Words by Peter Cirilli

Beginner’s Guide To Hiking With Dogs

Photo by Peter Cirilli

Hiking with my Blue Heeler, Otto, is one of my favorite things to do. Since he’s young we’re still learning the whole hiking with dogs ropes – if you’re in the same boat, below are a few tips I’ve learned that may help you too.

We’re based in Vermont, so we get to take a lot of day trips to some really beautiful spots. It’s one of those weird states where no matter what your weather app says, it is most likely the opposite. Contrary to popular belief, it is very warm in the summers. Temperatures reach 90 degrees with an average hovering around 50% humidity, resulting in it feeling like anywhere from 95 to 100 degrees. With that humidity also comes sporadic rainstorms, which can result in some pretty awesome sunsets. Both confusing and beautiful.

Tips For Hiking With Your Dog

Last weekend, Otto and I chose to hike the Sterling Pond trail, located in Jeffersonville Vermont on the Notch Road. The Notch Road is known for its windiness as well as its beautiful foliage from summer into the fall. This specific trail also meets up with the Long Trail roughly one mile in. 

Below are my tips for hiking with your dog:

Pre-Hike Readiness With Your Dog

Below are my tips for hiking with your dog:

If you’re going to embark on a hike in a state like Vermont, preparing for the weather can be unpredictable. Since it’s summer, I wear something comfortable and cool, and bring a lightweight rain coat.

We use an app called All Trails which gives you all necessary information regarding the hike – including whether or not dogs are allowed. The majority of trails will have signage at the trailhead regarding the proper protocol about pets on the hike.

In order to prepare Otto for the hike we usually make sure he hasn’t had too much exercise before, so he still has some energy in the tank. I bring water but also like to make sure there will be a water source along the way, and stock up on Nulo pet food snacks for him.

Dogs & Trail Etiquette

Photo by Peter Cirilli

This particular hike allows for dogs to be off leash a majority of the time, but you should check the area you’ll be in for if your dog can be on or off leash. There is a common courtesy reminder for dog owners to leash your dog when coming across other hikers, due to the danger of accidentally knocking a fellow hiker off balance when passing. Since Otto is a very happy and social Blue Heeler, he’d most likely go straight up to someone on the trail and say hey – out of respect for others I like to either leash him up, or sit stay while they pass. We’ve been working on heeling but he hasn’t mastered it enough to pass a group of people – we’ll get there.

Hiking Gear With Your Dog

On the hike. We will usually keep a standard 6ft slip lead on us while hiking because it allows us to leash and unleash him very quickly. For situations where you run into other people on the trail it makes life easier to be able to just slip the leash over his head.

I will always carry my Yeti Rambler water bottles: One for me and one for him. Despite being heavy they’re guaranteed to keep the water cool and clean, so for the day-trip hikes it’s worth it. As for Otto, a lot of times I will carry his Yeti Boomer bowl because that is also insulated – keeping his water cool and refreshing is more important to me that carrying a little extra weight, but you should gauge what you can do.

On the way and back. We use the Gunner G1™ Intermediate with the Orthopedic Bed and straps to get Otto to and from the mountain. Using it gives us peace of mind regarding his safety, and we know he is comfortable.. .and that our vehicle stays clean both before and after!

Dog Profile

Name: Otto 
Breed: Australian Cattle Dog (Or Blue Heeler)
Age: 1
Weight: 60lbs
Occupation: Professional Fetcher
Owner: Peter Cirilli

Breed Profile: German Shepherd

share this story