The first step in preparing to hike with your dog is to think about what would work best for its breed. Some dog breeds are naturally well-suited to activities that require endurance and stamina. Most Siberian huskies, for example, would do well on long hikes in the winter. However, a toy poodle probably wouldn't be able to keep up. Some larger dogs, like German shepherds, can have joint problems that make steep terrain difficult. Do some research on your dog's particular breed to find out what types of exercise suit it best.
Your dog should already be trained to respond to basic voice commands; if not, you'll need to get that under control before going on a hike together. And if your pet has been spending most of its time napping, you'll need to start conditioning before you go all out. You could start with short walks, then increase the distance until you're both ready to hit the trail. If you want to hike in places with steep or rough terrain, start getting your dog used to that kind of exercise and gradually build up.
Also, make sure that your dog is up to date on all of vaccinations and on a regular flea, tick and heartworm control regimen. Find out what kind of animals you may encounter in the area, and familiarize yourself with basic first aid for your dog.
Before you set out, your dog needs to have an ID tag with all of your contact information. You'll also need to remember a leash -- most places that allow dogs require them. Finally, pack a kit that includes:
- an extra collar and leash
- plastic bags or a spade
- basic first aid supplies, such as bandages, fine-tipped tweezers and antibiotic cream
- your vet's phone number
- the location and contact information for the closest emergency vet clinic
- a current picture of your dog (in case it gets lost)
- snacks or food (depending on how long you'll be gone)
- dog booties (depending on season and terrain)
Once your dog is conditioned, trained and all set with the supplies it will need, take time to carefully choose your destination. Many national parks only allow dogs in limited areas, for example. Make sure your dog is allowed, find out about leashing requirements, and get a trail map so you can get on the right trail for both of you.