trail, it’s essential to be prepared. We chatted with four proud dog moms about the dos and don'ts of hiking with pups.
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Carolyn: My dog, Walter, is a cattle dog, and he needs a ton of exercise. His stamina when hiking is always higher than mine. Even when he was an 8 month old pup he wanted to do longer distances than me!
Brianna: I recommend shorter hikes for larger breeds. They tend to get exhausted or fed up with the walking. If they get too tuckered out, my dogs become stubborn, fluffy boulders, unwilling to move or get out of the way. My dog once decided to be the unwanted guardian of a cliff at the exact spot where other hikers were trying to climb up.
Kelly: When your puppy is young, take it easy on the distance! I took Hudson hiking for the first time when he was four months old, and he was OVER IT after a mile and a half. He sat on the ground and gave me such a pained, “why are we doing this” look. I carried him back most of the rest of the hike (thankfully he was tiny back then). He took to the trail happily once he got a bit older.
Danielle: I think knowing your dog’s limits is one of the most important considerations to take. When Luna was younger we did short, level trails. Then, as she got older and more used to the outdoors, the trails got more intense.
Carolyn: I prefer trails that aren’t heavily trafficked. Practical reason: my dog sometimes barks at other dogs or pulls when there are lots of people and animals around. Less practical reason: it's more special when it feels like just the two of us out there.
Kelly: I look for trails that have any sort of water he can play in. Hudson has quite the layer of fluff, so he gets hot pretty quickly and loves to swim to cool off. Also, be sure to check AllTrails first to make sure it's dog-friendly hiking!
Danielle: Definitely don’t forget to check trail or park regulations first.
Brianna: Waterfalls and streams are also good for a mid-hike refreshment — my dogs refuse to drink from water bowls when we're hiking. Suddenly they think they're "wild" as soon as we get on the trail and will only drink from swiftly moving water.
Kelly: Going on hikes is the perfect test for how well Hudson listens off leash, with plenty of distractions, room to sprint, and birds to chase.
Carolyn: I wish someone had pushed me to work on off-leash training sooner! Hiking off leash (as long as you have great control over your dog) is so fun. It's a time to bond because you're both looking for each other and waiting for each other around curves in the trail. You get to watch your dog feel so much joy that he has the freedom to explore.
Danielle: I always bring a collapsible water bowl and plenty of water, poop bags, snacks for the both of us, and dog boots if we're going on a rocky or snowy trail.
Brianna: Get the right harness. It will make hiking enjoyable rather than a living hell. My husband and I like Ruffwear: It has pouches, so you can store your trail mix and maps, and your dog will think she’s got an extra special job. If your dogs are like mine and like to frequently lay down in streams, make sure everything is in a waterproof bag!
Kelly: I bring plenty of treats, especially if we’re hiking off leash. Having treats on hand always ensures that I can reward Hudson for coming back when he's feeling particularly adventurous.
Carolyn: If we're going off leash, I bring his training collar so I can signal him to heel back to me with a beep sound. I’ll clip a blinking bike light to the collar if we’re going out near dusk. I also bring his most prized possession: his Kong frisbee. I know he'll always come back to me if I have that in hand!
Danielle: I was really nervous on the first real hike we went on. I was afraid that Luna might eat something she shouldn't or hurt herself somehow, and I think she picked up on that and was a little timid. Once I relaxed and trusted in her training, she was visibly more relaxed.
Carolyn: When we took our first hike, I didn’t think at all about how dirty Walter would get! Wish I thought to bring a towel to clean his muddy paws and tummy before putting him in the car.
Kelly: I have a high absorbency towel that lives in the trunk of my car. Hudson loves to swim and roll around in the mud, so my back seat would be destroyed without our post-hike fur cleaning routine.
Danielle: Buy a backseat protector! Your dog will find the one mud puddle and flop right in.