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11 Vet-Reviewed Essentials for Hiking with Dogs: 2024 Gear Guide

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By Nicole Cosgrove

Going hiking with a dog

Vet approved

Dr. Maja Platisa Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Maja Platisa

In-House Veterinarian, DVM MRCVS

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Taking your dog hiking is a great way to provide exercise while giving you some company and even providing you with a little protection and reassurance while you’re on the trail. However, just as you wouldn’t head off on a 10-mile hike without the proper walking gear, your dog needs the right equipment, too.

Below, we have listed the dog hiking gear essentials that will make the walk easier, safer, healthier, or more fun, depending on what it is.

However, before taking up hiking with your dog, make sure they are old enough and fit, as hiking is not suitable for puppies, growing young dogs (depending on their age and breed), middle-aged or older dogs with arthritis, and dogs with heart or respiratory disease. Hiking should not be done in hot weather, as dogs may not be able to cope with the heat and may suffer from heatstroke.

Brachycephalic dogs are particularly at risk of heatstroke and overexertion during summer months, and hiking is generally not a suitable means of exercise for them. Hiking in very cold weather may lead to frostbite and hypothermia and should also be avoided.

If your dog gets sick, injured, or starts limping during your hike, do not continue any further and return promptly to your car so that your dog can be checked out at the nearest local veterinarian. Make sure your dog has regular and up-to-date protection against fleas, ticks, mosquitos, and internal parasites, particularly before hiking.

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The 11 Essential Supplies & Products for Hiking With Dogs

Walking Supplies

1. Leash

 

Frisco Outdoor Waterproof Stinkproof PVC Rope Leash

A leash is an important piece of kit whether you’re walking your dog through the local woodlands or just around an enclosed dog park. If you’re going on a tough hike, the leash needs to be up to the task. It should be waterproof, and rugged in case it snags on rocks or other difficult surfaces, and it should be easy to securely fasten to a collar or harness.


2. Waist Leash

Tuff Mutt Hands-Free Bungee Leash

A waist leash fastens around your waist at one end and to the dog’s collar or harness at the other end. It means your hands are free for carrying bags or keeping your balance over particularly tricky terrain, and the leash should have at least one handle so you can still hold the leash when you need to, for example, to keep your dog closer to you and prevent them from pulling to get to wildlife.

A waist leash needs to be slightly elasticated, like the Tuff Mutt Hands-Free Bungee Leash, otherwise, it will be an uncomfortable walk for both of you.


3. Harness

PetSafe EasySport Nylon Reflective Back Clip Dog Harness

A harness, which spreads weight and pressure around the whole body, is more comfortable for your dog than a simple collar, which concentrates all of that pressure around the neck. It will make the hike more comfortable and enjoyable for your dog. The PetSafe EasySport Nylon Reflective Back Clip Dog Harness has reflective piping so your dog is more easily seen at night, as well as padding around the neckline and harness itself so it’s a comfortable fit.

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Safety Essentials

4. GPS Collar

tractive GPS Tracker for Dogs

No matter how careful you are, there is always a risk that your dog may get away from you. Even if they’re chipped and wear an ID collar, you run the risk of your dog getting hopelessly lost with no people around to find the ID collar or scan the chip. A GPS collar like the Tractive GPS Tracker For Dogs enables you to track your dog in real time via your smartphone.

You do need a monthly subscription but the tracker is waterproof, lightweight, and sits comfortably on the side of your dog’s neck.


5. First Aid Kit

Rubyloo Dog First Aid Kit

Accidents do happen and if you’re miles away from the car when they do happen, you will need first aid provisions to ensure that you’re OK, but what if your dog gets injured? The Rubyloo Dog First Aid Kit is compact enough to conveniently sit in a backpack, and it contains the essential items you need to be able to provide emergency first aid to clean wounds, cuts, abrasions, and other common injuries before you can get to a vet. Everything is tightly packed away, so it won’t roll or bounce around while you’re walking either.

If an injury or accident happens and you are not sure what to do, call your vet for advice and they will give you tips on managing this before you are able to get to the nearest clinic. If your dog experiences any kind of injury or illness during your hike, stop the hike, tend to their injuries as best as possible, return to your car, and get your dog checked out by the closest vet.


6. Sunscreen

Lucky Pup SPF40 Lotion Dog Cream Sunscreen

Dogs have some natural protection from the sun’s potentially harmful rays, and skin cancer in dogs is usually influenced by other factors than the sun, but if you’re going to be out for several hours, even their coat may not provide enough protection. Light-colored dogs or those with thin coats, and particularly hairless areas on the body such as nose, tips of the ears, and the eyelids, are more exposed to the sun. If the sun is too strong or there is no natural shade, such as trees, it is best not to go for a hike after all, as alongside sunburn, overheating and heat stroke are serious concerns.  

If your dog ends up ingesting any sunscreen, consult with your vet to see if there are any expected side effects based on the ingredients list. This is best avoided by applying it in areas out of the dog’s reach. If your dog’s skin shows any irritation after you have applied the sunscreen, it’s best to rinse it off with water, speak to your vet, and avoid using it in the future. 

Lucky Pup SPF40 Lotion Dog Cream Sunscreen contains shea butter, coconut oil, aloe oil, and more to offer your dog protection against the sun and is not meant to be ingested.

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Environmental Care

7. Poop Bags

PET N PET Tie Handle Dog Poop Bags

Any time you walk your dog out of the house, it is a good idea to have poop bags with you, but this is especially important if you’re out on a long hike. Your dog won’t be able to hold it in until they get home and if they poop while you’re out on the trail, you need a simple and convenient way to pick it up.

We prefer poop bags with handles because they’re easier to tie and easier to carry, and these Pet N Pet Tie Handle Dog Poop Bags are made from recycled materials so they’re good for the environment.


8. Poop Bag Bag

Dog Doo Tube Reusable Dog Poop Holder

You can be walking literally miles before you see a waste bin in some areas, which means you can spend hours carrying around a full dog poop bag. No matter how good the bag is, carrying it isn’t convenient. Rather than leaving it and hoping to find it on the way back, the Dog Doo Tube Reusable Dog Poop Holder has a tight-fitting lid so the container not only prevents you from dropping the bag but keeps smells and germs inside.

When you get to a bin, you can empty the holder and it can be clipped to the leash or your bag for easy carrying.

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Comfort Supplies

9. Water Bottle and Bowl

KONG H2O K9 UNIT Insulated Stainless Steel Dog Water Bottle & Travel Bowl

Your dog needs rehydrating as often, if not more often than you do, but you don’t want to have to carry a water bowl every you go and hope to find a tap or another water source. You certainly don’t want to let your dog drink from streams and rivers that could be polluted or contain any of a host of bacteria or even chemicals. The KONG H2O K9 UNIT is a travel water bottle that comes with its own portable water bowl.

The bowl sits around the bottle and both are made from food-grade stainless steel. The bottle holds 25 ounces, but this may not be enough for every dog and will depend on length of hike, outside temperature, and terrain difficulty. It’s important to carry extra water, as dogs will drink much more than 50 milliliters of water per kilogram of body weight per day, or 1.7 ounces per 2.2 pounds, during a hike. It’s best to bring even twice as much and to check if there are any places on the way where you can fill up your water bottles with clean and safe water.


10. Snacks

ACANA High-Protein Biscuits Grain-Free Chicken Liver Recipe

ACANA High-Protein Biscuits are chicken-liver flavored and palatable for your dog, and 85% of the total protein is animal-based. However, don’t overdo snacks, as they are dry and may make your dog even more thirsty, and excess snacks can lead to a stomach upset. If your dog has food allergies, pick the snacks carefully and avoid the ingredients that are troublesome for your dog. Carrying their usual food is another option and can be offered during the hike as treats.


11. Dog Rucksack

Kurgo Baxter Dog Backpack

Although you should never overload your dog with provisions, some breeds are naturally capable of carrying a little extra weight while they’re out hiking, so why not take advantage of this and have your dog carry their own supplies and equipment? The Kurgo Baxter Dog Backpack is a lightweight but rugged backpack that is adjustable to meet the shape and size of your dog. 

First, get your dog used to wearing it empty for a few walks and hikes, and then try with just a few things in the backpack. Always make sure your dog is comfortable, and remember that the maximum load in the backpack should be no more than 10-12% of their body weight.

This backpack has spine padding and extra support to help spread the weight of the bag contents and make it more comfortable and convenient for your dog. If your dog has any ambulatory or spinal problems, this must be avoided, and they should not be hiking in the first place.

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Should Dogs Eat Before or After Hiking?

Generally, you should either feed your dog a very small portion of their usual meal or wait a few hours after feeding them before taking them out hiking, and avoid feeding them immediately after the walk. You can provide snacks, especially protein snacks, while on the walk or when they finish the walk, but wait until you get home before feeding them a big meal. This is especially important in large and giant deep-chested breeds.

Do Dogs Get Tired From Hiking?

Dogs do get tired from hiking, although it will depend on your dog’s energy levels, experience walking long distances, age and the conditions of the day. If you notice your dog dropping behind, walking more slowly, lying down often, panting, and puffing their way up the trail, it’s a sign to cut the hike short and start heading back home. 

If your dog has any underlying health conditions, is on treatment, or you have a growing puppy, they should not be hiking. Consult with your vet about appropriate individual exercise plans.

Do make sure you have enough water for your dog, and consider taking some energy snacks with you. You should also build up to very long walks, starting with shorter walks that are easier to manage.

woman is hiking with a dog in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado
Photo Credit: Larry Barrett, Shutterstock

Should I Bathe My Dog After a Hike?

Hiking trails can be filled with dust, dirt, debris, and other items. If left on your dog’s paws or in their coat, these can be irritating. Bathing your dog is a good idea if they get dirty or roll in something particularly disgusting, but it is generally not a good idea to bathe a dog too often. If your dog isn’t too mucky, use a towel and gently rub them down, or wash specific body parts, such as their paws, to get rid of the excess dirt.

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Conclusion

Some dogs love to go out hiking as much as their owners, and hiking together is a good way to bond, exercise, and fill your time. You will both need suitable equipment, provisions, and level of fitness; however, setting off with no preparation could lead to one or both of you getting injured or hating the whole experience.

If your dog doesn’t enjoy hiking, do not force them to do it again, or make the hikes much shorter and consider other exercises, such as agility, as you want to make the experience as enjoyable as possible. Hopefully, the list of items above has helped you make a shortlist of items you need to ensure a positive experience for all.


Featured Image Credit: Kasefoto, Shutterstock

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