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Hiking with your dog 101

  hiking with dog

Hiking is a great way to enjoy the wonders of nature all while getting a healthy dose of exercise, sunshine and fresh air, but visiting these wild places takes a little more prep than a stroll around your neighborhood. Check off our lists to make sure your pup is trail ready!

Advance Planning

  • Get the green light. Speak with your veterinarian to see if your dog has a health condition that may limit their ability to hike. 
  • Boost vaccines. Diseases such as rabies, distemper and leptospirosis can be spread by wildlife, so be sure to update these vaccines before you take off.
  • Apply flea and tick prevention. Stop your dog from bringing back any unpleasant hitchhikers with a quick dose of parasite prevention.
  • Check trail regulations. Not all trails allow dogs, and some parks have recently been closed because of COVID, so always verify regulations before you head out.
  • Start conditioning. Depending on the length and difficulty of the hike, your dog may need a training routine to build up muscle and stamina. If your dog will be carrying their food and water in a backpack, remember to condition them with their backpack on as well.
  • Brush up on training. A strong “leave it” or “come” command can be a life saver if your dog tries to tangle with wildlife or eat something questionable. Basic leash etiquette is also helpful to avoid getting dragged after every exciting thing your dog sees.

Day of Packing List

  • Water, water, water! Just like you, your dog will get hot and dehydrated on the trail and will need more water than they usually drink when lounging around the house. Packing enough water is essential to preventing overheating and even heatstroke.
  • Water bowl. This may seem obvious but is often forgotten. A collapsible water bowl is nice and lightweight for easy carrying.
  • Food. If your hike will take longer than several hours, it’s a good idea to pack a snack so your dog can refuel. If you are backpacking for a day or more, remember that your dog is burning many more calories than usual, so plan to bring more food than they typically eat.
  • Secure collar. A secure collar reduces the likelihood of your dog slipping away and getting lost chasing wildlife.
  • 6-foot leash. Retractable or very long leashes are problematic for hiking, where they easily get tangled in underbrush and prevent good control of your dog.
  • Poop bags. Leave it like you found it refers to dog waste, too! Let’s preserve the natural beauty of our trails by cleaning up after our pets.
  • Dog booties. Pack these if your route will take you over rough terrain.
  • Hiking first aid kit. Your hiking first aid kit for the most part can also double as your dog’s. Additional items you should add to the kit for your dog include tweezers (helpful for removing grass awns, cactus spines and even ticks) and a muzzle. A clean sock secured by some tape can act as a temporary foot bandage in a pinch as well.

*Based on the length, difficulty and season of the hike, your dog may require more equipment, such as a backpack, jacket, collar safety light, etc.*


On the Trail

For the safety of our dogs, ourselves, and fellow hikers, as well as the wildlife and the fragile habitats we may encounter while hiking, it is important to always follow the National Parks System B.A.R.K rules while on the trail:

  • Bag your pet’s waste.
  • Always leash your pet.
  • Respect wildlife.
  • Know where you can go.

Following these guidelines will ensure a fun and safe hiking trip for you and your dog!

Want some added peace of mind? Be prepared for anything that may happen on your weekend hikes by signing up for the Live Chat feature through the myVCA app, where on-call veterinarians are available 24/7 to answer all your pet health and wellness questions. Unlimited chat is only $19.99 per month and is included free of charge in all CareClub memberships.


Download the myVCA App Today  >>