Trail Etiquette for Hiking with Dogs

A woman sitting down in mossy woods next to her two dogs

We’ll take any excuse to get outside with our dogs—and hiking with them can be so rewarding. It’s a chance for them to explore the outdoors with mentally stimulating new smells and fresh scenery beyond their backyard, while getting in some exercise together. But we also share our trails with other dogs, people, and wildlife. Plan for success with these five simple rules of dog hiking etiquette to ensure everyone has a good hike.

A woman walking her dog down a wooden path in the woods

1. Choose a Dog-Friendly Trail

A woman walking her dog in the woods

Know before you go. Confirm that the trail you’re heading to allows dogs so you aren’t disappointed at the trailhead and be respectful if it isn’t—there may be important conservation or safety reasons. Trust park rangers and conservationists to make that call.

A man standing outside holding two dogs on a leash

2. Abide by the Leash Law

A woman outside with her puppy on a leash giving it a treat

Know the leash law for the trail you plan to hike and honor it. And choose the right kind of dog leash—some trails require a non-retractable one that’s six feet or fewer in length. Only allow your dog off leash in areas where it’s permitted and only if your pup has excellent, reliable voice recall. Be sure to keep them within sight and earshot.

Quick Tip: When you encounter another loose dog, leashing your own dog will give you better control of the situation. Always keep your dog nearby, keep a leash handy, and respect that other people or dogs on the trail may not be comfortable interacting with your dog.

Two women and their dogs walking on a trail in the woods

3. Yield Trail Right-Of-Way to Others

A man walking on a trail with his two dogs

Simply put, this means get your dog out of the way—beyond the “sniffing” range—of hikers, cyclists, dogs, or horses. If your dog is off leash, leash them and step aside to allow others to pass.

Quick Tip: Be sure to get permission from other dog owners before you allow your well-socialized dog to greet other pups on the trail.

A woman walking her spotted dog in a field of grass

4. Tread Lightly

A woman and her dog out on a hike stopping to look at a pond

Leave plants and wildlife undisturbed and stick to the trail to minimize environmental impact on the lands and waters we love. The best rule of thumb: leave the trail exactly as you found it for others to enjoy.

Two dogs eating out of travel bowls from the Chuckwagon

5. Pack It All Out

A black and white dog looking up at a person holding two rolls of green poop bags

Leave No Trace, a core principle of enjoying the outdoors applies to you, your dog, and your dog’s waste. To minimize carrying waste bags on the trail, try to give your dog time to do their business at the trailhead where trash cans are accessible. We’ll also pack in a secondary bag or waste bag carrier to make the job easy.

Quick Tip: Having the right pack can help keep your gear organized, making hikes with your dog easier so you can get out together more often. Get inspired with our trail-ready packs.

Leave Only Paw Prints, Take Only Pictures—and a Tired, Happy Dog

With the right gear and some simple guidelines, a successful hike with your dog is one of the most rewarding experiences you can share together. We hope this inspires you to get out and enjoy the outdoors together.

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