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How to Walk Popular Hiking Trails with Your Dog


Written by Adam Lee-Smith

Veterinary reviewed by:

Published: 03/01/2021, edited: 10/25/2022

Published: 03/01/2021
With winter nearly over and spring on its way, you'll notice your favorite neighborhood hiking trails getting busier and busier. Whether you're walking your pup along your normal route or heading on an adventure somewhere brand new, it's important to prepare your pup for walking on some of the most "pawpular" trails in your area. From dealing with crowds of canines to following trail etiquette, here are a few tips on how to walk popular hiking trails with your dog.

Check the trail rules

One of the key things to consider when on an adventure with Fido in tow is the trail rules. Some of the busiest trails in the US don't allow dogs, while others have strict rules on everything from leashes to cleaning up after your woofer.

Before heading out for your next stroll, check out the trail rules beforehand to avoid any nasty surprises. You'll find the rules for most of the popular trails in the US online. You can also check out our dog-friendly hiking trail guides for all the info you need to know.

It's important to follow the trail rules, as they're designed to keep you and your dog safe. On some trails, you could incur a fine for not following the rules. For example, if the rules stipulate that your pup must stay on a leash at all times, it's usually to stop them from disrupting local wildlife, prevent injury, and protect fellow hikers who may be afraid of dogs. 

Consider trail etiquette

As well as the written rules, there are a few unspoken customs you should follow while hiking with your hound. For starters, hikers should preserve the landscape by cleaning up after their fur-babies and themselves. As well as cleaning up your dog's poop, ensure you don't leave any litter like a chewed-up dog toy along the trail. 

You should also yield to oncoming hikers as they may be uncomfortable around dogs. If you have several dogs, only walk two at a time. Multiple dogs are harder to supervise, and having several dogs with you can make it difficult to deal with an emergency.

Bring the essentials

Make sure you bring along everything you and your pup need for a successful outdoor adventure. Consider getting your pup a portable water bowl for your next hike so that they can stay hydrated. Don't let your dog drink from rivers, lakes, or ponds, as they may contain parasites or pathogens. 

You may also want to bring along some treats to reward good behavior and entice them if they wander off. Bringing doggy bags is also necessary for cleaning up after your mutt. Some busy trails require you to show vaccination records upon arrival, so bring along your woofer's vaccination card just in case. Here's a list of a few essentials for your next dog walk:

  • Water and bowl

  • Treats

  • Leash and harness

  • Favorite toys

  • Doggy bags

  • Vaccination records

  • Medication

Pick the right trail

When picking a popular trail, consider the conditions and landscape. If it's the middle of the summer and you pick a trail with very little shade, it may not be suitable for your pup as they may overheat and the ground could burn their paws.

If your pup is prone to running off, it might also be worth staying away from trails known to have potentially dangerous fauna and flora. Next time you're planning on exploring with your pup, pick a trail with the right conditions for your pup's personality and training.

Socialize your pup

Some of America's most popular trails attract hundreds of pet parents and their fur-babies every day. As a result, it's important your pupper is used to socializing with other canines. Before hitting the dusty trail, train your pup to socialize with others so they don't get overexcited or overwhelmed during your walk.

There are several ways of socializing your dog, including taking them to puppy training classes, making a playdate, and taking them to quiet, dog-friendly areas.

Make sure your pooch is well-trained

Not only should your fur-baby be trained to socialize with other pups, but they should also follow general commands. Training your dog to come when called is vital when walking on a busy trail and will save you lots of hassle.

Commands like "stay", "leave it", and "down" will undoubtedly come in handy when visiting busy trails. Having trouble teaching Tucker a specific command? Hire an in-house dog trainer through Wag! to help make your next outdoor excursion a success.

Keep your canine in shape

Before walking out the door to go on a 5-mile hike, ensure your pupper is physically prepared. Depending on your dog’s lifestyle, age, and breed, they may be better suited to hiking than other canines. For example, a 3-year-old Whippet will likely be better suited to hiking than an 8-year-old Chihuahua.

Next time you take your pooch for a walk near your home, keep track of how far you walked and compare it to the length of a hiking trail to ensure your hound can manage. You can also build up your dog’s stamina by taking them on longer walks in familiar areas more frequently to prepare for your next hike.

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