Hiking in the Alps with your dog

Hiking in the Alps with your dog

Last summer I decided to spend six weeks hiking across the Swiss and Italian Alps with my dog. I started to Google which routes were suitable for dogs and quickly found that there was very limited information. In fact, most of the information I came across was buried in forums and a lot of it was incorrect. I read multiple times that dogs weren’t allowed in the Alps. Well, first things first, they are.

Where to Hike with your Dog

Which part of the Alps you hike entirely depends on you and your dog; some routes have knife-edge scrambles at 3000m and others follow well marked trails through alpine villages. With my dog, I’ve hiked the Tour de Monte Rosa, which includes high level routes from Saas Fee, sections of the Via Alpina Route One through the Bernese Oberland, day hikes around Zermatt and circular routes from Grindelwald. Route info...

Gear for your Dog

Adventure dogs need their own set of adventure gear. I've put together a list of a few 'must-haves', including paw protection and gear to keep your dog cool.


Plenty of hotels and campsites are dog friendly.

Remote hikes in the Alps are often linked by mountain huts, which offer dormitory rooms and meals. The vast majority of the huts don't allow dogs.


Dogs are allowed on cable cars, trains, boats and buses. There generally isn't a charge for dogs to ride cable cars, local trains and boats. However, on buses and certain trains, you will need to buy a half-fare ticket or dog travelpass if your dog is higher than 30cm and isn't in a carrier. If your journey involves changing trains, you may only need a ticket for your dog for part of the route. It's best to always check with the station staff and they'll advise what tickets you need.

Keeping your Dog Hydrated

The weather in the Alps can be very unpredictable; 30 degrees one day and a snow storm the next. For hikes on warmer days, you need to ensure your dog stays hydrated. As a rough guide, when you have a drink, offer your dog one. Also, make sure you carry enough water for your dog. Some hikes follow a river all day but on higher routes, you can walk for 6-7 hours before finding a water source.

To check if your dog is hydrated, lightly press your finger on your dog's gum. When you remove your finger, the colour should instantly return to the gum. If it takes a few seconds, this is a sign of mild dehydration. Symptoms of severe dehydration in dogs can be sunken eyes, weakness, tiredness and collapsing often.

Leishmaniasis Prevention

Leishmaniasis is disease transmitted by a Sandfly Mosquito. If a Sandfly has recently bitten an infected dog and then bites your dog, the disease can be transferred. Leishmaniasis is incurable but can be controlled through treatment. The disease can cause serve weight lose, vomiting, renal failure, joint pain, hair loss, skin lesions and many other horrific symptoms.

While Leishmaniasis is mainly found in Southern Europe, there have been cases in Switzerland and Northern France. As the disease is incurable, the key is prevention. There is no one treatment which provides complete protection. I recommend the following but please speak to your vet before deciding which treatment to use, especially as there may be new treatments available:

  • Scalibor Collars
    The collar controls bites from ticks, flies and mosquitoes for up to six months. Dogs are approximately 90% protected from bites. There are some cases where the collars have caused skin irritation. Again, speak to your vet to understand what’s best for your dog.
  • Advantix
    The spot-on treatment must be used every two weeks to prevent sandfly bites. The protection is approximately 80-85%. Advantix can be used in conjunction with a Scalibor collar.
  • Limit the Risk
    Sandflies are mainly active in wooded areas and gardens at dusk and dawn, during the summer months. Try to avoid walking your dog at these times and do not let your dog sleep outside.


To be completely honestly, I panicked when I discovered that there are poisonous snakes in the Alps. After a little more research, and now, having hiked hundreds of miles across the Alps without ever seeing a snake, I realise that I may have overreacted.

In short, yes there are two types of poisonous snakes in the Alps. Yes, they can bite humans and dogs. But, firstly, it’s extremely unlikely that you’ll come across a snake and secondly, the poison isn’t very strong. In fact it seems that only one person is on record of dying from a snake bite in the Alps since the 1960's.

That being said, I recommend that your first aid kit includes:

  • Disinfectant spray. This is for you, not for your dog!
  • Benadryl. My vet recommended that I give the dog a tablet if she was bitten.

If you or your dog are bitten, seek medical help as soon as you can and monitor the bite for any signs of infection. If possible, carry your dog to stop them putting any additional pressure on the bitten limb.


Hiking in the alps with your dog

Encounters with Ibex are likely on higher, more remote hikes. The mountain goats will often stand their ground as you approach. Once you get closer, they'll move out of the way. Make sure you are able to control your dog if they are off the lead and surprised by an Ibex; watching Ibex jump from cliff to cliff is amazing but definitely not so great if your dog attempts to follow them.

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