Tips for Hiking with Dogs

You love the outdoors and you love your dog, it only makes sense to combine two of your favorite things. Hiking with dogs is a fun way to get outside and explore, but if you’ve never taken your dog hiking there are a few things you should know before you do!  

A dog next to a lake in Little Manatee River State Park

My dog has never hiked before. Where do I start? 

If your dog has never went on a hike before, you want to start small. Plan for a short hike at a distance you know your dog can easily handle. If your dog doesn’t go on long walks very often, you will want to start there.  

You may also want to consider the terrain. Once your dog is used to walking a few miles on a flat, paved surface you can start incorporating some rougher terrain and/or hills. Review the trail beforehand and determine if the trail is mostly shaded or exposed, the type of terrain (paved, rock, uneven, etc.), and the amount of elevation gain.  

How far can a dog hike? 

This can vary greatly depending on the type of dog and the amount of physical activity the dog is used to. Some dogs may be exhausted after only a few miles while other dogs may be able to hike up to 20 plus miles in a day. Slowly increase your mileage and/or the difficulty of the hike over time and monitor how your dog reacts. It’s important not to push your dog to do too much too fast. 

A woman and her dog in an open grassy area smiling.

What should I bring when hiking with dogs? 

In addition to whatever gear you think you may need during your hike, there are a few additional items I recommend bringing for your dog.

  • Water 
  • Treats 
  • Towel 
  • Leash and harness 
  • Dog tag 

Water:  You always want to ensure you bring plenty of water when hiking with dogs! Currently, I utilize this water bottle, which my dog loves. I bring extra water that I can refill it with as she drinks it. I usually take some extra water on the hike and leave some in the car for after the hike or on the car ride home. 

Treats: I am a big advocate of packing hiking snacks as you can see in this post. It’s safe to say I feel the same way about my dog. I recommend packing a few dog treats in your bag. Often times I don’t end up needing to give her a snack while hiking, but I will give her a small treat before the car ride home. The longer you plan to hike, the more treats I would bring for your dog.  

Towel: I recommend keeping a couple of extra towels in your car when hiking with dogs. You can use this to dry the dog off if you get caught in unexpected rain or to wipe the dog down if the trail is muddy. 

Leash and Harness: Many parks require dogs to be on a leash at all times. Some parks may even specify the length of the leash. You know your dog best, so consider what type of leash and harness is ideal for them. Our dog loves this harness.

Dog tag: When hiking with dogs it’s so important to ensure your dog has a collar and updated tag on them at all times. If something was to go wrong and your dog was separated from you while hiking, they will be in unfamiliar territory, unsure of where to go. If you have a tag with updated information another hiker may be able to reunite you with your dog more quickly.  

A dog on open grass with a silly, happy look on her face.

What are some other tips for hiking with dogs? 

Below are five additional tips to consider when taking your dog on a hike. 

1. Ensure the park and trail are dog friendly 

First and foremost, when hiking with dogs you want to make sure your dog is welcome in the area you are hiking. You can research a park or trail ahead of time by looking at their website to see their pet policy. In addition, you could look for a contact page or phone number to verify. 
 
Even in dog friendly parks, there may be certain areas such as indoor facilities including restrooms where dogs may not be allowed. Also, some parks may allow dogs only on certain trails. I frequently see signs posted on boardwalk trails stating dogs are not allowed. It’s important to not only review the website thoroughly, but also pay attention to posted signs once you get to the park.

2. Check the weather forecast   

Especially in Florida it’s very important to review the weather forecast. If you plan to take your dog on a hike, particularly during the summer months, plan to hike shortly after sunrise or before sunset and limit your duration outdoors. If the weather is cooler, your dog may be able to handle a longer hike. Chances are if you are hot, so is your dog! 

A woman with a backpack hiking with her dog

3. Ensure to leave no trace 

It’s important to pack everything out of the trail. This includes anything your dog may leave behind, always pick up after your dog! Be sure to bring poop bags and dispose of them appropriately. Just because you are in nature, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still be cleaning up after your dog. We usually buy these bags off Amazon so we never run out.

4. Be respectful of others 

I know your dog is your best friend, but you can’t assume everyone feels the same. Some people may be fearful of dogs or allergic. Keep your dog on a leash next to you and don’t allow it to come up to other people unless they are clearly inviting of it. You also can’t assume other dogs are friendly, be respectful of everyone’s space on the trail.

Additionally, stay alert and pay attention to any wildlife on the trail. You want to ensure your dog’s safety as well as the safety of any wildlife you may see. Keep a safe distance at all times.  

5. Monitor your dog closely 

Keep in mind how far away from the car you are, how much water you have left, and the temperature. Frequently monitor your dog while hiking. Is your dog getting tired, but you aren’t even to your half-way spot on an out and back trail? Is the trail much more difficult than you thought based on your research?  

Be open to changing your plans as the conditions change! Your dog may not always be able to hike as far as you were originally planning. Always take into consideration how much further you have to hike and turn around early if necessary to keep you and your dog safe.  

A dog looking back at her owner while hiking on a dirt trail amongst many plants.

Where can I go hiking with dogs in Florida? 

Many city, county, state, and national parks in Florida are dog friendly. Your hiking options with your dog are endless. Additionally, All Trails has a list of best dog friendly hiking trails in Florida. If you’ve never used All Trails before, it’s a great app to research hiking trails near you.  

I have taken my dog to a lot of parks in the Tampa Bay area as well as several of the state parks. Below are some of my favorite parks to take my dog to. 

A woman and her dog on a bridge by the water

That’s it, these are all of my best tips to ensure you and your dog have a fun and safe hike! Did I miss anything? Leave me a comment with your best tip for hiking with dogs! 

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