Pets on the Trail

You know your dog loves hiking as much as you.

Nothing beats getting out and about while enjoying a little exercise, fresh air, and beautiful vistas. The thing is; your pooch has a whole different take on this hiking thing than you.

I Need a Drink

Always remember to bring water for the both of you. As we have learned in these active and athletic times, you should hydrate, hydrate, and then hydrate some more. The same goes for our pets. Don’t just count on streams or puddles, because even dogs can get Giardia from tainted water. Bring enough for both of you to drink a little every 15-30 minutes at least. Some companies make little packs that can enable a dog to carry his or her own water, which is cute to see, but not really necessary unless you both are backpacking for days. Bring enough for both of you and consider how your pooch will get this water; bringing a bowl would be a nice touch. There are lightweight collapsible bowls available at any pet store, or just improvise.

You’re in Control

If you take your dog on regular hikes, then he’s probably in shape the same as you. Keep in mind their legs are shorter, so that mile or two may seem a lot more to them. My buddy takes his little Chihuahua hiking, and the poor girl takes about 10 steps to every one of his. Luckily for her, he’s not the fastest on his feet, so he doesn’t go very far or get there very quickly. She lasts about as long as he does, so they are perfect for each other. On the other hand; just because you can hike that 8-mile climb with no problem doesn’t mean your pooch can. They will do anything to keep you happy including pushing themselves too far. It’s up to you to keep an eye on your hiking buddy.

Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My

Okay, you may not run into lions or tigers, but bears are a definite possibility. Although it is way more fun for dogs to run at will rather than be tethered to you, there is a reason for leash laws and advisories. Not every dog is as well-trained as yours and some will go after anything. Out in the woods, this could be anything from chipmunks to mountain lions. Having your dog on a leash is for their own good as well as for your and other’s safety. The only thing worse than watching your dog take off after a bear is seeing him come back with the bear chasing him.

Watch Your Step

Chances are you didn’t pick up any hiking boots for the dog when you bought yours, so you should be aware of what type of surface you and he will be hiking on. Hard rocks are tough even with boots on, so you can imagine your friend will get sore paws as well. Plus rocks can get seemingly near boiling in the summer and puddles can get near freezing in the winter. You can pick up some booties from many different retailers. Dog booties aren’t really a necessity unless you are hiking in extremes for extended periods, such as extremely hard rocks or the dead of winter.

Take Nothing but Pictures; Leave Nothing but Footprints

This is an old hiking and camping adage, but means even more with your dog. Sure if you’re camping you would pack out all your trash, and the same goes for a hike. Bring some kind of bag and clean up after your dog just as you would in the dog park. We all use the same trails, and even if Fido goes off trail to poop, the chipmunks and every other animal would appreciate you doing your poo diligence.

Meet the Author: Michael Ryan

Michael Ryan is a full-time musician along with a humor, travel and outdoor recreation columnist. He's also an avid skier and golfer and has traveled extensively around the U.S, the Caribbean and Europe. His musical career takes him all over the U.S. and his wife drags him everywhere else. His weekly columns “The Life of Ryan” ran in the Transcript and Sentinel newspaper chain for several years and have been featured in the Denver Post, Rocky Mountain News and Mile High Magazine. He is the co-founder, editor and humor columnist for and currently resides in Morrison, Colorado.

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