Dogs are a hiker’s best companion. When your favorite canine hits the trail with you, you’ll want to make sure you’re prepared to make it a pleasant experience for them too. This means carrying the proper gear to keep your dog healthy, hydrated and comfortable throughout the trek. The best hiking gear for dogs keeps your furry friend safe and happy.
Hiking Essentials for Dogs
When you embark on an adventure with your best bud, or even if you’re just training for hiking with your dog before actually heading out, think carefully about the environment you’re taking him into and what protection he’ll need on the trail.
Collapsible Water Bowl
Keeping your dog hydrated is priority number one when the two of you head out on a lengthy hike. Watch out for signs of dehydration in dogs as you trek, though you should never let it reach such a critical point. When your dog is panting and walking with his tongue hanging out, stop and offer him a bowl of water.
Of course, carrying a regular water dish is inconvenient and heavy, which is why a collapsible dish you can fold back down and store efficiently between water breaks is essential.
How will your dog know she’s a good girl without regular rewards? Carrying your pup’s favorite treats with you reinforces desired behavior and improves her performance as your hiking buddy in the future. Keeping treats in a pouch on your waist makes them easy to access when you need them.
If scent training for dogs is the purpose of your hike, treats can help her understand the concept of identifying a scent.
Flea & Tick Spray
It is critical to protect your dog from these pesky critters, which could cause potential health problems from anemia to Lyme disease. Carrying an organic flea and tick spray enables you to safely spritz your dog to prevent unwanted guests from hitching a ride in his fur while still protecting the natural environment. The time of year to be mindful of ticks and fleas depends on which state you live in.
Dog Hiking Boots
Depending on the terrain you’re hiking, your dog may benefit from a pair of doggy hiking boots. Most times, your dog will be fine without them, especially if it’s a soft dirt trail or the ground is covered in leaves. However, if you’re taking your furry friend over rocky terrain where there could be sharp protrusions, a pair of hiking booties protects her paws and prevents injuries.
These boots are made from high-quality, flexible and durable rubber soles that strap onto your dog’s paws, providing cushioning and added grip.
If your dog has a thick fur coat and you’re hiking in intense heat, a cooling vest is a worthwhile investment to keep him comfortable and lower his body temperature, so he doesn’t overheat.
Cooling vests work by using evaporation. These vests contain a layer of fabric that absorbs and locks in moisture that evaporates over the course of the day, bringing the dog’s body temperature down as it does so.
Having the option to go hands-free while still keeping your dog on a leash is a huge asset on long hikes. After a while, holding a leash can cause arm fatigue, and it reduces your freedom to hold hiking poles, take photographs or even open your water bottle.
If your dog is a polite walker and doesn’t pull excessively, switching to a leash you fasten around your waist while hiking can be a gamechanger. You can keep your dog close, regain some freedom of movement and enjoy the trek together for longer.
Sometimes rainfall can occur unexpectedly when you’re out on the trail, which is why carrying a raincoat for your dog is a smart idea. This is especially important if your hike culminates in a camping trip where cool night air and wet fur could give your dog the shivers.
These little jackets typically offer protection to your dog’s back — and head if there’s a hood, fastening around the neck and under the dog’s belly. A well-insulated rain slicker shields your pup from most rainwater, so, when you reach your final destination, all you’ve got to do is dry off her paws.
Dog Hiking Packs
If your dog is a medium to large size, there’s no reason he can’t carry a few of these items himself. A doggy trail pack is placed over your dog’s back and fastens under his stomach with pouches on either side. Dogs love to be involved and have a job, so, not only will having him haul some weight build muscle, but he is likely to enjoy the responsibility.
Having your dog carry a few items in his pack also eases the burden on you throughout the hike and ensures your pooch will be tuckered out at the end of the day for a good night’s rest.
LED Collar Beacon
When your hikes continue after nightfall, investing in an LED light that attaches to your dog's collar is a valuable safety tool. Not only will it illuminate the path without you having to hold a flashlight in one hand, but, if your dog gets loose, you’ll be able to spot him among the trees in the dark.
You may be shocked to know your dog should be wearing sunscreen, especially when he’s going to be outdoors for longer periods of UV exposure. For dogs with light fur, this is even more critical.
However, you cannot simply repurpose your sunscreen for your furry pal. Dogs require protection from sunscreen formulated specifically for them, free from zinc oxide and PABA, to avoid health complications and allergic reactions.
Packable Dog Bed
For long hikes, your dog will appreciate the ability to relax on a comfortable and familiar surface, which is why a packable dog bed comes in handy. You can store it in your own back or roll it up and have your dog carry it herself in her trail pack.
When you stop to picnic for lunch, simply pull it out and give your favorite companion a comfy spot to relax and recharge for the next leg of the journey.
Time to Hit the Trail
Once you’ve considered the gear that will benefit your dog while hiking, it’s time to make decisions on which pieces you’ll invest in. If you’re going to purchase items your dog will wear — like boots, a raincoat or a trail pack — it’s a good idea to get him comfortable wearing them around the house before you head out on the road.
For more ideas on preparing your dog to behave well on the hiking trails or while you’re out hunting this season, continue exploring Mossy Oak’s blog series on training hunting dogs.