Do’s and Don'ts While Hiking with Your Dog and Other Pets
For those who love spending time in the great outdoors, there aren’t many things that can make that time better. Spending it with our loved ones definitely augments it, especially if they are fluffy and cuddly.
Hiking with your dog or your other pets can be a great experience. It also offers a lot of positives for both you and your pet. For example, hiking helps burn stress and energy. It can be an excellent bonding experience and improves both of your cardiovascular health.
If you haven’t tried hiking with your pet before, there are a couple of Do’s and Don’ts you should know. Getting these down will mean you are a lot more prepared for what awaits you and your pet, whether you bring your dog, cat, goat, or guinea pig.
The Do’s and Don'ts While Hiking with Your Pet
DO follow the Leave No Trace principles
First and foremost, we can’t stress enough how vital the Leave No Trace (LNT) principles are when you are on any trail. Whether you are backpacking through the wilderness or stretching your legs for a walk around the forest lake, LNT principles apply.
Leave No Trace means that when you leave, no one should be able to tell you were there. The idea is that you interact with nature without harming it.
When you bring a pet into nature, it is even more critical. If your dog poops, be sure to pick it up. The scent of a predator’s scat can unbalance an ecosystem, causing prey animals to move away from the area for a while.
DON’T hike with your pet in areas where they aren’t allowed
There are established rules for our natural areas for a reason. Most of the time, that reason incorporates protecting both you and wildlife. If the local or national government has stated no pets are allowed, they want to protect that area. It is best to respect that. You can often look to trail signs to figure out whether pets are allowed on that particular path or not.
As an example, you can take your dog into most of America’s National Parks and walk with them in developed areas, such as paved paths and campgrounds. However, they don’t want you out on one of the dirt trails if your dog disrupts the nature the National Parks were set up to help preserve.
DO provide your pet with the right hiking gear
Just because your animal might have ancestors that were once wild doesn’t mean they are perfectly equipped to handle nature with just their fluff and good looks. Getting them the right gear helps both you and your pet.
For example, having a well-fitted harness for your dog will mean having increased control of them, keeping them safe on more dangerous parts of the trail. You should also ensure they have snacks and water, just like you need on a hot day spent walking.
DON’T bring an aggressive animal
Although this point plays along with protecting the wildlife we have highlighted previously, it is still essential. If you have an aggressive animal, they shouldn’t be on the trail. Injuring wildlife, another hiker, or another pet should never be a possibility.
DO train your pet to practice good trail etiquette
Anyone who hikes consistently likely has trail etiquette and rules ingrained into them. It is good to have a refresher by training your animal to follow good hiking etiquette as well. If you are hiking with a dog on a leash, you should give way to other hikers.
They should know not to bark on the trail. Another good rule of thumb: if you are in an area where you can let your animal off the leash, make sure they have total recall to keep them or anything else from getting hurt.
DON’T forget that your pet has its limits
Perhaps you have a dog, cat, or another pet you believe to be reasonably fit. Remember that hiking is a new activity that your animal needs to adjust to before it can go on forever. Even if your pet looks to be having the time of their lives, which they probably are, it is up to you to care for them.
Be aware of your pet’s physical limits and endurance. Do some smaller test hikes before taking them out on long ones. Vary the terrain, so they are ready for anything.
Get Ready to Hit the Trail Animal-Style
No matter what kind of pet you have, hiking together will likely be something they enjoy. Almost all animals like getting the chance to spend extra time outside, come rain or shine. The overarching thing to remember is that it is up to you as the pet owner to be responsible.
It doesn’t matter how well you have your dog trained. In a new situation, you will put their obedience to the test. Be prepared to make adjustments to your hiking style on the trail, especially when you go out with them for the first time. Finally, don’t forget to have fun.
Jennifer Schultz – Guest Blogger
Title: Outdoor Guide, Instructor, and Naturalist
Expertise: Hiking, backpacking, rock climbing, and skiing
Education: University of Cumbria
Jennifer is a professional outdoor guide, instructor, and naturalist with a passion for helping people get outside.
She works as a freelance outdoor instructor for a number of different organizations in Northern Norway and abroad, giving newcomers to the outdoors the skills they need to enjoy themselves in the mountains. Jennifer also works as a freelance assessor for the Duke of Edinburgh program, helping students learn how to plan and enjoy an expedition to the mountains.
Before launching her career as an outdoor guide, Jennifer also spent time working as a fundraiser and volunteer for a number of different environmentalism-focused NGOs. During her time working in the non-profit sector, Jennifer helped to encourage community involvement in important environmental causes and she helped to raise funds to support organizations looking to conserve vital natural spaces.
These days, Jennifer splits her time between working outside and writing for a number of different outdoor industry publications. If she’s not at work, you can find Jennifer climbing in Lofoten or enjoying a hut-to-hut ski trip in Norway’s Telemark Region.