Hiking With Dogs

Occasionally, search and rescue will get calls for assistance from someone hiking with their dog. Sometimes it is not the person in trouble but it is their dog. The following article addresses the issue of hiking with your dog in the backcountry: Courteous Hiking With Your Dog On Public Lands Written by Jill Reynolds of Larimer County Search and Rescue

Here are some tips to prepare you and your dog for hiking in the wilderness.

Dog Conditioning and Physical Fitness

If you are not in shape for hiking then your dog is not either. It would be best if you both get in shape for hiking before taking your dog on a hike.

Dog Behavior on the Trail

Make sure your dog is obedient, well mannered, and socialized with humans and other dogs before taking them on a trail. Teach them to not chase wild animals.

Trail Etiquette

It is the dog owners responsibility to keep their dog safe and politely share the backcountry with others, including those who don’t like dogs. The worst thing we can do is let Bowser bound through the mud, jump up on a fellow hiker, while we scream “It’s OK….He’s friendly!!!” Bad form.

Understand that some people just don’t want to be approached by any dog. Period. What’s more, they have that right. Keep your dog under control and never assume folks are tickled to see your handsome dog frolicking in the forest.

With that knowledge, here are some other suggestions to help you get along with your fellow outdoor adventurists.

    1. Scan ahead and look for hikers, bicyclists, and horses headed your way on the trail. Be proactive, move off the trail, sit/stay your dog, and let others pass. Don’t worry about park signs indicating who has the right of way. Take the high road and move your dog off trail no matter who is coming. This will not only result in good will, but it will keep your dog safe from spooked equines and out-of-control mountain bikers.


    1. Occasionally, check behind you to see who might be coming. Horseback riders and bicyclists can come up on you fast, surprising and startling both you and your dog. Again, be proactive, get off the trail and let them go through.


    1. Be aware of blind turns on the trail. Listen for folks talking, horse hooves, or airborne bicycles headed your way.


    1. When meeting horseback riders, get to the downhill side of the trail, move at least 10 yards off if possible, and stay quiet and still. Horses are prey animals and startling them can lead to serious safety problems for everyone.


  1. Clean up after your dog. On popular trails, the six feet on either side of the path gets ugly and stinky fast. The first 1/4 mile from the parking lot will have the most land mines dropped. Do your part and pick up.

Trail Regulations

Before embarking on your hike, familiarize yourself with the rules and regulations of the area you are going to hike in.

Not following the rules and regulations can lead to arrest and fines. This will definitely ruin your day.

Day Hiking Gear for your Dog

  • Collar and/or Harness
  • Leash
  • Identification Tags
    • permanent id tag with dogs name, address, phone numbers, and e-mail address
    • rabies tag
    • temporary id tag when out of town
      • dates and telephone numbers of when and where you are staying
      • trail head parking lot, trail name, and destination
  • bowl for water and food
  • water bottle
  • water – two quarts
  • food container
  • food
  • booties to protect the paws
  • reflective vest if hiking during hunting season
  • bandanna around their neck will indicate that your dog is a pet and not a feral dog
  • plastic bags
  • dog first aid kit
  • what ever else you need to take care of your dog on the trail

Backcountry Hazards

Your dog as well as you can come across typical backcountry hazards while hiking or camping.

  • Be aware of foxtail and burrs in their fur.
  • Poison Ivy, Poison Oak, and Poison Sumac can get on their fur and then on you when you pet them.
  • Fleas and Ticks
  • Mosquitoes
  • Predators – mountain lions, bears, coyotes, wolves, bobcats, skunks, porcupines, snakes, spiders, bees, wasps, hornets, and yellow jackets

Medical Emergencies

Just like humans in the the back country your dog is also susceptible to the same medical emergencies that you are.

Some of the more common ones are:

  • Bleeding from cuts or wounds – especially the paws.
  • Exhaustion
  • Sore Muscles
  • Dehydration
  • Giardia
  • Frostbite
  • Hyperthermia – heat stroke, heat exhaustion
  • Hypothermia
  • Insect Bites
  • Skunked
  • Porcupine Quills
  • Venomous Bites

Be prepared to do dog first aid in the field if your dog is injured. Have a Veterinarian check out your dog when you get home.

Take a course on First Aid for Dogs.


There are many books on hiking and camping with your dog, dog first aid, and dog trail books.

Here are a few.

Hiking with Dogs, Second Edition: Becoming a Wilderness-Wise Dog Owner
by Linda B. Mullally (c) 2006

First Aid for Dogs
by Bruce Fogle, D.V.M. (c) 1995

Best Hikes With Dogs Colorado
by Ania Savage (c) 2005

Canine Colorado, Third Edition: Where to Go and What to Do with Your Dog
by Cindy Hirschfeld (c) 2009