Pros and Cons of Hiking with Dogs

There is a lot more to hiking with dogs then you would imagine, if this is your first time. For the last six months, I’ve been learning how to hike with my dog. The good, the bad, the ugly have all been a part of our journey as we learn to be more outdoorsy.

I moved to Arizona shortly after Christmas and had hardly ever set foot on a trail before then. Figuring it’d be easy, I brought my pup, Rory, with me to explore one day. While we both fell in love all over again, there were some important things I learned. I personally never realized all the pros AND the cons of bringing your dog along on your adventures. To help, I wanted to share what it’s really like to bring your fur-legged friends with you on trails, backpacking trips, and more!

THE PROS

1. Companionship & Protection while hiking with dogs

I don’t always love to go with other people on trips, but I’m also not a fan of going entirely by myself some days. Having a dog trek along, hits the sweet spot. I get time to myself, while Rory helps keep certain strangers at bay. Hiking with dogs automatically makes you less of a target. You aren’t alone and that fur-legged friend has sharp teeth. Even if you know your dog is friendly and super sweet, the other people on the trail don’t. That unspoken barrier makes hiking with dogs automatically safer.

Solo trips don’t always have to be entirely solo; so bring your dog with you!

2. Your Personal Alert System

Sometimes you feel like something might be off along the trail, but you can’t put your finger on it. Hiking with dogs is an immediate way to know if anything is going on near you. I mean anything. They hear noises and smell scents long before you do. If you learn what to look for with their own alert signs, you’ll be more prepared for anything that is out on the trail.

3. Dog Friendly Spots Are the Best Spots

Hiking with dogs on dog-friendly tails means you’ll find other dog people hiking. You can find tons of dog friendly trails everywhere you go, just do the research. When you’re looking for dog friendly off-leash areas, you can almost always expect to find like-minded people on these trails, or even possibly have the place to yourself.

4. Easy Introductions

If you’ve ever been too scared to ask someone to be your friend on the trail, your dog knows no barriers. Your dog gives you opportunities to meet new friends, furry and human, without all the awkwardness. Hiking with dogs is an immediate ice breaker.

5. Memories For Always

Some of my best memories have been hiking with dogs on the trail. We always take photos to document our adventures. You can’t help but think they are the cutest as they drink from the river, jump up on fallen trees to walk along their trunk, or even attempt to catch flying bugs. Not to mention, there’s something special about sharing a sunset or sunrise, up on a summit, with my pup that I will cherish forever.

THE CONS

1. Hiking with Dogs Adds Stress to Wildlife Encounters

If you decide to hit the trail on your own, wildlife encounters can be peaceful, quiet, and even eye-opening. A deer crosses your pass up ahead and gives you a thoughtful look, a squirrel peaks its head out from behind a tree, or a butterfly flutters near your head. But if you decide to bring your pup along, you will soon find out that wildlife encounters are an entirely different experience. From chasing small rabbits and lizards, sniffing in bushes where snakes could be hiding, and barking at wild horses, your dog will notice any small movement. Sometimes it’s easier to contain than others, but sometimes you might just have to turn around and head back to the trail head.

2. Non-Dog-Friendly Hikers on Dog Friendly Trails

To dog moms near and far, we know the look when someone is not accepting of our lifestyle. Sure, we bring our dogs everywhere, but in our eyes the more dogs we meet, the merrier we will be.

On some of the more frequented trails you may get looks like you and your pup don’t belong there. Some people may ask you to keep your dog away from them entirely, even if your dog is acting completely normal. This doesn’t always happen, but the few times it does happen we often take a confidence hit or find ourselves grumpier throughout the day. Don’t let the non-dog people get you down. The best approach is to accept their wishes and keep you dog near you until you pass. We know it’s their loss after all.

3. Hiking with Dogs Means Carrying Extra Gear

We all want to pack light and adventure further, but with dogs it’s nearly impossible to do so. Especially during the warmer months, where lots of extra water and treats are must. Even though your pack weighs more than you and your dog put together, it’s entirely worth it to have your best adventure buddy with you.

Dog Packs:

Depending on the type of dog you are hiking with, you could always look into getting them a Ruffwear pack of their own. Be sure to consult your vet or a pet store sales person, to make sure your dog is cut out for the extra weight, and that you get the correct size. When you pack for your next hike, be sure to not overload your pups pack. They can’t necessarily tell you it’s too much for them so it’s better to go light.

Whether I’m day hiking or hiking to a campsite for an overnight stay, I know hiking with dogs is always worth it. The look on their face as you summit a mountain, find a new watering hole, or even just pull into the parking lot of a trail head, almost brings me to happy tears every time.

Hiking with dogs has helped me see the beauty in everything around me. Taking in the fresh air, smelling the trees, and stopping every once and a while to roll in the flowers, are just a few of the things I do now that I would have never done on my own.

It’s not always safe to bring dogs along with you, so be sure to check ahead and do your research. But where hiking with dogs is appropriate, you can expect to see me and Rory trotting down a trail together.

If hiking with kids is more in the cards for you, check out 10 Tips for an Adventure Life with Baby.

Either way, hit the trail and have a barkin’ good time!

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