Hiking With Dogs: Trail Safety & Etiquette All Dog Owners Should Follow

Dog Hiking

There’s no doubt that Southern Wisconsin boasts some great hiking trails. And who better to join you on the trails than your dog?

If you’re ready to hit the trails with your canine companion, be sure to follow some basic pet trail safety and etiquette guidelines for hiking with dogs.

Follow Leash Laws

You might have excellent voice control over your dog, or your dog may never leave your side when off leash. But when you’re out hiking with your dog, please keep your dog leashed.

One reason to follow leash laws on the trail is that trails are wild places. You never know what wildlife might scurry across the trail and entice your dog to give chase. Second, being off leash could lead your dog to wander off, increasing their chance of getting lost. Finally, not everyone out on the trails is a dog lover like you, and friendly unleashed dogs can cause a problem for a leashed dog who may be fear aggressive or in training.

Bottom line: Keeping your dog leashed helps prevent potential problems and keeps all dogs welcome on the trails.

Make Friends Carefully

Again, not everyone enjoys the company of dogs on the trail for a variety of reasons: fear, allergies, or they’re just not dog people. Therefore, you and your dog’s role as trail ambassadors for everyone else who hikes with dogs should be taken seriously.

First, know your dog. If your dog is leash aggressive, nervous, or fearful, explain this to people and position yourself between your dog and the oncoming hikers and other dogs. If you have a friendly dog, be sure to train him to only greet someone when he has permission. Most people, even dog lovers, don’t want a dirty, strange dog jumping on them.

Of course, we know you love dogs. However, always ask permission to pet another dog or let your dog interact with other dogs. This goes for children hiking with you, too. Don’t let them run up to dogs they don’t know.

Check out the excellent resources from the AVMA on Dog Bite Prevention.

Yield Right of Way

On a nice day, you definitely want to be out on the trails … and so does everyone else. When you encounter other trail users, yield right of way to:

  • Larger animals (ex. horses)
  • Someone going faster than you
  • Hikers going uphill
  • Dog-less hikers

Protect Against Parasites

Hiking trails are a hotbed for ticks. If you hike with your dog, prevention and tick checks should be a regular part of your routine. Talk to your veterinarian about tick preventatives, find out how to do a thorough tick check of your dog, and get tips for removing ticks you may find.

Watch the water, too. A pretty stream or peaceful pond may look innocent enough, but there can be some nasty stuff lurking in there. Do all that you can to prevent your dog from drinking water along the trail to protect against waterborne illnesses.

Pick Up the Poop

If you are an avid hiker, you are probably familiar with Leave No Trace principles. They apply to your dog, too. Pick up and carry out your dog’s waste like you would on any walk. You could also bury it in a hole 6 to 8 inches deep that’s at least 200 feet from water sources, trails, and campsites; then disguise the spot.

10 Essentials for Hiking with Dogs:

  1. Leash: Either a short heeling leash or a leash under 10 feet long
  2. Dog brush and/or comb: Tackle burs and knots before they become a problem
  3. Snug collar: Make sure it includes up-to-date ID tags (having your dog microchipped is also an excellent idea)
  4. Dog booties: Protect sensitive paws
  5. Water: 1 quart for your dog for every 3 miles you plan to hike
  6. Water dish
  7. Dog food/snacks
  8. Spare rope: Helpful if you need a tie-out
  9. Plastic bags
  10. Dog first-aid kit

Finally, understand that hiking is more strenuous than walking, and dogs should be fit for the rigors of the trail. Regular wellness visits to your veterinarian will help identify any health concerns that may limit your hiking buddy and help you develop a plan to get your pooch back on the trail.

Schedule your dog’s spring wellness visit to make sure your dog is trail ready!