brown dog wearing harness panting in the woods

Hiking With Your Dog: A Checklist

By Natasha Brown

About the Author:

Natasha Brown is a southern lifestyle and travel blogger who loves all things related to the great outdoors. She currently lives in Atlanta, Georgia with her husband, five children and their Nova Scotia Duck Toller, Beau. You can read her blog Grits & Grace and follow her family’s outdoor adventures @ourbeautifulbrownlife.

When it comes to family activities, we try to ensure that we include every member of the family, down to our four-legged friend Beau. Last August we adopted Beau, our Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever (that’s a mouthful), shortly after we relocated to Georgia. Adopting a pet can be challenging, but over the last several months we have enjoyed having him in our home, and we love bringing him with us everywhere we go.

On the weekends we like to go on hiking trips with our kids. We have found that the overall health benefits of hiking have really helped our family in the long run. Not only are there benefits for us as humans, but for our pets as well. Since we always want to make sure that we are taking care of our children’s physical and mental needs along with ours, we want to do the same for our pet as well.

I am excited to partner with KARMA™ dog food and share with you my hiking checklist so that you can make your first or fiftieth hike with your pet a fun and safe experience. While hiking, not only do we want to make sure that we protect ourselves as well as our pet, but we also want to protect the trails that we are on. Like our family, the KARMA™ brand believes everyone, including our four-legged friends, can play a role in creating a more sustainable world. For us this means bringing reusable pet bowls, water bottles, and switching to biodegradable dog waste bags as well.

brown dog wearing harness panting in the woods

Pre-Hike Readiness

1. Know your pet

Before starting your hike, it is important to know if your dog is ready. This could mean physical or emotional readiness. If you know that your pet is not well-behaved, then it may be a good idea to wait until they are little more trained before taking them out. There are basic commands your pet will need to follow while on a hike in order to keep you and them safe (as well as any other hikers or pets that may be in the area).

Sit, stay, heel, and come at your command are important for your pet to be able to do as told, as well as walking on leash. If you have a temperamental or aggressive pet, please note that having your pet ready to socialize is also important, as you may encounter others on the trail and if your dog is not stranger friendly this could pose a potential hazard. Due to how narrow the trails are in some areas you will be next to others and you want to make sure that your pet is well behaved.

2. Pack Essentials

Be sure that you not only take enough water/snacks for yourself, but to also have the same ready for your pet. With Beau we like to bring silicone feeding bowls and a water bottle, so that we can easily stop along the trail and feed or give him water as necessary. On a typical 10-15-mile hike he will stop for water 3-4 times on the way up and eat a little bit at the top. And drink water 1-2 times on the way back down.

Other important things to pack for your pet include a leash, harness, bags to dispose of their waste, and a towel.

3. Trail

If this will be your first hike or if you will be going on a trail you have never been to before, you will need to familiarize yourself with the trail you want to hike. This includes all of the rules and regulations for the trail/park that you will be at. If you will be visiting a U.S. National Park, many of them require pets to be leashed, and many more do not even allow pets on the trails.

You also want to make sure that you research the wildlife and any potential hazards that you may come across along the way such as routes with steep drops. We like to use the All Trails app to help with this. Lastly, remember to check the weather the days leading up to as well as the day so you can stay ahead of any potential weather-related hazards that could occur along the way.

Essential Dog Items for Your Hike

1. Leash and Harness

Some parks do require leashes that are 10 feet or shorter if you are bringing your pet on the trail. We have found that when hiking it is best to use a heeling leash anyway. Even if your dog is not used to wearing a harness for regular walks, before you hike, it is a good idea to start using one so that he/she can get used to it.

2. Collar and tags

When you are taking your dog some place like a wooded area or national park, it is important that your dog is properly identified with a collar and ID tag in case he or she were to get lost. Be sure that it includes all of your contact information and if your pet is licensed. Side note: For dogs that overheat easily there are items such as cooling collars that are a great addition to use instead of a traditional collar.

3. Food and Water Containers

We like to bring collapsible silicone bowls with us so that we can easily stop and give Beau something to eat or drink along the way if he wants it. Bringing fresh water with us in a reusable bottle is much better for him rather than allowing him to drink from a random stream that we may find on the trail.

I also recommend a reusable kibble bag that will allow you to store your pet’s food in. Beau is on a plant-first diet and eats KARMA™ dog food. KARMA™ is a plant-first dog with high-quality protein and plant-based superfoods that nourishes his whole-body. It is made with more than 60% plants, plus chicken or white fish for the optimal balance of nutrition and flavor. We love our bag as it also has pockets for us to store the bowls in as well.

4. Bags

Most importantly, don’t forget to bring doggy poop bags to clean up after your pet so you can keep the trail clean for other hikers and animals.