10 Proven Hiking Tips to Help Keep Your Dog Safe

Want to go on a hike with your dog, but are worried about how to keep them safe? Read our list of 10 dog hiking tips to have a fantastic outdoor adventure!

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Whether you’re celebrating National Take a Hike Day (November 17th!) or just looking for dog hiking tips for a weekend outing, you’ve come to the right place! While getting outdoors and exploring nature with your dog sounds great, there are important dog hiking tips and safety items that you shouldn’t leave without. Proper planning is the easiest way to make sure you and your dog both have an excellent adventure!

Safety First

Proven Dog Hiking Tips1) Grab a Pet First Aid Kit. Knowing the ABC’s of pet first aid isn’t just good pet parenting, it can spare your dog a serious infection or injury if they get injured on the trail.

You can find a kit at many outdoor retailers or specialty pet shops, making them pretty easy to find!

2) Confirm Vaccines are current. Vaccinations are a personal choice for every pet parent, but make sure that your dog is current on the vaccines you and your Vet have agreed upon.

Having your current paperwork will make it much easier if there is an emergency visit to the animal hospital closest to your hiking destination.

3) Read the Trail Regulations. Check on the dog rules for the trail. Are dogs welcome? Are they allowed off leash? How long is it?

Knowing the trail regulations and etiquette is one the most important dog hiking tips. Following regulations allow you and your dog to maintain friendly relationships with other hikers.

Tools of the Trade

4) Pack LOTS of water. Overestimate how much water you will need. Water and a water bowl are two of the most important things you can pack. Many companies now make tough, silicone collapsible bowls so they’re easier to pack.

In addition to water, you can look into a dog-friendly water flavoring to add to their water before you leave. This can help encourage them to drink and mitigate the stress of being away from home.

5) Have Your Dog Carry a Pack. Between your sunscreen, your dog’s food and a camera to capture all the scenic vistas, your backpack is probably full!

Getting a pack for your dog to carry will alleviate what you have to carry as well as help your dog feel useful.

6) Bring Healthy Food and Treats. Your dog will get hungry on the trail, so it’s always helpful to pack some food or treats. While the amount will vary depending on the length of your hike, there are common treat types that will help your dog stay fueled for any trip.

Pick treats and food that are high in protein and will help replace the calories lost during exercise!

7) Don’t Forget the Leash. While seeing your dog run free without a leash is a great sight as a pet parent, don’t forget to pack your leash. Even if trail regulations permit off-leash time, it’s courteous to keep your pet on a leash on busy trails.

In addition, if you’re out in the wilderness, you never know what animal (or plant!) is just around the corner. Most guides recommend looking into as harness if you have an active pet or to bring two leashes in different lengths for best maneuverability.

Proven Dog Hiking Tips

On the Trail

8) Watch Their Paws. Your dog’s paws are extremely delicate. If you plan on hiking over rocks or snow, or in 70+ degree temperature, it might be wise to invest in a pair of booties to protect their paws from cuts and scrapes.

No boots at home? Be sure to stop and check your dog’s paws regularly for cuts, scrapes, bruises or rocks stuck between the toes.

If you see any cuts on their pads, take them to a vet after the hike in case they get an infection. If your dog ever shows signs of pain or slowing down on the trail, they need your help.

9) Check for Ticks and Poison Ivy. Obviously, your dog’s health is priority number one. Stopping to check the trail ahead for Poison Ivy and poisonous plants will help your dog stay safe and injury-free.

In addition, make sure to check for ticks both during and after the hike. You can find a neat tool like this one or contact your vet for the best way to remove it.

10) Pick Up Their Poop. While you might be tempted to leave your dog’s poop ‘out in the wild’, some poop bags and a Ziplock bag (for your nose!) will earn you lots of trail karma points.

Dog poop contains diseases that could contaminate water sources, so it’s always wise to bag it and trash it.

Still looking for more tips? Check out our Adventure with your Pet Pinterest board.

Hopefully, you found some helpful dog hiking tips and information to plan a safe and fun trail expedition! If you’ve already hit the trails this year, send us a photo–we’d love to feature it! As always, if you think we’re missing some information, leave it in the comments below or email  social@redbarninc.com.

All data and information provided on this site is for informational purposes only and reflect the views of the authors alone, and do not necessarily reflect those of the organization.

Redbarninc.com makes no representations as to accuracy, completeness, timeliness, suitability, or validity of any information on this site and will not be liable for any errors, omissions, or delays in this information or any losses, injuries, or damages arising from its display or use.

All information is provided on an as-is basis. Please note that each situation is different, and you should always consult your veterinarian should you have any questions about your pet’s health.

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There are 228 comments

  1. Zakia

    For times when my dog has to be on leash when hiking, I like to use a leash with a little shock absorption so if won’t pull as much on both ends when she goes up or down a hill a little quicker than me! It’s surprising how much of a difference it makes!

  2. Allison Hoffman

    My dog hikes off-leash with us all the time and he’s usually pretty good about sticking around. The hardest thing for us is when he goes into “hunting mode” because he has a pretty high prey drive and he can track wildlife down!

  3. Jeanine Carlson

    I love how you added #10. Maybe it should have been #2 ;). I totally agree that picking up poo is essential to being a responsible dog owner. Thanks for adding it in your tips!

  4. debra dubois

    My girls love to hike and the best part is how amazing they are together they sure do keep watch for one another such good girls.

  5. Brandy Monday

    These are some great tips, and some that can easily be overlooked, I know I have seen many dog owners who do not clean up after them.

  6. Claudia M

    These are some great tips for our next hiking trip ! We also use a Harness when YoYo has to be leashed . More fun and less choking 🙂 thank you.

  7. kathy m

    Great tips! My dog is always wearing a harness, that way if I have to I can pick him up without choking him, in those unexpected confrontations with wildlife. Dogs need to stay in your line of sight, otherwise you can find them eating unsavory things. Using more caution in the fall when animals are trying to get ready to hibernate can help disrupt interactions that might not go so well. Carry treats to distract and reward them for coming right back to you. Carry good water so they don’t get thirsty.

  8. Amanda Mays

    These are all great tips. Always pack enough water or a water filtration system. Get boots for your adventure dog. With all the excitement of the great outdoors, your pet will not monitor herself. Protect those paws. And yes, please clean up after your pet. We don’t want to lose access to trails because people are careless.

  9. Kasey

    These are great tips, but when Hiking with your dog never forget a break stick or dog repellant. You’ll never know when you need it!

  10. Lane McLoud

    I keep Gus on a retractable leash because he gets distracted by anything that moves—squirrels, birds, kids, and leaves!

  11. Angie G

    Great article. Can’t wait to start hiking with my puppy. First time dog owner and I just learn so much from all your posts and emails. Thank you!

  12. Cathy Thompson

    Thanks for the tips there are some great ones. We definitely need to get a first-aid kit put together, something we don’t have.

  13. Sandy Weinstein

    i always carry my own water and bowl with me, never let them drink for ponds or other dog bowls and never use water from the city b/c it has fluoride which is bad for dogs. i also pack extra leashes as well in case one breaks. i carry poop bags, wipes, treats, etc.

  14. Shannon G.

    Our dogs have their own first aid kit that goes along with every time we hike. Thank goodness we’ve not had to use it!

  15. K.W.

    Loving numbers 3 and 7, it is paramount to follow the rules and be a good dog owner. Using the trails in the community is a privilege for dog owners, hopefully those tips help keep the trails open for fellow canine enthusiasts.

  16. Debra S.

    I learned to NOT let a new dog you have not yet gotten to know fully or trained fully off the leash on a walk! Almost lost one to a spring river! She ran out onto the ice and right into some open water on the other side, running after some geese that were there! It was awful. She was okay, but that taught me a lesson. No off leash out there unless fully trained and reliable!

  17. Jackie

    And also be respectful of others who don’t like your dog as much as you. If you can’t call your dog away from a squirrel, another dog, or a person, they shouldn’t be off leash. That way everyone has fun and dogs get to stay on the trails!

  18. DanniDiane

    I make sure to bring dog bootys for your pup to wear! Many don’t think about how hott, rough or spiky it can get for their paws on a long hike.

  19. Amanda E

    Yes, otter does like to hike and is very adventurous outdoors everywhere but being a pug, he needs to pace himself. He’s athletic and in shape for a pug and truly loves the great outdoors of the Pacific northwest! I always bring a mini dog first aid kit and research the path we are taking first and during our hike take frequent stops for him as well as snack breaks. I use a travel dog water bottle to make it easy for him and never hike in expected heat

  20. Nadia Martin

    My dogs loves to hike for sure. After our last hike in Colorado he was pooped out for a few days. Our tips would be to make sure to bring water and poop bag. Make sure to let your dog rest as well if he needs it.

  21. Wehaf

    I also like to spray my dogs with a pet-safe bug spray before we go hiking, for added protection against mosquitoes and ticks. Sometimes their monthly topical treatment could use a helping hand!

  22. patricia caradonna

    We love to hike and take long walks on the beach with our dog Josie. Josie gets so excited and loves to exercise. The tips are great and water is a necessity in Florida.

  23. shannon fowler

    we love hiking, but denali is so little he gets tired easily. we actually bring a backpack he can ride in when it gets to much for him. other than that we try o bring lots of water, treats, and always make sure he has had his regular tick and flea prevention

  24. Mary W

    Knowing the rules and regulations is so important. Wish more people would do that before they even set out for a trip with their dogs.

  25. Tina Nichols

    My dog is a 15 pound Italian Greyhound. While walking in the park, I keep her safe by picking her up and holding her close, when bigger, more aggressive dogs approach us.

  26. Evan Brown

    Great tips, Sam loves hiking and we always are looking for tips that will help make our hikes a whole lot more enjoyable.

  27. Melinda Berlin

    Thank you for the tips, we have two Yorkies & they love adventures, are great in the car & actually get “cabin fever” when we don’t take them at times.

  28. Sam

    Also, keep your dog away from “goodies” which other hikers might have left on the trail. I read a horror story about a dog going into cardiac arrest after consuming a cannabis left on a trail.

  29. Cassie

    Make sure to watch for mushrooms on your hikes! Our little frenchie got into some while out in the woods in the spring and ended up in the emergency vet! Now whenever we hike we make sure to keep him away! Red barn treats would help to keep him busy and away from mushrooms!

  30. Jocelyn Renee

    We also go on our trips when the weather is optimal for him. Not to hot not to cold. His health and safety is always priority.

  31. Monica Stewart

    My family loves taking our dog on hikes. We have very nice trails close by and my dog knows when we are about to go because he sees us packing all his favorite things. He gets so excited he can’t contain himself! And we always make sure we have enough water and healthy snacks, as well as a bag for poop. Thanks for the chance!

  32. lal

    check the guidelines on your hike to see if there will be water on the trail if not have your dog carry his water in his back pack.

  33. lal

    check the guidelines on your hike to see if there will be water on the trail if not have the dog carry his water in his backpack.

  34. Maureen C.

    Don’t use one of those retractable leashes. They can become a tripping hazard to other hikers or get tangled around other pets, people or plants. It’s important to always have control of your pet.

  35. Shannon Irvine

    All of our dogs love to go hiking. Keeping them close and also watching for potential threats has kept everyone safe so far. (Knock on wood!)

  36. Priscilla P.

    I worry about my Cujo drinking enough water while hiking. I like the ideal of dog-friendly water flavoring to add to their water. Where can Ifind this?

  37. Barbara Kirshner

    I love all these great tips, thank you. My dog just loves to take walks and I always bring lots of water and snacks for him.

  38. Ebony B

    I always have to bring my dog’s mask cause she 12 years old and a bit on the heavier side but other than that she enjoys her hikes!

  39. Anne Scott

    We go on hikes often and these are great tips! One other is to make sure they stay on the trail. Once suddenly my dog ran off and I found him when he started yelping because he’d discovered the honey in an active bee hive! Between the two of us we got stung many times before we could escape.

  40. Christine Goodenough

    Great tips. I’d ad not to be afraid to tell other hikers “No” as in no my dog doesn’t want to be friends with your dog, no your child may not hug/kiss/ pet or otherwise get near my dog. Not everyone has canine common sense & it’s your job to protect your pup from well meaning but foolish people.

  41. Shirley Smith

    Make sure you spray your dogs with a bug repellant to keep the bugs off them. So they will be more comfortable on the hikes.

  42. Ashley Holguin

    Great tips! Now that the weather is cooler here in AZ we’re planning on taking the pups for their first hike! Depending on the weather the only other things I’d recommend are cooling vests or sweaters for those thinner coated dogs. And for those with high prey drive a GPS collar attachment just in case Fido sneaks away!

  43. Danielle Lindquist

    My dog loves to hike and walk around! We just recently rescued him from a kill shelter in southern California and I can tell he didn’t get to do stuff like that before his shelter days, glad we have him now!

  44. Melia

    I always bring plenty of fresh water for my Border Collie and myself. She loves to hike anywhere, anytime, any surface, as long as she is busy.

  45. Patsy Maloney

    Always monitore your pets paws. Bring alot of water. Bring healthy treats along. Allow resting periods. Have an appropiate leash. Check for ticks!!

  46. Megan Hill

    My dog is older and we are never quite sure how long she will be able to hike. We always try to find a place that gives us several “exit” points in case she is too tired to go any longer (she’s a big dog so we can’t carry her!). Either that or find a place that has a lot of shade and areas to rest.

  47. Megan B.

    We love going hiking and those tick keys are the absolute best! We literally don’t leave home without at least one anymore!

  48. Andrea B

    I always put a light on my dog’s collar too for the added visibility. A bell is useful too so you can hear where they are and they can alert wildlife so they don’t spook them.

  49. charles frest

    I hike daily with my dogs, I always keep them on leash, you never know what is around the next bend, one day it was a Mountain Lion.

  50. Jennifer Ruggles

    I was able to find a first aid kit for both me and my dog. It saves space and weight in my backpack! Plus, I’m prepared if either one of us gets hurt.

  51. Jessie Green

    A lot of places I go allow dogs to be off leash if under voice control. Wally loves to run in the woods but he’s tan and blends with the forest easily so I bought him a bird dog bell for his collar that way even if he’s way up ahead of me or deep in the woods I can know where he is by the sound of the bell.

  52. Katie Van Riper

    This makes me so happy! I’m always out and about in the mountains with my dog and need as many safety tips as I can get!

  53. Linda Szymoniak

    My dogs never go without a leash. I’ve seen even the best trained dogs run off after something. I always worry when I see anyone with a dog off-leash. My dogs get walking/hiking in on the leash. They can run to their hearts’ content in our securely fenced yard.

  54. Ann Miller

    We hike on our property and after one of the dogs tore an ear, I’ve checked the trails for briars and removed them by the roots. It was at dusk and I used a cold compress to stop the bleeding when i realized the problem. Then he would shake his head & the bleeding would start again slinging blood everywhere. It sounds much worse than it was, but the small tear bled a lot, it healed & you can not see the injury unless you are looking for it. So I don’t know what one would do if they were hiking an unfamiliar area & this happened. One doesn’t usually carry a cold compress along. You could carry clippers for briars, but the dogs usually go first.

  55. Emma

    These tips were really great! We don’t get to hike munch because we live in Fl and there’s not much to see but these tips are also useful for the beach!


    we make sure we bring plenty of water nails are clipped leash and tags are up to date along with shots and make sure we bring a first aid kit just in case he gets injured

  57. Darlin McDaniel

    Excellent tips! Couldn’t think of anything you missed. We had a great time last month hiking with our two dogs at Swallow Falls State Park in MD.

  58. Linda Holpuch

    Always have your dog properly ID with a microchip and tags on the collar. Before heading out for the first time, spend some time teaching your dogs a few basic commands .

  59. Misty Farris

    Great tips! I don’t know why I never thought about having my dog carry a pack. It will definitely make our trip a little more comfortable for me.

  60. Kayla Lussier

    When hiking with my dog, I always be sure to bring plenty of water and treats for the longer hikes. I also be sure to hike in areas safe for both me and my dog. Keep an eye on ticks by keeping my dog out of heavy wooded areas or brush.

  61. Kevin

    I’ve got a three legged dog. So I’m always looking to avoid broken glass. Else he becomes a temporary two legged dog. So when you see any graffiti,it’s not uncommon for broken bottles to be near. “Party Area” …

  62. Cheryl Butchko

    My dogs love the outdoors and I can’t wait to introduce my new puppy to it as well. He’s going to be a much bigger dog so we’re going to need a bigger backpack.

  63. Kathryn S

    My dog absolutely loves to hike. These are great tips! They are all so important. I always pack water and a travel water bowl that clips right to my jeans.

  64. Pam

    All great tips!! My new puppy is going to be a rock star hiker and this check list will be a big help to make sure we are fully prepared.

  65. Susan P.

    So far we’ve taken the dog on short hikes and carry water and treats as well as poop bags. Nothing worse than poop o the trail!

  66. Linda S Davison

    Great list of information when hiking with your dog. I always pick up my dogs poop and other poop left by other careless dog owners. I put in doggie poop bag then a ziplock bag. Dogs pass parvovirus and other diseases though their poop, so important to make sure your dog is up-to-date being vaccinated. My lab carries a pack too which helps my upper spine.

  67. Mea Kring

    This is a great article! I go hiking with my Sammy, an American Eskimo every weekend, weather permitting. I always bought plenty of water, treats and such but I will incorporate him carrying his own things, like I do me. He will feel more rewarded and it is great to get him working as well. I pay special attention to the trails with my little guy due to many copperheads in our area so safety is also a must! Thanks for the info!! I learned much.

  68. Patricia Biggar

    All these tips are so important. The first aid kit is a must and you can easily combine it with the one you keep for yourself. Also, having proff of your dog’s vaccinations is a great idea…just in case you ever need it in a pinch!

  69. Alicia Mertz

    If you decide to try use boots on your dog, make sure you’re removing the boots regularly and checking your dog’s paws for any pressure sores or rubs from the boots themselves. They’re great for protecting feet from sharp rocks or hot ground, but on really long hikes, the boots themselves can sometimes cause irritation.

  70. Karen Seneker

    The subject matter is great. So many people take their dogs hiking without water, treats, poop bags etc. Dogs love being a part of the hike experience by participating as with a backpack. Mine love it when I tell them that we are on a “sniffing walk” because they are free to explore. A tip for on leash hikes: use a harness rather than a collar for the leash. My boys get excited sometimes and pull. This is dangerous and can damage their esophagus. Remember to put their collar on though, for identification, even in the car. Dogs love their collars, they mean a lot to them. The collar means they belong and have a home, they are very proud of that.
    Dogs need short hikes, with all the equipment so that they learn what is acceptable and so that the experience becomes familiar. It alleviates any fear or anxiety before going on long hikes. I could go on, but this is enough for now.

  71. Angela

    Please always keep your dogs on a leash, especially in state parks where it is required. I love to hike with my dog and appreciate other people’s space and my own. Off leash dogs cause concern for everyone. Thanks!

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