How to hike with your dog

With staycations on the rise and more time on your hands in retirement, hiking has become a common pastime to those who love the great outdoors. Going on long hikes through the bushland, with spellbinding views and secret trails, may be a rediscovered passion for you.

And why not share this wonderful hobby with your furry friend?

Your canine companion surely loves nature as you do. The new trails are stimulating and exciting for your dog. Hiking together is also a great bonding exercise between pet parent and furball.

While all of these things are true, owners are often nervous when hiking with their dogs. It is somewhat unpredictable after all, isn’t it?

Fear not. With some preparation and the correct gear, you’ll be able to hike with your doggie with confidence.

The Golden Rules of Hiking with Dogs

Plan your route
The natural terrain of Australia can be perilous. Steep cliffs and unstable rocks all pose dangers to you and your dog.

Planning out your route is important for the safety of both of you. This means knowing the exact terrain you’re expecting to pass and how long the hike may be.

It is good to know what the weather is likely to be on your chosen hiking trip. Hiking in extremely hot temperatures is not safe for either of you.

It is also advisable to schedule some rest points on long hikes for a water and snack break if needed. Older dogs will definitely need frequent stops along the way.

Pace yourself
If you have kept up a hiking habit your entire life, you are likely a pro with your strength and endurance. You know exactly how high you can climb and how fast you can go. Your dog, however, needs training to build up those same skills.

It may be tempting to take your dog along to your most ambitious hike with the incredible views across the plain, but it’s not a good idea. You could end up carrying them home!

Start slow. Do one mini-hike and see how your dog reacts. Do they tire easily? Do they struggle with uphill climbs? Are steep downhill climbs intimidating? Experiment with your dog to find the perfect routes for both of you.

Respect fellow hikers
Every hiker has some unspoken rules to be kind to fellow hikers and the surrounding nature. With dogs, this can translate in a couple of ways. If dogs are not allowed off-leash on a certain trail, respect that rule. Make sure that you clean up any ‘number twos’ left by your dog during the walk. You should also only let your dog off of their leash if you are confident with their recall skills.

Keep a watchful eye on your dog
This is the most golden of these golden rules. It is key that you can read your dog’s body language and are attentive to their signals. If your dog is panting a lot, take a water break and sit with them for awhile. If they limp at any point, they may have stepped on a spike or been bitten by an insect. Pay attention to your dog throughout the walk, just in case they show signs of distress.

What you will need to hike with your dog safely
Having the right equipment is paramount when hiking with your furry companion.

Sharon Elber, a professional trainer at Gentle Dog Trainers, says: “ Having an enjoyable hike with your dog starts with the right gear and an understanding of your dog’s physical limits. Preparation is key.”

Here are some important items you need for a safe hike together.

A strong leash
As obedient as your dog may be, a leash is very important to bring with you. As we mentioned, some hiking trails require that dogs are kept on their leash throughout the walk.

Beyond that, it is good practice to keep your dog on their leash if you are on a popular trail with many fellow hikers around. Other dogs and people can be unpredictable.

If you are passing tricky terrain or a particularly high point with steep edges, a leash may also give you that extra security.

A well-fitted harness
Harnesses are great for hiking. Collars can pull on your dog’s neck, applying pressure on their trachea – very unpleasant! A well-fitted, comfortable harness is much safer and easier to use when on the trail.

Water and a portable bowl
It goes without saying that both of you need to stay hydrated during your hike. Factor in enough fresh water for both of you to drink during your travels.

There may be water sources on your trail, like rivers and lakes, but don’t count on that. Water with lots of algae is unsafe to drink anyway.

Since dogs drink in a lapping motion, it is always handy to have a portable water bowl with you whenever you need it. Much more sanitary than them having to drink from your hand or from a formless pool on the ground.

Enjoy hiking with your doggie!
You and your dog can have a wonderful time hiking. With preparation and the right gear, you have no cause to worry at all. We hope this guide encourages you to share your passion for hiking with your Fido.

Do you hike with your dog? Do you have any tips you can share with our members?

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Written by YourLifeChoices Writers

YourLifeChoices' team of writers specialise in content that helps Australian over-50s make better decisions about wealth, health, travel and life. It's all in the name. For 22 years, we've been helping older Australians live their best lives.

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