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Trail Etiquette: Hiking with Your Dog

By Stacy Painter
published: June 12, 2020 - updated: May 9, 2022 • 2 min. read
couple hiking with dog

Hiking is a great way to unwind, enjoy the outdoors, and reap physical and mental benefits for both you and your dog. With warmer weather, more people are taking to the trails, and it’s essential to recognize that all visitors to those trails have a responsibility to respect nature as well as other visitors. Here are some important rules to know before you throw your hiking boots and your four-legged friend in the car.

Only hike dog-friendly trails

It should go without saying, but be sure to check the rules of the trail before bringing your dog to make sure dogs are allowed. Some hiking trails and parks, such as wilderness areas, are completely off-limits to dogs, so it’s best to know before you go. You should be able to find this information from local hiking websites, ranger stations or park websites.

Protect your pet

Yield to other trail users

To respect other peoples’ space, it’s safest to assume that all other hikers you encounter are fearful of dogs or otherwise don’t want your dog sniffing them. Step aside, and keep your dog close to let others pass.

Yield to horses

The above rule also applies to horseback riders. Step off the trail with your dog, keep them close, and prevent them from barking in order not to spook the horse.

Uphill has the right of way

You may encounter other hikers with dogs. Who should yield? It’s a common courtesy for the hiker coming downhill to step aside and let uphill hikers pass. However, sometimes the uphill hiker may want to rest, so take a cue from them.

Stay leashed or under strict voice command

Dogs should be under your control at all times. If you let your dog off-leash while hiking, they should be highly obedient to voice commands, meaning the dog immediately comes when told.

Pick up poop and bring to a trash can

Always, always, always scoop your dog’s poop! Besides being gross for other hikers to see and smell, it can seep into the groundwater and cause pollution. It’s also imperative that you keep the poop with you until you reach a trash can. Based on personal observations, some hikers leave their poo bags on the trail during their ascent planning to grab it on the way back down. However, it’s easy to forget or miss after a strenuous hike, and another hiker could accidentally step on the bag.

Stick to the trail

Minimize your impact by staying on the trails. Don’t cut switchbacks, take shortcuts, or make new trails.

Be respectful of wildlife and the environment

Both you and your dog should keep a safe distance from wildlife and their home in order to preserve it. Resist the urge to get too close for photo opportunities.

By following these rules, hikers and their dogs are doing their part to respect the trail and other hikers, which will help ensure that dog-friendly trails stay accessible to people who love to hike with their four-legged friends.

Stacy Painter profile
By Stacy Painter

Stacy has always been an animal lover and has worked in the pet industry and pet insurance specifically for over a decade. As a writer since early childhood, content writing for Healthy Paws pet insurance was a natural career path to combine her two passions. She currently lives in Florida with her boyfriend and Taiwanese rescue dog, Kaya.

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