10 Hiking Tips for Dogs and Kids

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of the J.M. Smucker Company.

If you are looking for a fun and affordable family activity that includes your dog, these 10 Hiking Tips for Safe Hiking with Kids and Dogs will get you off on the right path!

Tips for Hiking with Dogs & Kids

My dad instilled a true love of nature in me growing up.

He would take us hiking or camping as often as he could, and we’d eat military-issued MRE (ready-to-eat) meals out of plastic packages and take plenty of swimming breaks. No matter where we lived, my dad would quickly find the most scenic yet family-friendly hiking spots and we’d become frequent visitors.

Now that I have an active, nature-loving girl of my own, I’m starting to take our whole family – Luna (our labradoodle) included – for hikes whenever we find ourselves needing a dose of calm… which with these two is often!

It would never occur to me to go for a hike without Luna – she needs the fresh air and exercise more than any of us, and if her tail is any indication, I think she loves the hikes even more than we do!

I can do this with grain-free, premium dog food that is easy-to-digest and provides the nutrition needed to fuel her through our busy life. That’s why I choose Nature’s Recipe® made with real chicken as the #1 ingredient (they also have lamb and salmon varieties). We buy ours at Walmart while we’re picking up our own groceries.

The recipe is carefully crafted with nutrient-dense carbohydrate sources such as sweet potato and pumpkin and has added vitamins, minerals and nutrients. I feel happy feeding Nature’s Recipe to Luna, and she clearly loves it, too!

Today, I’m excited to share with you some basic tips to get you started hiking with your whole family – dogs included!

Just like with us, hiking or any form of physical activity is something that you slowly build up your dog and child’s endurance. Planning a 1 hour hike on the first time out is going to lead to frustrations, whininess, and worst case – accidents.

For us, we started with 10-20 minute hikes on small trails or at local parks, and worked our way up. We do one-hour hikes often when we get a chance (we have some awesome trails nearby) and we’ve even successfully done a couple 3 hour hikes! Keep in mind though – the distance covered with a dog and child in tow is still similar to what a full-grown adult would be able to cover in about an hour.

Check the Trails

First things first, make sure that the trails or park you plan to visit is safe, allows canines (and whether dogs need to be leashed or not) and that the trails have been recently maintained. Even if you are confident walking “off trail,” with kids and dogs, be sure they don’t wander into plants or spots they shouldn’t.

Some trails provide bins for dog waste, some allow you to bury it – and others require you to take it with you when you go. Know ahead of time and plan accordingly.

Also, if the park or area that you’ll be visiting is adjacent to a body of water, check local websites to ensure that it’s safe before you let the kids or dogs go anywhere near it.

Bring a map of the trail if it doesn’t have posted maps throughout.

Be Realistic

If your dog still has a hard time listening, take them on a trail where you can safely manage them and your child. (And vice versa.)

This is one area where I would recommend underestimating what they are capable of, and then if you have a couple great walks on an easy trail, you can always add a bit more adventure next time. Our favorite trail is close to some steep ledges, but I brought a second adult the first time we attempted it and only after we had several successful hikes under our belt.

First Aid Kit

Pack a first aid kit – even if you’re not far from home, I always make sure I have:

  • tweezers
  • alcohol wipes
  • bandages
  • instant cold pack
  • towel/blanket

If you’re going on longer hikes, you may want to pack other emergency items as you’ll be farther from help if something should occur.

Proper Clothing

For most hikes, we wear socks, good running shoes, and light pants to keep legs covered from brush and bug bites.

Some animals will also benefit from special clothing – from cooling vests or sun-coverage shirts, to those cute little booties.

Sun Protection

Even if you’re hiking in the woods, sun protection should never be overlooked – for kids and pets! Check with your vet what type of sun protection is best for your pooch.


While no one wants to think of the worst, it’s always a good idea to ensure your dog has their collar with tags on when going out in case you are separated. It’s also a good idea to give your child something for identifying as well.

Tick/Flea Prevention

Dogs can receive preventative treatments up to 48 hours before a hike. For kids, your choice of bug spray should suffice. Be sure to check both your dog and child thoroughly once you get home.

Water and Food for Everyone

Pack enough water for both the humans and the dogs (more than you would normally need in that time frame) – including a collapsible water dish for your pet. We also bring a light meal for us and Nature’s Recipe dog food for Luna when we are on longer or more leisurely hikes.

Start Small

Not just starting when your kids and pets are young, but start with short hikes, going slow and deliberately. Not only does this help build up endurance, it also allows you to slowly train your dog and children on the rules of the trail – like no eating anything you see along the trail!

Build in Down Time

If you’re planning on taking a 30 minute trail, give yourself an hour, if possible. Let children and dogs stop and enjoy the scenery, dip their toes in the water – the whole point is to build a love of nature and connect with each other, so why rush through it!?

Plus… you may be surprised at what you find!

Pin these Hiking Tips for Hiking with Dogs and Kids for Your Future Adventures:

If you are looking for a fun and affordable family activity that includes your dog, these 10 Hiking Tips for Safe Hiking with Kids and Dogs will get you off on the right path!

What types of activities or adventures do you bring your pets along for? If you hike, please let me know if there are any tips that I forgot!

For more fun family activities, check out our 40 Mom-Daughter Dates for Every Budget or our 40 Grandmother-Granddaughter Dates!


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