Hiking with dogs

By Angela Hickey | March 2024


Hiking is a great activity to do over a long bank holiday weekend, and even better when you have a dog as your companion. However, hikes can be strenuous on both you and your dog. If you're planning a hike up mountains or on long forest trails this St Patrick's weekend, make sure you have a pre-planned route and are aware of the type of terrain you will meet.

It’s important to let friends or family know your plan too. Wear appropriate clothes and hiking boots, and have water, food, mobile phone, map, compass and torch packed. Also bring a First Aid Kit, you never know when you may need it!

We’ve put together a number of points to consider for you and your dog’s safety - let’s look at the many precautions you need to take for your dog before bringing them on a hike. 

1. Plan a route that is dog friendly and check if there are areas where your dog can be off leash or where there may be restrictions due to sheep, wildlife etc. You must have your dog well trained to be sure that they  have a reliable recall response in all circumstances, if you plan to let them off leash..

2. Will your pet be able for your planned route? You may need to start with shorter walks and see how well your pet copes. Dogs under one year old should not walk long distances and breeds with short legs and flat faces are not suitable breeds to take hiking. They will become tired and breathless on a long walk. 

Dogs with arthritis will not be able for uneven surfaces, ascents and descents. Elderly and unwell dogs are also unfit for hikes. If your dog tends to hang back and pant a lot on walks, cut the walk short and bring them home. If unsure, check in with your vet and get their advice.

3. Research what type of terrain you will meet and likely weather conditions and prepare for excessive heat as well as excessive cold.

4. Make sure your dog has been treated for tick and flea prevention and is fully vaccinated. There is a high risk of ticks in long grasses and bushes, and stagnant waters in canals and rivers may be a source of Leptospirosis from rats.

5. In the summer months apply dog sun screen to the nose area and ear tips in dogs with white coats.

6. Make a checklist of things to pack for your dog:

  • Drinking water and a collapsible bowl. 
  • Some food and  treats.
  • Poo bags
  • First Aid kit – including a cloth muzzle in case of pain due to injury,  tweezers for ticks and thorns, emergency blanket to use as a sling to carry your dog and for hypothermia etc., electrolyte sachets in case of heatstroke/exhaustion/dehydration, bandages and dressings, dilute antiseptic solution or ointment, and a small scissors.
  • A water proof coat is useful to avoid wind chill if your pet gets wet. 
  • Also include phone numbers for emergency vets in the area.

1. Take regular rest stops and give your dog drinks of water and bring them into the shade to cool down in hot weather.  

2. In hot weather avoid hiking around noon, as it may get too hot. Dogs are prone to heatstroke if exercised in hot weather.  Signs of this are excessive panting, drooling, agitation, vomiting and diarrhoea, loss of consciousness and collapse. Cool your dog down by bringing them into a shaded area and wetting them down with cool (not cold) water all over, especially in under-arm areas and groin where hair is sparse.  As the water evaporates on their skin it will take heat from the body.

3. If, on the other hand, the weather turns cold, wet and windy, put a waterproof coat on your dog to help them stay dry and avoid wind chill. If hypothermia is suspected (signs of shivering, stumbling, lethargy and confusion) find a sheltered place and lie close to your dog to warm them up.

4. Be aware of wildlife (foxes, badgers, deer, ground nesting birds, squirrels etc.) and farm animals (sheep and cows in fields) and keep both them and your dog safe by restraining your dog on a long leash or have them very well trained for recall if a sudden confrontation happens when they are off leash.  

If your pet gets scratched or bitten by a wild animal take them to a quiet place and calm them down.  If necessary apply a cloth muzzle in case they bite you due to pain and shock. Then examine any wounds, clean them with water and dilute antiseptic solution, and, if necessary apply a bandage to protect the wound or control bleeding.  

5. Watch out for insect bites and for any allergic reactions such as swelling at the bite location and especially if there is swelling of the snout or throat, in which case you will need to get to a vet urgently.

6. Stop your dog from eating wild plants as some may be toxic.

7. Practice ‘hiker’s etiquette’ by bagging your dog’s poo, keeping your dog under full control at all times and obeying any rules regarding dogs. Step off the path with your dog under control on a leash to avoid mountain bikers or allow other hikers with dogs to pass.

8. Avoid areas where accidents and injuries could happen like steep ground, cliffs, or rocky terrain where your dog may fall or may sprain or strain a ligament or tendon, or fracture a bone.

9. Stay on marked trails as much as possible to avoid getting lost.  Also keep your dog constantly in sight if off leash and call them back to you regularly, rewarding them for obedience.

1. Check your dog all over for ticks and remove any you find.

2. Remove twigs, thorns etc. stuck in your dog’s coat.

3. Check all pads on your dog’s feet to make sure there are no cuts or grazes.

4. If your dog is limping that evening or the next day get them checked out by your vet.

5. Feed your dog well and give them fresh drinking water, followed by a soft bed and a good rest for both of you!


Following the above steps will ensure an enjoyable and safe trip on the mountains for you and your four legged friend. Check out our blog post ‘Five Irish hikes off the beaten path to discover this summer’ for some inspiration on where to go. Remember to plan a route that is dog friendly in advance!


Information correct as of date of publishing. This blog will not be updated or edited so the information may become outdated.