Hiking Utah’s diverse landscapes is rewarding in itself, but bringing your dog along makes it even more enjoyable. I hike with my pup often and she’s both my companion and cheerleader. When my energy wanes, she runs back, and gives me the “Let’s go!” look. Seeing that, I pick up my pace and give her a thankful pat on the head. Relaxing on the summit of a steep climb, we plop down together for a well-earned snack and water. It’s a bond I cherish.
Hiking with a dog brings up some important considerations, especially in summer heat. Read on for some tips on hiking with your dog.
Temperament – How is your pup with other dogs, little kids, and wildlife? An aggressive dog on the trail is a hazard to others and may prompt a lawsuit.
Training – It’s important that your dog is adequately trained. This is a safety issue when interacting with other hikers and wildlife. There are a number of hazards facing dogs hiking in Utah including coyotes, snakes, mountain lions, steep trails, and poisonous plants. Before hiking with your dog, make sure she follows basic commands such as “come,” “stay,” and “leave it.” I appreciate “heel” when passing timid hikers or those with dogs that don’t look so friendly.
Physical Ability – Lastly, don’t overestimate your pup’s fitness and physical limitations. Like humans, dogs need to stay in shape. If your pooch has been sedentary, a 10-mile hike may be painful or even dangerous. Summer temperatures in Utah regularly top 100° which could also be a shock to a dog’s system if they aren’t acclimated. Another factor is that small breeds tend have less endurance than larger dogs, which means you may have to carry your tiny companion for part of the hike.
Do your research – Dogs are not welcome on all trails, or may be limited to “on leash” visits. Research trails before making plans to bring your four-legged companion.
Prep Your Vehicle – My dog LOVES to swim, so she regularly jumps into the car with muddy paws at the end of the hike. I finally wised up and added a dog hammock to save the upholstery. A cheap solution if you don’t want to purchase a seat cover is to use a heavy shower-curtain liner.
Packing for Puppy – Hiking with a dog means packing for them as well. You have two options, either haul the supplies yourself, or have your dog wear a puppy pack. My dog LeeLoo wears the Baxter Pack by Kurgo (which is why I asked them to provide one for us to give away.) Important tip, if you go the dog-pack route, make sure the load is balanced. Also, if you’re hiking near a swim hole or creek, seal anything you don’t want to get wet in a ZipLock ….yes, I found out the hard way!
Pack food, first-aid supplies, some type of bowl, and ample clean drinking water. Dogs don’t cool off the same way we do so they need to drink a lot of water, especially in this summer heat. Don’t depend on puddles or streams, which could be contaminated.
The 411 on Poop – Yes, woodland creatures poop in the woods, it’s not okay to leave your dog’s steamer behind. Their feces is not native to the environment you’re visiting, so handle it like you would your own, and bury it, or pack it out, following Leave No Trace Principals. Sadly, many people leave puppy “stuff” behind, wrecking things for the rest of us. This is one reason why dogs are not allowed in some environmentally sensitive area such as the Wasatch Mountain Watershed area just outside Salt Lake City.
“The Wasatch front watershed receives millions of visitors each year. since dogs don't use restrooms and their human companions don't always clean up after themselves that could mean a lot of added pollutants in our drinking water! Dogs and other domestic animals can transmit human disease when their waste gets into the water that can be deadly to humans and wild animals. We do treat the water but, the cleaner the water at the source, the easier and less costly the treatment (lower water prices for consumer is added perk.) Wild animal waste that may get into the water is less of a problem as they are unlikely to spread water born human illness when living in their natural habitat” Explains Erin Nichole Smeeding, a Watershed Ranger with the Salt Lake City Department of Public Utilities.
First Aid – Handling dog injuries is different than treating a human. Consider setting up a first aid kit for your pet, including a guide to managing pet injuries.
Finding Trails - Finding good places to hike with your dog in Utah can be challenging. I use “Best Hikes with Dogs, Utah” by Dayna Stern as a resource. It is well presented with the entire trail beta you’d want from a regular hiking guide, except that all the trails are dog friendly. I also found this PDF list titled, “A Bark in the Park” that has some excellent information on the area surrounding Salt Lake City.
National Parks are pretty much off limits, as are the trails up both Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons near Salt Lake.
After the Hike – Your pup may run through poison ivy or picked up a tick or two on the trail so plan to give him or her a bath as soon as you get home. Ticks are easier to see when hair is wet, so check for them during the bath.
Now that you have some tips and resources for hiking with your pup, get out and enjoy the trail! If you’re near Salt Lake City you may come across my black lab and me.
Note: I’m a big fan of Kurgo products and they earned the links in this post by producing superior K9 products. They occasionally send product samples for LeeLoo to test, but as always, my opinions are my own.