6 Tips to Start Hiking With Your Dog

We’ve teamed up with Ruffwear, the performance dog wear company, to learn their expert advice for hiking with your dog.

Have you ever noticed how your dog behaves when they’re outside? They stop, sniff, stare — do whatever they can to really take it all in and engage with nature in a way that humans can often overlook. That’s why hiking with your dog is such a cool experience — they challenge us to see more, do more, and be more. If you’re ready to embark on a hike with your dog, it’ll take a little bit of preparation. Planning routes, gathering your gear, and making sure both you and your trail buddy are up for the challenge physically will set you up for success for your next adventure. 

1. Create a plan

Before you and your canine companion embark on your hike, it's important to have a plan in place. Pinpoint your trailhead and familiarise yourself with the specific guidelines for dogs on your chosen route. Trails vary in their regulations — while many welcome dogs with open paws, a few might not, and lead policies can change seasonally (pro tip: even if it’s an off-lead area, always bring a dog lead in case). If you're uncertain about the rules at your destination, a quick online search or a call to the managing agency of the public lands can provide clarity. During this prep phase, it’s also a great time to get sign-off from your dog’s veterinarian to make sure your pup can handle the rigours of the trail.

Hiking with your dog

2. Get your gear 

The gear you choose can make or break your hike. Equipping your pup with a solid harness, pack, lead, collar, and boots helps ensure they have the protection and support they need. Let’s dive into some of the key pieces of dog gear you’ll want to have on hand. 

  • Pack: A pack allows your dog to carry their essentials, like water, snacks, and waste bags, lightening your load and giving them a sense of purpose on the trail. ○ Our picks: The Front Range™ Day Pack for everyday hikes or the Approach™ Pack for light overnights.
  • Harness: A well-fitted harness distributes pressure across your dog's body, providing control without putting strain on their neck, making it more comfortable for both of you during your adventures. ○ Our picks: The Hi & Light™ Harness for a minimalist, lightweight option, the Web Master™ Harness for lifting and assisting over obstacles, and the Front Range® Harness for durability and all-day wear. 
  • Lead: A sturdy lead keeps your dog close by, ensuring they stay securely connected while still allowing them the freedom to explore and enjoy the great outdoors. ○ Our picks: The Front Range™ Lead for an everyday strong connection, or the Hitch Hiker™ Lead, a climbing-inspired, adjustable-length lead and hitching system. 
Hiking with your dog
  • Collar: A collar serves as a vital identification tool, enabling you to attach tags, keep your dog secure, and have peace of mind during your outdoor escapades. ○ Our picks: The Hi & Light™ Collar for a lightweight option, and the Front Range™ Collar for a strong, durable collar that matches the rest of your Front Range™ set. 
  • Boots: Dog boots offer protection against rough terrain, extreme temperatures, and harmful substances. They protect paws and provide comfort whether you’re hiking, walking on hot pavement, or navigating icy trails. ○ Our picks: The Grip Trex™ Boots if you’re looking for rugged, all-terrain paw wear, or the Hi & Light™ Trail Shoes for a lightweight, flexible option. Depending on the weather forecast and duration of your hike, other things you might consider include a cooling vest, life jacket, raincoat or jacket, and dog bed.
Hiking with your dog

3. Mind your manners 

Before you and your dog head out on your hike, it's essential to brush up on some trail etiquette. Things like good recall, basic obedience, and manners like "leave it" not only keep your canine companion and local wildlife safe, but also show fellow hikers you respect them (and hey, maybe you’ll even make a few friends along the way). 

4. Leave no trace 

Every explorer should familiarise themselves with the seven Leave No Trace principles.

  • Plan ahead and prepare by researching the area, bringing necessary supplies, and considering the weather.
  • Travel and camp on durable surfaces to avoid damaging fragile ecosystems. 
  • Dispose of waste properly by packing out trash and burying human waste away from water sources.
  • Leave what you find untouched to preserve the natural beauty of the landscape.
  • Minimise campfire impacts by using established fire rings or portable stoves and adhering to fire regulations. 6. Respect wildlife by observing from a distance and not feeding them.
  • Be considerate of other visitors by keeping noise levels down and yielding to others on the trail. 

5. Pay attention

For your dog, hiking means intriguing scents, bushes to dash through, and sticks to gnaw on — it's a pup's paradise out there. While your dog is busy exploring, it's a good idea to keep an eye on what they're up to. Most of the time, they’re just being their silly selves. But sometimes, there might be moments where a bit of awareness comes in handy, like gently guiding them away from potential hazards or stopping them from munching on something questionable. After your hike (or every now and then during longer ones), it's smart to give your dog a once-over for ticks, burrs, or any cuts they might have picked up along the way. Catching these things early can prevent bigger problems down the road, ensuring your dog stays happy and healthy for more outdoor adventures. 

Hiking with your dog

6. Have fun

No matter the trail or terrain you choose, don’t forget to have fun. Take the pressure off having the “perfect” hike and simply relish in the quality time spent with your loyal companion. Embrace the unexpected detours, joyful sprints, and quiet moments shared together in nature's embrace. After all, it's these simple pleasures that make every hike with your dog an adventure to cherish.

Hiking with your dog

This article was brought to you by Ruffwear. Head to their website to see Ruffwear’s incredible range of dog leads, harnesses and accessories to enable you to effortlessly hike with your favourite four legged friend. Explore our hiking gear for men and women to find the outdoor gear you’ll need to help you stay protected on the trail.