4 Tips for a Fun and Safe Day Hike with Your Dog

Image of a man and his dog hiking on a grassy hill

4 Tips for a Fun and Safe Day Hike with Your Dog

Exploring the great outdoors with your four-legged bestie can be an extremely rewarding bonding experience. However, taking a long and strenuous hike, when you and your pup may be outside for several hours or more, requires a fair amount of advance planning. Wagsworth Manor shares the following four tips that can help you prepare for a fun, safe, and memorable excursion.

Tip #1: Evaluate Your Pup’s Hiking Abilities

We certainly don’t have to tell you how unique your dog is from any other. So, it’s important to think about the distinct characteristics of your pup before you head out on a hike. To identify a trail that will be sufficiently stimulating but not overly strenuous for your best bud, some of the factors you should consider include their breed, size, behavior, age, and strength and fitness.

Your dog’s previous hiking experience is a key consideration, as well. If this is your first adventure, don’t go too long or choose difficult terrain, or it may just be the last hike your pup ever wants to do! Instead, ease into the routine of hiking by starting off on trails that might take an hour or so to complete – again, only if that fits with your pup’s skill level. Every time a hike goes well, then you can consider increasing the length the next time you head out on the trail.

We also highly recommend discussing your hiking plans with your vet, as they can advise you on the type of outing your dog can handle. This is particularly important if you’re hiking with your pup for the first time or you have a younger or older dog.

Tip #2: Find a Suitable Trail for Your Dog

Once you’ve assessed your dog’s distinct traits and capabilities, you’re ready to search up a hike that fits their specific abilities. One of our favorite apps for exploring trails in the Philly area and beyond is called AllTrails, which provides hand-curated trail maps, driving directions, and other key information about a hike, including:

  • Length, difficulty, and the estimated time it may take to hike a trail
  • Terrain and up-to-date trail conditions
  • Who and what you might expect to cross paths with on the trail, including mountain bikers, runners, horses, and bodies of water
  • Detailed reviews and trail photos from previous hikers and dog parents

Most importantly, AllTrails lets you know if a trail welcomes dogs. If a trail is dog-friendly, the app typically gives you the rules for pets, including whether a leash is required. But even if a trail allows dogs to roam freely, it’s wise to consider your dog’s obedience skills and behavior before letting them off-leash.

If there’s any chance they will ignore your calls of “come” and “stay,” or other common verbal commands you might need to use while hiking, it could be safer for your dog and everyone else on the trail to keep your pooch leashed. You may also want to investigate group or private dog or puppy training at Wagsworth. Our talented, professional dog trainers offer courses that enhance parent and pet communication, help establish good habits and manners, and even teach dogs agility skills that can help them navigate obstacles they might encounter out on the trail.

Tip #3: Pack (More Than) Enough Supplies for a Day Hike with Your Dog

Your pup is going to require far more hydration and sustenance for a daylong hike than they would just chillin’ on their dog bed all day, so it’s very important to plan out the right amount of food and fresh water. Remember, bodies of water you may encounter along the trail are generally not a good hydration option, as they can contain harmful organisms and chemicals. While you can probably Google standard guidelines for how much water and food to bring along based on your dog’s weight, your vet is truly the best resource for specific recommendations.

Beyond bringing enough water and food, you may want to consider bringing along the following gear to help make a day hike with your dog extra pleasant for both of you:

  • A collapsible bowl, made of non-toxic materials, makes it super easy to keep your pet hydrated and well-fed on the trail.
  • A dog towel to dry wet fur and wipe off muddy paws.
  • A dog jacket, because even the furriest pup can get cold, and possibly hypothermic, if they get wet and temperatures drop.
  • Dog booties, or natural dog wax for paw protection, such as Musher’s, if you’ll be hiking over rough surfaces, such as rocks or snow, at least until your dog’s paws get adapted to tougher terrain.
  • A tick removal hook is the easiest way to get rid of a tick if you spot one of these nuisances on your dog.
  • Dog sunscreen for pups with close-cropped hair or a light-colored nose, especially if you’ve chosen a trail that gets a lot of direct sunlight.
  • Poop bags, and plenty of them, because even in the most remote parts of a trail, it’s your duty—and environmentally friendly—to clean up after your dog every time they go!

As you can see, this list is already adding up to a lot of stuff. So, another piece of gear you might want to consider bringing is a dog pack, which is a great way to reduce your load and teach your pup about responsibility. However, a lot goes into figuring out if your dog can safely carry a pack, including age, breed, and fitness, so check with your vet on whether it’s a wise idea for your pet and how much weight they can handle. If you get the go-ahead, don’t just thrust a pack on your dog for the first time at the trailhead. Have your pup practice wearing it around the house, with little or no weight, and gradually add supplies, watching how they respond to the increasing burden.

Tip #4: Be as Prepared as Possible for the Unexpected

Even the best-laid plans can go off-course once you and your dog hit the trail. Your pup could run off and get lost, have a bad fall and suffer an injury, eat something poisonous, get overheated, encounter wildlife, or cross paths with a hunter seeking the aforementioned wildlife. We hope that you and your dog always have safe travels, but just in case something goes wrong, here are some ways to minimize the stress of a pet emergency on the trail:

  • Securely affix an ID tag to your dog that includes their name, your phone number and city, and, if there’s room and your pet has special medical needs, a note such as “Needs Meds” on the tag.
  • Purchase or assemble your own pet first aid kit, and download a pet first aid handbook. Some basics to include in your first aid kit are gauze, bandaging material and scissors, and tweezers.
  • Alert wildlife—and hunters—that your dog is nearby by attaching bells to your dog’s collar.
  • Know the location of the closest veterinary emergency facilities and how to get there, and have a copy of your dog’s medical and vaccination records with you.

Finally, because cell phone service is often spotty on a trail, there’s no guarantee you’ll be able to get a connection to call for help if you and your dog run into an unexpected obstacle. So, our last piece of advice is to give a family member or friend the details of your hiking plans, including where you’re going and approximately what time you think you’ll be home, which can be a critical backup plan if something does go wrong.

Whether you and your pup are newbies to hiking or accomplished pros on the trail, we hope these four tips help you feel even better prepared for your next adventure together.

Wagsworth Manor Professionals Have 10 Recommendations for a Day Hike with Your Dog

There are many great places in the area for you and your dog to get out for a hike, several of which have been visited by members of the Wagsworth team and their four-legged friends. The following are 10 locations to consider for an outing with your pup and why we love them:

  1. Brynn Coed Preserve. Gabby and her dog Napoleon like this 1,505-acre mosaic of forest and farmland because of its long trails and several creeks where pups can take a dip.
  2. Mill Creek Park. Dominique has visited this park since she was a kid and now enjoys bringing her pup Luna there.
  3. Pennypack Rail Trail. This paved, shaded, and very pretty 16-mile-long trail is a favorite of Jenna’s and her pack of dogs Lincoln, Zelda, Nero, Quincy, and Wilson.
  4. Okehocking Preserve. This 180-acre preserve offers about 7 miles of mown and wooded natural surface trails that Angelina and her dogs Max and Luna enjoy exploring.
  5. Stroud Preserve. Grace and her pup appreciate all this 571-acre preserve has to offer, including its trails, creeks, and open land where dogs congregate to play.
  6. Hawk Mountain Sanctuary. According to Beth and her dog Marshall, this is a great place for an adventure because of the variety of terrain, amazing views, and fun rocks to climb over.
  7. St. Peter’s Village. Rachel and Cat like to take their dogs Bear and Miller, respectively, to this spot because there is a range of trails to suit any mood, many of which are shady and quiet.
  8. Valley Forge. This national historic park features 3,500 acres of monuments, meadows, and woodlands that Mark and his pups Cleo and Chase delight in.
  9. Marsh Creek. Kirsten, parent of Magnolia, and Dayne and Fallon, parents of Nina, all say this is a great spot for dogs who enjoy hiking and cooling off with a swim.
  10. Wissahickon Valley Park Trail System. Michael and his dog Orzo report that Wissahickon offers trails for all hiking levels, lots of water to splash around in, and small beaches to relax at.

Finally, if you’re looking for something off the beaten trail, many of our team members like to take their pooches to Wildwood Dog Park and Beach or other dog-friendly beaches in the area. For example, Alison and her fur-baby Linus love the big open spaces and challenging terrain of a beach, not to mention the opportunity to play in the ocean together.