Young woman with her dog walking in the forest As far as outdoor activities go, hiking certainly ranks near the top of our go-to activities with our pups. We love hiking as a great way to get into the outdoors without too much preparation. And if you want to bring your dog along (as we normally do) on your hike, that’s exactly what you want: an easy way to get moving and out into nature. But when it comes to taking your pets into nature, there are a few things you should “know before you go,” especially around safety and comfort. Here are few things you’re going to need to know before take a hike with your pooch:

Make Sure Your Dog Is Physically Fit Enough to Hike

Especially if you’re heading into areas with narrow trails, high elevations or uneven surfaces, make sure your dog’s in good shape and ready for the test. For owners of older dogs, we recommend you check with your vet to see if yours can safely and comfortably make the hike.

Confirm Your Chosen Hiking Area Allows Pets On The Trail

Despite being usually located in remote areas, there are many parks or open spaces that may not allow dogs on trail. It’s better to confirm before you leave home than to be unpleasantly surprised when you get there. dog-person-hiking-twilight We like’s hike finder for trail suggestions:

Be A Responsible Pet Parent and Maintain Control of Your Dog

This is partly for your dog’s safety (rattlesnakes come to mind) but also for the safety of others. Not everyone loves your pooch as much as you do, and therefore don’t necessarily want to meet your dog up close and personal. When it comes to hiking, opt for a rugged, non-extendable leash that is under 6-feet in length. You want a leash that can hold up to abuse — like the moment your dog sees a squirrel run across the trail. Don’t forget to equip that leash with your Bags on Board waste pickup bag dispenser and Dookie Dock. More on these items in a second.

Pick Up After Your Dog!

ThinkstockPhotos-153384998So you’re out on-trail, a couple miles from a trash can in any direction, and you think “what harm could a little dog waste do out here?” Well, as we’ve mentioned before, dog waste is not a good fertilizer. In fact, its chemical makeup makes it pretty nasty to plants and the groundwater near it. So leaving it there is really not an option. Dog waste can even disrupt the ecosystem around it. According to the National Parks Service, since dogs are predatory animals, the scent of their waste changes the way wildlife in the area behaves. Our privilege to use nature for recreation also comes with the responsibility to leave things as we found them, and cleaning up after your dog is a big part of that. We recommend eco-friendly waste bags like Green Pups, and using the Dookie Dock on your leash to carry the bag hands-free until you can find a garbage can. And if for some reason you can’t get to a trash can or don’t have waste bags? Well, REI recommends that you bury your dog’s waste as you would your own.

Be Prepared

In addition to your leash, waste bag dispenser (with bags) and Dookie Dock, there are a few other items to consider:

  • Water and water bowl. You thought you get thirsty on the trail? Try being covered in fur, not able to sweat, and moving your legs faster than a human does. We love collapsible water bowls, allowing you to stow and go quickly. Remember, you can’t rely on water available to dogs at your chosen location, so bring extra water along for your dog.
  • A collar with identification. No one wants to think about it, but your dog might get lost on trail. Identification can help speed its return. Microchipping your dog is also something to think about.
  • A first-aid kit. Mother nature can be as unforgiving as it is beautiful. A first aid kit can be a lifesaver. Seriously. Oh, and don’t forget your flea and tick spray — our favorite spray has a built-in mosquito repellant.
  • Dog booties. Many dogs aren’t accustomed to walking long distances on rocky, dusty or otherwise unfamiliar surfaces. All-terrain booties can help get your pooch’s paws in shape.

Remember to Have Fun!

There are, of course, some simple guidelines to follow, but in the end, we encourage you to just have fun with your dog! It’s a great chance to get outside, cure boredom, and socialize as parent and pup. Do you have any great pet hikes in your area? Share them in the comments!