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Hiking with Your Dog – Gear You Need & What to Know on the Trail

You just got a puppy and want to take it hiking, but don’t know what to do?  That’s exactly where my friend Stephanie Gerry and her fiancé Aaron were until she asked me.  Steph also happens to be a reporter for Studio 512 on KXAN in Austin, Texas, so we turned “prepping your pup for the trail” into two tv segments with her sweet puppy Millie, a German shorthaired pointer.

If you follow me on social media, you know I’m a huge dog lover.  I travel too much these days to have a pup of my own, but love helping others get their dogs outside for hiking and other adventures.  I’ll always be the one on the trail asking if I can pet your dog!  


Before you hit the trail with your pup, here are a couple of musts:

*Your dog is trained with at least basic commands of no, sit, stay.

*Fido is fit for hiking. Like humans, dogs need workouts too. If your dog is going to wear a pack, then it needs to train at home wearing the pack before hitting trail

*Your dog is wearing ID tags.  Microchip is great too.

*Your dog is leash trained so you’re not having to yank and dog walks/hikes easily on a loose lead.

To get Millie geared up for the trail, we met at Phydeaux and Friends, a wonderful pet store in Austin. While Millie was having a heyday with treats and toys galore, we were on a mission to get Millie ready for hiking. Here’s my must have gear list for hiking with a dog:

Non-retractable leash or harness 

Water bowl and water for dog – at least a quart of water for every 3 miles

Treats/Snacks (and Food for longer hikes – 50% more than normally eats)

Dog booties for sensitive paws or hot terrain

Poop bags (plus zippered freezer bags)

Dog first aid – Dogs see the world at about knee height, so they are much more susceptible to cuts and nicks on the trail from brush than you are.  You can buy a canine first aid kit, powder for paw cuts, and salve for cuts

Dog specific bug spray and sunscreen

Once we got Millie geared up, we went out for a short hike, since it was her first.  We headed over to Bull Creek in Austin.  It was sensory overload for Millie as soon as we got the trailhead.  Since you do have to pick up after your pup, I’d suggest spending a few moments letting your dog explore close to trailhead.  The reason?  Because there are usually trashcans at trailheads and you can easily discard a poop bag.  When you put your sunscreen and bug spray on at the trailhead, put some dog specific spray on your pup too.  

On the Trail: 

Chose a dog friendly trail

Know the leash law – some trails require non-retractable leads of 6 feet 

Non-retractable leash is always best on the trail – I like the ones you can wear around your waist and ones than have a bungy spring in them for a little give

Make sure your dog is drinking when you do (about every 15-30 minutes)

Stay on the trail

Yield right-of-way to all others on trail

Keep an eye on your pup’s paws – Avoid sharp rock, off-trail route, steep drops, and hot surfaces

Watch what your pup eats – mushrooms, cattails, poop, pinecones, plants can make your dog very since and can even be deadly

Hike early morning in summer to avoid the heat of the day because dogs overheat faster than humans

Can mix electrolyte fluid like Pedialyte with water but talk to your vet first

If hiking with dog off leash – 

Dog should heel immediately on request

            Know commands – No, Sit, Stay, Come, Off, Leave It

If you encounter a loose dog –

            Leash your own dog, allow for a quick sniff, and continue on

Encountering others on the trail –

            Don’t allow dog to lunge forward

            Ask if it okay to greet the other dog

If you’re a hiker without a dog and want to pet an approaching dog, ask owner if okay to pet dog.  Let the dog sniff your hand first then share a pat or an ear scratch.

Tread Gently

            Stay on trail

            Don’t disturb wildlife – If dog starts barking at wildlife, try to stop it as quickly as possible

Pack out the Poop

            You are responsible for cleaning up your dog’s waste

Leave No Trace principle applies.  Remember dog’s waste could contaminate drinking water

            Don’t stash it on the trail thinking you’ll get it later. You’ll likely forget

Double bag it – Put poop bag in a zipper freezer bag first then inside another plastic bag (that was actually Steph’s favorite tip!)

Post Hike:

Check paws for cuts

Look for ticks, cuts, burrs, and burns – just like you need to do a tick check on you, your dog need a look over as well

Doggie bath – always a great idea to get a hose down, swim or bath after fun on the trail

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