How to Hike With Your Dog

How to Hike With Your Dog

By Dr. Tracy Dewhirst for Exceptional Canine

How to Hike With Your Dog

If you donít believe that dogs understand humans, just watch my bird dog, Kaia, when I pull out the hiking boots and daypack. She waits by the front door, excited, alert, doing her biggest wiggle dance.

In my daypack, I carry our provisions: enough water and a small collapsible bowl, pet-specific snacks (since my raisin/nut trail mix is toxic to dogs), a small amount of duct tape (in case Kaia cuts a pad or I suffer a blister), a trail map and a leash.

Stay Safe
A leash is a must for safety and regulations. We hike in areas that allow dogs, and Kaia only walks off-leash in designated spots. Parking lots are dangerous, so Kaia stays tethered until we reach the trail. Dogs with poor recall or improper social behavior -- such as those that jump up, chase or fight -- should not hike off-leash.

Understand Your Dogís Abilities
Kaia is now 11 years old. Although Kaia is in great shape, our routine has changed to better suit her endurance level and to avoid injury. We no longer hike 10 miles or attempt vertical scrambles and bushwhacking, but our energetic strolls in the mountains remain the highlight of my week.

Make Memories
Whether youíre new to hiking or your boots have logged hundreds of miles, consider taking your dog along on the next excursion. Attention to details and a little planning can make for a great hike, and a great hike for wonderful memories. At the end of the day, as your dog basks in the pleasant feeling of exhaustion and succumbs to a deep and restful sleep, she will be reliving every step of the trail -- and dreaming of humans in hiking boots.


Dr. Tracy Dewhirst, a graduate from the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine, practices small-animal and equine medicine in Knoxville, Tenn. She is a long-time columnist for the Knoxville News Sentinel. Dewhirst also sits on the East Tennessee Peer Review Board. Dr. Dewhirst blogs frequently for Exceptional Canine.