Dog Hiking Trail Etiquette: Off-leash and On-leash Tips

Dog Hiking Trail Etiquette

Pounding the trail with your dog is a superb way to explore the green spaces and reap the benefits of being outside and physically active. Hiking not only supplies your dog with ample demand for exercise, but also provides a workout for their brain and nose.

Yet, going on an adventure with your dog involves a lot of responsibilities — your own doings and your dog’s actions — especially every time you encounter other people on the trails, either hikers, climbers, bicyclists, trail runners, or horse riders.

It’s ideal to have a strict voice to command your dog to obey trail rules. Consider the needs of other dogs and respect hikers who hate pups. Plus, ready to high-value your dog’s treats, to get their attention when you need to, and keep a leash nearby.

Before you take your dog on a hike, you should first practice common sense and simple courtesy to show your best etiquette on the trail while hiking with your dog, on-leash, or off-leash.

In this article, we’ll be giving 10 tips to observe polite behavior when hiking with your dog. Other topics to tackle include 5 On-leash and 8 Off-leash suggestions to help you meet your adventure-seeking goals.


Whether you’re going on a quick day hike with your pet or a multi-day backpacking trip with your friends, you’ll need a reliable hiking backpack to help you carry and store your hiking gear. If you’re not sure about which pack you should get, check out our article about the best hiking backpacks to see which ones are our favorites. 


Hiking etiquettes to observe when hiking with your dog

To ensure a fun and organized trip, heed hiking etiquette rules. Specifically, communicate proactively, learn to step off the trail for other users, protect wildlife, and be ready to pack your puppy’s poop.

Here are 10 etiquettes to observe.

Strict command

Hikers who bring their dogs on the trails must always have them on a leash or under the stern command. A firm voice command results in the dog promptly heeling when told and shunning from barking.

Note: There’s no such thing as a “bad” or “untrainable” dog. Some puppies need more time and mental-enrichment than others, but almost all dogs live by basically the same set of rules. Every dog has the “pack” mentality, which means they can all be trained to go hiking with their owners.

The basic commands that every dog must learn are: “heel,” “sit,” “stay,” and “come.”

Yield the right of way

When the canine owners encounter any other trail users, the dog and owner should yield the right-of-way, moving well to the side to let the other trail users pass without concerning “getting sniffed.”

Quick tip: If your dog is aggressive, very defensive of you, or else likely to bark and disturb the quiet and other hikers who enjoy their adventure, he’s unfit for hiking.

Calm your dog

When meeting horses on the trail, the dog owner should first offer the trail, yet also must ensure that the dog stays calm, doesn’t bark, and doesn’t move toward the horse. Horses can be spooked by odd dogs.

It’s the dog owner’s responsibility to keep their animal quiet and under strict control. Walk well off the trail (downhill from the trail if feasible) and pause off the trail, with your canine held near to your side, until the horses move well past you.

Communicate clearly

When you encounter someone on the trail, you can inform them that your dog is friendly, and speak that calmness to the dog.

Never let your dog lunge at other hikers and dogs, always make sure a greeting is fine with another dog’s person; give a quick, friendly sniff, yet be on your way and ignore the other dog.

In the event of a bite: Alter your puppy’s vaccination records with the other hikers. People bitten by canines with unknown vaccination history should undertake a series of injections thereupon to avoid possible rabies.

If your dog is bitten by that dog, he will require a rabies booster even if his vaccine is up to date.

Step off for other people

When hikers encounter other groups, the hikers must step off the trail. This is because hikers are normally great mobile and flexible users; it’s simpler for them to move off the trail compared to bicyclists who would have to heft their bike, or horse riders who would need to direct their animals off-trail.

Stick to the trails

Hikers and dogs must follow the trails and respect signs indicating areas that are off-limits. Never cut roads, take shortcuts, or create new trails. This will help keep you safe, and will help preserve the trail and the environment around you.

If your goal is off-trail, leave the trail in as straight a manner as possible. Walk away from the trail in a line perpendicular to the trail. Once ably clear of the trail, alter your route to your destination.

Obey rules

Observe the rules specific to the trail you’re traveling to. Many trails are secured to particular types of use, involving hiking with dogs or riding horses.

Don’t disturb wildlife

Avoid disturbing wildlife, particularly in winter and in calving or nesting areas. Overlook from a distance and resist the urge to move close even if you can’t take a picture you want from a distance.

This does not only make you safer, but also stops the animal from having to unnecessarily try to escape from you.

The best rule of thumb: Just leave all natural creatures, objects, and features as you discover them for others to enjoy.

Leave No Trace

It’s essential that you pick up and pack your dog’s poop while hiking. Leaving their poop on the trail will not only leave a mess for others, but it can also harm the environment by initiating pathogens and parasites that aren’t endemic to the area.

Bring plastic bags with you, and always pick up your dog’s poop and pack it to dispose of it properly, or bury it in a hole six to eight inches deep and 200 feet from a water source, depending on the trail rules where you’re hiking.

No more than two dogs per person

If you decide to hike with more than one dog at a time, make sure that your dogs are well behaved on leash together and facile to control. Remember that hiking with many dogs can make emergencies harder.

If you have one person per dog, then you don’t have to panic about controlling one dog while assisting the other. Hiking with more than two dogs at a time is discouraged.


Hiking is a fantastic way to enjoy nature and exercise with your dog. If you enjoy hiking with your furry buddy and you’re looking for tips that will answer your questions and concerns, you’re at the right place. Read our article to learn about our tips for hiking with your dog


5 On-leash Dog Hiking Trail Etiquette

Keeping your dog on a leash set them safe. Considering the needs of other dogs, being aware of ecologically sensitive areas, controlling your dog’s well-being, considering that not all people like dogs, and following leash laws convey the best behavior.

1. Consider the needs of other dogs

There are other reasons dogs need personal space. A canine may be blind or deaf and be frightened when another dog runs up to them. The dog may be also healing from an injury. It may be attacked at some point and scared.

You must remember that some dogs could still be in training.

2. Be aware of ecologically-sensitive areas

Be aware of disturbing and damaging living creatures around you. Notice all sorts of fish along the creeks and birds’ nests on the ground. The more we go off-trail, the more damage we can do.

3. Control your dog’s well-being

Numerous areas are on-leash for reasons you might not have thought of. For instance, there could be sheer cliffs off of the trailing edge, or predators in the area. An adjacent river might run too fast that dogs may swim in if you suddenly unleash. There could be toxins like mushrooms or other plants that are grown in the area. If the signage say “on-leash only,” do it for safety reasons.

These are common danger and threats that your dog may encounter when misbehave while hiking:

  • Overexertion – All the excitement can be exhausting. Keep an eye on their breathing and heart rate. If your dog can’t recover sufficiently after a break, consider creating camp early.
  • Falling – Avoid cliffs, steep trails, and unstable terrains. With a harness or a dog’s backpack with a handle, you can help them climb.
  • Paw injuries – Sharp rocks and rough ground make your puppy’s paws vulnerable to cuts and scrapes. So, you can bring booties if needed. If your dog is limping, that’s a real sign that you must need to stop for the day.
  • Creatures – Including ticks, snakes, scorpions, coyotes, and other predators.
  • Plants – Poisonous ones like poison oak, poison ivy, sumac, particular mushrooms, and hemlock, among others. And the prickly ones like cacti can all do harm. If you found your dog grazing on any greenery, stop them right away.
  • Pathogens – Drinking water exposed to Leptospirosis or coccidia will make your dog sick. In high-risk areas, where there are many cattle or campers, never let your dog drink from streams or lakes. Keep them away from stagnant water.
  • Unfamiliar territory – When you take a city dog to a wild country location, anything can go wrong. Never assume that just because your dog is an animal, they know how to survive in wildlife.

4. Remember not all people like dogs

Some hikers may not be dog lovers and prefer on-leash trails to keep away from dogs jumping on them. They can also have more reasons that you need to respect. Some people have allergies to dogs, and others had bad experiences with dogs.

Whatever the reasons, it’s necessary that everyone’s needs and preferences are taken into consideration by obeying the rules on the trails.

5. Respect leash laws

It’s necessary to remember that we are privileged to have access to some of the best green spaces in the world. It’s not ethical to contempt others by mishandling this privilege.

Kindly respect leash laws and select designated off-leash trails if you like your dog to roam freely.


Before your hike with your dog, you should train them. In some situations, you’ll need them to behave and listen to your commands. It can be an extensive advantage if you can control them. Here are 15 training tips that you should know before taking your dog on a hike. 


8 off-leash dog hiking trail etiquettes

Ponder these polite manners to successfully hike with your dog off-leash and to keep the peace with other trail users. Basically, know the rules, prepare high-value dog treats, never practice off-leash dogs on actual trips, keep alert, regularly check-in your pup, and ready a leash near you. 

Here are 8 absolute tips to observe:

1. Know the rules

You could be penalized for having your dog off-leash in an area where puppies are required to be leashed.

Some dog owners specifically prefer to hike particular trails with their dogs because the trails recommend dogs to be on-leash. They may have reactive pups who don’t essentially play well with other dogs who come running up to them off-leash liking to play.

Think that not every dog does well with other dogs. Respect the clampdowns of other dogs, and assure to only let your dog off-leash where it’s allowed.

2. Prepare high-value dog treats

Preparing a high-value dog treat, such as a hot dog or a piece of cheese, is a much more irresistible reason for your dog to stay near you than usual dog treats. High-value snacks must be reserved for cases when the level of distraction is higher than usual and the dog needs more incentive to focus.

When your canine is out on the trail, sniffing new scents and discovering the new sights, high-value snacks are best to have along in instance you need your dog to pay attention to you in a hurry.

Few awesome hiking snacks for a dog:

  • Farm fresh dog treats
  • Benny Bully’s
  • Crumps’ natural sweet potato chews
  • Plato thinkers
  • Stella and Chewy’s wild weenies
  • Oven-baked tradition fillets
  • Blue wilderness trail treats
  • Spot farm wild shreds
  • Dogswell jerky
  • Zukes Lil links
  • Cloud star wag jerkier
  • Cocotherapy maggie’s macaroons
  • Hare of the dog rabbit jerky
  • Nulo freestyle sticks
  • Fruitables whole jerky

3. Must already be practiced off-leash dog

By the time you arrive at an off-leash trail, you must have already practiced off-leash behavior with your dog, either in the backyard or in a deserted fenced-in park. In these tiny, controlled areas, you can practice allowing your dog off-leash and calling them back to you.

Remember to make use of dog treats when practicing. A good mind is valuable and it’s worth paying your pup the good stuff for it. Plus, practicing “come,” “sit,” and “stay” is also important prior to introducing new distractions on an off-leash trail.

4. Keep alert

As a dog handler, you need to be aware of what is ahead of you on the road and what your dog might encounter. Because your hound is likely running ahead of you on the trail, they will meet dangers prior to you do.

Keep one step ahead of your pup by examining the trail ahead of your dog and proactively calling your pup back to you if you encounter any red flags ahead. You can also get close enough to them when they meet other dogs to easily break up unexpected dog fights.

5. Regular check-ins are required

Check-in your dog regularly, make it second nature to them. You can keep tasty dog snacks when regularly calling them back to you, to keep their attention and heed to what you ask for.

6. Poop happens, even off-leash

Your canine can’t stop pooping when he is off-leash. It’s your duty to watch them and search down that poop when that happens.

7. Don’t put that leash away

It’s necessary to keep a leash on hand for when need it, even on an off-leash trail. Other urban off-leash trails will prescribe your dog be on a leash when trekking to or from the park, so you may need to have one anyway.

You may encounter some hikers with kids who are afraid of hounds. In these cases, you can call the dogs back to you and leash them as a courtesy.

As a pet owner, you need to be responsible and courteous to avoid any dog-human squabbles that could forfeit the privilege of having off-leash areas.

8. Step aside

Every time you encounter people on the trail, stop, and ask your dog to sit off to the side of the trail. This is a fine courtesy to other people on the trail, allowing them to pass easily. This is a good way to create some kindness between dog people and non-dog people.

Quick tip (if your dog will hike off-leash): Asking your pup to wear a pack or reflective vest on the trail frequently puts other hikers at ease. Even non-dog handlers find the sight of a pack-carrying trail hound winsome.


Hiking is an extreme type of adventure. Not all people have the endurance to prolong this activity. So how about if you’re bringing your dog? Are they capable of tolerating such a journey? If you really want to hike with your pup, here is how you can prepare for a hike with your dog



Every dog owner wishes to enjoy the outdoors with their hound, but it also involves responsibilities with your own doings and an extra duty with your dog’s actions. This means that you’re also to be held accountable for the safety of other hikers. You’re also responsible for the impact on wildlife and trail vegetation.

Thus, unpleasant dog actions on hiking trails increase the trail restrictions for dogs. So, never let the dog haters complain about the misbehavior of your pup. Instead, train your dog and let them master the things you ask to do and study the simple rules of dog hiking etiquette to help your dog showcase their best manners on the trail.

Substantially, the tips we shared offer you precise knowledge, and tips regarding polite behavior that will ensure smooth encounters on the trail with your dog. Provided you loads of ideas in order to garner the perks of a fun trip together.

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