Starting Out: Hiking with Dogs

Starting Out: Hiking with Dogs

I’m a big believer of 'never leave the dog behind' so wherever I walk, the dog comes along too. Sometimes bringing the dog doesn’t require anything more than grabbing a lead and heading out the door. On other occasions, when routes include mild scrambles, cliff-edge paths and awful weather, more preparation and gear is needed.

Getting Started

Like people, different dogs have a huge range of energy and fitness. You need to be aware of what your dog is capable of. In most cases, it’s just about building up the distance and difficulty, slowly increasing the time you’re walking for and the type of terrain. It’s good to have a goal of what you want your dog to be able to do. For example, I decided to take my dog on the Tour de Monte Rosa trek in the Alps. The 100 mile hike includes scrambles, very narrow paths and covering 10-20 miles each day. I knew my dog would be fine with the distance as we were already doing multi-day hikes but the terrain was going to be tough. Before the hike, I started taking her on harder mountain routes, slowly building up from the Miners Track to Snowdon and Striding Edge on Helvellyn to a pretty brutal scramble across loose boulders and scree around Wast Water Lake. By the time we got to the Alps, she was a pro!

You also need to consider any genetic health issues and the age of your dog; larger dogs often can’t do serious distance until they are at least a year old without risking serious hip problems and short-nosed, flat-faced dogs may have breathing problems and shouldn’t be walked too far, especially on warm days. Always check with your vet if you’re unsure.

Basic Training

When you’re in the mountains, it becomes even more essential that you have total control of your dog. If you’re in any doubt that they won’t come back when you call or stop when you shout ‘wait’, your dog should be on a lead. It’s one thing if a dog wanders across a park but it’s a whole other ball game if they start chasing sheep or deer towards the edge of a cliff. Take your dog to classes or follow a training guide; How to Raise the Perfect Dog by Cesar Millan is a good place to start.


The higher, longer and more difficult the route, the more specialised gear you’ll need for your dog. I’ve put together a gear list for adventure dogs, including harnesses and paw protection.

Hiking with dogs starting out

Picking the Right Walking Route

All of the routes on this site have been walked with a dog. Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as ‘if one dog can do it, all dogs can'. It hugely depends on you and your dog. I've given each route a rating; Easy, Medium or Hard. The rating is based on the navigation skills required and the hazardous risks of the walk, for example if there are scrambles, high level paths, risks of falling etc. The rating doesn’t relate to the distance; a walk can be 8 hours with an Easy rating because the paths are well marked and the ascent is fairly straight forward. Make sure you pick routes which are suitable for your dog and get in touch if you have any questions.

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