The 10 Best Products for Hiking With Your Dog
Heading out into the wild with your best furry buddy along for the adventure can make the experience more fun and memorable. Just like you would buy specialized gear for yourself, it’s important to outfit your dog with essentials to beat the heat, keep bugs at bay and stay the course. Here are the top recommendations from pet professionals to keep your pup protected and having fun, so you can high-tail it outta here and hit the trails.
Portable water bottle
Fresh water is one of the most important essentials to tote for Fido (and yourself). The best way to ensure your dog stays hydrated and safe is by having fresh water available; streams or standing water can harbor bacteria, blue-green algae or parasites, says Liza Cahn, D.V.M., a veterinarian at Senior Tail Waggers. But simply carrying a squeeze bottle means most of the contents will end up on the ground rather than in your dog’s mouth. Juliana DeWillems, owner and head trainer at JW Dog Training & Behavior Consulting in Washington, D.C., prefers the MalsiPree Dog Water Bottle. “Using a water bottle with a built-in bowl reduces the pieces of equipment you have to bring, and also helps ensure you remember to bring the bowl.” DeWillems uses it for her Chihuahua and has clients “who use the same bottle with their retrievers.” The bottle comes in 12-ounce or 19-ounce sizes and has a detachable strap to fasten to your pack or pants.
Pup-approved bug repellent
Their coat may be thick enough to repel water, but insects can still strike on the sly. Specially formulated pet protectants will keep pesky bugs from biting. Milwaukee-based Mindy Waite, Ph.D., a certified dog behaviorist at Senior Tail Waggers, won’t take her greyhounds out into the Northwoods without spritzing them with Farnam Flys-Off Mist Insect Repellent for Dogs. “It doesn’t have a strong smell and my dogs don’t mind being sprayed,” Waite says. Plus, it defends against an army of invaders, from flies, gnats and mosquitoes to fleas, ticks and lice.
Carrier for small dogs
Don’t discount diminutive dogs when trekking: Even the tiniest mutts like to hit the trails. But sometimes, petite paws just don’t have the stamina to keep up with the rest of the pack, DeWillems says. The Outward Hound PoochPouch Dog Carrier Backpack can save little legs from mighty trails. “When I hike with my own 8-pound Chihuahua, we always wear the carrier. We’ll hike for a mile or two and then she’ll pause and look up at us, at which point, we know she’d like a ride.” DeWillems appreciates the roomy carriage, which provides space for the dog to sit or lie down in their natural position. Bonus: It doubles as a human carryall for “my keys, extra treats and any other small items we have with us,” DeWillems says.
Canine first-aid kit
“You can never be too prepared,” says Camille Alander, D.V.M., medical director at Bond Vet in Boston. She totes the Labra Pet First Aid Kit because it’s well-stocked with everything you would need to treat common ailments and injuries in the wild—from tweezers to extricate ticks and a brush to remove burrs to antiseptic cleaning wipes and bandages, should a paw or claw become injured. Plus it’s small and lightweight, so it won’t add too much extra bulk along the way.
A walk in the wild is much different from a neighborhood sidewalk stroll, and a short leash can quickly break their stride, DeWillems says. Her top tether is the Nimble Waterproof Dog Leash, one of our favorite dog leashes, which comes in lengths up to 50 feet. “A long leash—15 to 25 feet—allows your dog freedom to move and run at their natural pace while sniffing and exploring without risking the safety of critters who live on and near the trail,” she says. “Trails are often narrow, making it much easier to have your dog walk ahead of you.” This one is made from Biothane, a plastic material that slides over roots and through dirt much more easily, “plus it’s a breeze to rinse off and clean,” DeWillems says.
Contrary to popular belief, dogs can get sunburned, Dr. Cahn says, especially those with short, light coats and pink skin such as Dalmatians, bulldogs and whippets. She recommends Epi-Pet K-9 Care Sunscreen, a pet-safe sunscreen that’s FDA-compliant and provides paws-to-tail protection. Pet sunscreen is specially formulated with ingredients that are safe for dogs, even if they ingest it. Before going out in the sun, spray your pup’s whole body including face and paws, and then reapply every two to four hours, just as you would on your own skin.
Biodegradable pet waste bags
You may be asking yourself an existential question: “If my dog poops in the woods and no one sees it, did it really happen?” The answer from experts is yes, and you need to deal with it. Leaving a pile on the trail not only makes it primed for dog and human footprints, but it can spread disease. Dr. Alander suggests carrying biodegradable pet waste bags like Earth Rated Compostable Dog Poop Bags with you to pick up and contain the mess. These are made from a blend of PBAT (a biodegradable polymer that breaks down completely in soil and leaves no toxic residues behind) and vegetable starches. Some trails will allow you to bury the bag, but otherwise, the responsible thing to do is carry it with you until you see a can.
Find My-enabled I.D. Tag
It might seem like a no-brainer, but taking your dog into an area where it could potentially get lost means you need to make sure it’s easily identifiable. Outfit your dog with an I.D. tag that has all of its info should it wander and someone else finds it. “An I.D. tag can be worn on your dog’s collar or harness. It should contain your pup’s name, your phone number and your address (or city). If there is room, you could also put a note regarding any medical needs, microchip status, or a personal message,” Dr. Cahn says. It’s worth spending a little more for the more advanced Yip Smart Tag because it has four lines of custom engraving and connects to Apple’s Find My network. That means you can track your pup’s location as long as it’s by someone with an iPhone. While the tag doesn’t use live GPS, it’s the next best thing, and the battery will last for months, not days.
Doggy day pack
Why should the human carry all the weight when a pup can do their part? The Ruffwear Front Range Day Pack is a pack that looks like a harness with fanny packs on either side. It allows your four-legged friend to tote its own treats, poop bags and other small supplies, easing your load, DeWillems says. The padded harness and belly strap are adjustable for fit and pack stability, helping your pup shoulder the cargo with ease. “I’ve used it on an overnight backpacking trip when we had to hike to the campsite. The medium-size dog with us wore this harness pack and was able to alleviate some of the weight we needed to carry in our own packs, an important factor in safe backpacking,” DeWillems says.
It’s easy for sensitive paws to fall prey to a buildup of mud, branches, burrs and other debris that get stuck along the way. As soon as your pup stops in its tracks to lift a paw, you know there’s distress. This is where a portable paw washer comes in to help scrub away irritants. DeWillems likes the Dexas MudBuster, which “is less invasive for dogs who are uncomfortable getting their paws touched because it only requires the paws to be gently dunked in the water, which is often quicker and easier than bathing,” she says. It looks like a thermos with silicone bristles within to ease away debris. DeWillems recommends using treats to slowly get your dog used to the feeling of having its paws cleaned with the MudBuster.