6 Tips to Prepare Your Dog For Hiking

Prepare Your Dog For Hiking  by Lazhar Ichir   |Last Updated 06-17-2021

Preparing a week-long escapade in the wild with your dog requires common sense. So does a simple overnight trip in a near forest.

Indeed, when away from home for more than a daily walk, the dog owner is the dog’s guardian. In other words, you must be prepared for all situations that are likely to happen, especially accidents and emergencies.

There are several ways to tackle these potential problems: prepare your dog for hiking, pick the right hiking trails, choose the right hiking gears, and be prepared in case problems do happen.

Let’s see what are our 6 tips to prepare your dog for hiking (or camping!)

Prepare your dog for hiking or campingMany small breed dogs love to hike or camp.

Prepare Your Dog for Hiking Before the Big Event

Tip 1:  Dogs Need Adequate Conditioning

When going into the wild for a whole day or an entire weekend, one would expect a lot of walking. More than that, walking on a pavement has nothing to do with walking on an uphill path in the woods.

Your days will be more strenuous for both the dog and yourself, but also healthy for both your bodies and your nervous systems. Therefore, before even considering to leave your home, train for a few sessions.

Don’t worry, we are not talking about hitting the gym just to prepare for a day out with the dog, but instead, do your daily walks with a heavy backpack and walk twice as fast. Same for your dog, make him run more than usual on different surfaces.

You can prepare your dog for hiking simply by picking up the pace just a little.

Tip 2:  Get the Right Backpack and Balance It Out

Whenever we think about adventure, we think of backpacks. The mother of all gears when going out and you should absolutely pick the best one for you but way, more importantly, you must choose a quality dog backpack for your companion.

What’s a good backpack for a dog, you ask?

  • A Comfortable backpack can’t be too loose or too tight
  • Compartments:  are you more of a big pouch person, or do you need different pockets?
  • Lightweight: the backpack itself has to be sturdy but not heavy so prefer premium heavy-duty materials
  • Waterproof elements are unpredictable, so the pack has to be ready for all eventualities

The problems start once the backpack is purchased. Yes, you read me right.

More than your dog’s backpack, the distribution of weight when your dog wears its pack is crucial. It is your duty to put the same amount of weight on both sides, so your dog’s body doesn’t end up injured.

It’s not rocket science, but it simply requires your attention especially when you start loading and unloading items throughout your adventure. Always keep the balance on the top of your mind!

Tip 3:  Prepare Calorie-Dense Foods and Treats

When hiking for more than a single day with your dog, you want to have enough to fuel your adventures and have as little as possible to remain light and mobile. The best solution for your dog is to bring healthy high-calorie treats and foods along. 

If you are a good cook, you can prepare these yourself using bananas, peanut butter, beef, and any wholesome quality ingredients. If you prefer to buy things ready, prefer the working dog's section over the low-fat one.

Make sure everything you bring is loved by your dog, though. You don’t want to end up with a grumpy pet not wanting to eat after 36 hours in the woods.

Tip 4:   Protect Your Dog’s Paws

By walking intensively on various surfaces your dog is not used to, you expose his or her paws and pads to cuts, scratches, and irritations. It is the most common reason to coming back home earlier than expected.

Two solutions here.

First, you can use dog boots or dog socks, but these are not comfortable for dogs and do well for short durations. Dogs like to feel the surface and boots or socks will cancel that. These would be great if you go through mud or ice-cold water for example.

Second, and much better option, is to use a protective wax to create a barrier between the ground and the pads.

Musher's Secret is by far the most popular choice in that category, and they are used for dogs going into extreme conditions. So the forest hiking should be easily handled.

Tip 5:   Prepare a Dog First Aid Kit

Tweezers, dressings, bandages, scissors, cotton wool, thermometer, disinfectants and painkillers. And this is just a very short list of what you must bring with you on the road. 

Emergencies don’t call you, they just happen when you least expect them.  Most of the time, it’s a splinter in a pad or a little cut because of a branch. Regardless, you must have a complete dog first aid kit to be prepared to care for and look after your dog as soon as you detect an anomaly.

Don’t freak out, though, dogs are descending from the wolf who lives in the woods, so they are somewhat built to thrive such an environment. But, better be safe than sorry, right?

Tip 6:   Every Little Thing Counts

Final tip and perhaps the most underrated one: thoroughly prepare your trip. Not just the itinerary, not just the food and water, but all the other little things we too often forget:

  • Extra batteries and a flashlight
  • Vet emergency numbers
  • Printed maps of the area
  • How-To articles for dog first aid
  • An extra lead and collar in case they break

All of this won’t add much weight in your own backpack, yet they can save  you some trouble if problems occur.

Ask yourself how many breaks your dog should take and try to set a countdown alarm never to miss one. See if you could stop by a pond for a break, so your dog can relax and cool itself if it’s a hot day. You get the gist!

Prepare Your Dog for Hiking:  The Takeaway

If I painted a dark picture of hiking with a dog here, it is to draw the attention to the importance of being ready. Nine times out of ten, dog owners enjoy a several-day-long hike with their dogs with not a single issue.

A lot of people think buying the best gear will save them for all sorts of problems, but I don’t believe so. Common sense first, good gear second.

No need to use one without the other, that’s for sure!

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6 Tips to Prepare Your Dog For Hiking was written by Lazhar Ichir

Lazhar Ichir is the founder of Breeding Business, a free online magazine discussing ethical dog breeding.

Debates, news, in-depth articles, reviews, and guides: it is a platform for responsible breeders who love their breed more than they love themselves.

About Janice (author and voice behind this site)

Having lived with dogs and cats most of her life, Janice served as a veterinary technician for ten years in Maryland and twelve years as a Shih Tzu dog breeder in Ohio.

Her education includes undergraduate degrees in Psychology with a minor in biology, Early Childhood Education, and Nursing, and a master's in Mental Health Counseling.

She is a lifelong learner, a dog lover, and passionate about the welfare of animals. Her favorite breed for over 50 years has been the Shih Tzu, but she has also lived with Poodles, Maltese, Yorkshire Terriers, Beagles, English Bulldogs, Carin Terriers, and a Cocker Spaniel.

When not writing, reading, and researching dog-related topics, she likes to spend time with her eight Shih Tzu dogs, husband, and family, as well as knitting and crocheting. She is also the voice behind Miracle Shih Tzu and Smart-Knit-Crocheting

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