Hiking with your dog can be a blast. Whether they are encouraging you to tackle a great elevation gain or just covering you with kisses every time you sit to take a breather, being prepared is key to enjoying your time together trailblazing.
Where to Go
It is always important to make sure the trail you are blazing is dog-friendly. Although many trails in Maine welcome dogs, it is important to always check. For example, Baxter State Park and Mt. Katahdin does not permit dogs. In The Maine Highlands, a great resource is Maine Trailfinder. Also reference local guidebooks, guides, Chambers of Commerce, local land trusts, and fellow hikers, as they are a wealth of knowledge when it comes to dog-friendly trails. There are not many in The Maine Highlands that do not permit dogs, however, some do require leashes. Others say dogs are welcome, yet the trail may be too challenging for your pet. My dog Porche really struggled with the ladders on Big Spencer Mountain and she doesn’t enjoy walking close to the cliff’s edge on any trail.
I would recommend spending a little time asking around or reading up on the trail before heading out. You don’t want to get halfway through a hike and realize it’s too difficult for your dog. Even heading to social media to search locations to see if dogs are in pictures or asking on Facebook groups like Maine Hiking or Northwoods Wellness Collective can be greatly beneficial.
Here are some of my dog’s favorite trails:
What to Bring
Now that you know where you are going, what do you bring? Here are my top must-haves for hiking with my dog, Porche.
Water and Drinking Supplies
We bring a collapsible water bowl and extra water just for our dog. I also always carry a Sawyer water filter, just in case we are extra thirsty that day. This is not necessary on shorter hikes, but we have used it on hikes like White Cap before.
Porsche loves high protein and high-fat snacks while hiking. From beef sticks to bacon, we make sure to always pack her a few high-calorie snacks, especially on longer adventures.
Leash and Collar
Although Porsche usually hikes off leash, I always have a leash on hand for many reasons. If the summit has steep drops, if we come across another dog that doesn’t want to be her friend, or a group that isn’t cool with dogs, having a leash makes everyone’s experience better. I always keep it on the outside of my pack, for easy access. Also, this goes without saying, but make sure your pup is wearing a collar. I have seen a few dogs on my adventures that wandered just a little too far. Those with names and numbers on the collars were easy to reunite with their loved one.
This may sound crazy but I love having Porsche wear a bell on her collar. It not only lets me know where she is but it also lets other people and animals know of her presence.
Let’s be kind to our fellow hikers and take any poop off the trail.
I always have athletic tape in my hiking pack regardless if Porsche is with me or not. It’s a must-have when hiking with a furry friend. If your dog gets injured, this can help A LOT. From putting pressure on a cut to covering a sore foot, you’ll want to have this “just in case”.
Utility Knife With Pliers or Tweezers
I also always have this in my pack, but you’ll want it if your pup gets into something or you find a tick on them.
This is important to carry just in case your pup has an allergic reaction or comes into contact with anything that may cause inflammation. If you see any swelling, this antihistamine can help you safely get off the trail and head to your nearest vet. An insect or snake bite can easily cause inflammation and you’ll be grateful you packed this tiny pink pill. Consult with your vet ahead of time to know the appropriate dosage for your dog.
Pack this…especially during hunting season. We hike year round, and although we avoid certain trails near hunting spots in the fall, we always both wear orange bandanas. I often have Porsche where bandanas in the summer months and will wet them if it is a really hot day.
Some hikers choose to have their dogs wear booties and some have their dogs carry their own gear in doggie backpacks. If you are doing a multi-day hike and need to carry more water and food for your pet, I would encourage considering a doggie backpack.
Be smart and know your dog. Prepare them for hikes, know their capabilities, and recognize when a day is too hot or a trail is too hard for them.
Make sure to offer water and snacks often and train your dog to have trail manners. What do I mean by this?
- Be Mindful of Other Hikers
Leash your dog if others seem uncomfortable and step aside to let them by. Do not let your dog topple people over. If your dog is not friendly, consider keeping them on a leash and visiting less trafficked trails. I would not recommend a hike like Mount Kineo for them.
- Protect Wildlife
Do not let your dog chase animals through the woods. Porsche was raised on a wildlife sanctuary and is used to leaving deer and ducks alone. She has encountered moose twice. We have taught her to “leave it” and if for some reason she is over interested, she is put on the leash until the animal is a safe distance away.
Most importantly, have fun and hike often! Share your pictures with us by using #MaineHighlands. We can’t wait to see you and your four-legged pal blazing trails together.
Written by Samantha Coffin. Samantha holds health, adventure, and happiness close to her heart. Having lived in many places, The Maine Highlands holds a special place in her life. Founder of the Northwoods Wellness Collective, Samm and her husband managed Tomhegan Wilderness Cabins before moving to North Carolina. She’s always sharing her latest adventures on Instagram. Follow her @sammssimplelife.