Wednesday, August 9, 2023

Bella’s Tips for Humans who Hike with Dogs

black and white dog on hiking trail

Bella’s alternative title: Pooping in the Woods with my Human

You may be wondering about the title(s) of this article. My human, who has written for the Adirondack Almanack about public health stuff and dog treats (my favorite!) and recipes (my second favorite!) and the outdoors (my third favorite, especially if there are squirrels and birds to sniff), has been distracted by work. So distracted, that she has become positively boring, and hasn’t written all the stories and things she keeps talking about with me. So, I decided that I should help my human out and write this article for her, so that you other humans could have a dog’s perspective on what makes hiking with our humans one of our best and most favorite things, ever. Especially since I like hiking with my human and hope that my help means more hikes very soon. If all goes as planned, I will see you on the trails soon. I hope that you bring treats to share with me (like the ones my human has shared through the Adirondack Almanack, or that I will be sharing for her if she doesn’t get her act together and start being fun again).

~Signed, Belladonna (Entledoodle Extraordinaire).

Like many other dogs, I love to hike. I love the time with my human, being able to get my wiggles out, having fun new scents to sniff, new dogs to meet on the trails, and lots and lots and lots of attention from people who tell me how beautiful I am (which, of course, is nothing more than the truth). In fact, I don’t know why my human only invites me on some of her hikes, not all of them. She tells me that I’m not allowed in some places (*insert dog snort here. Why on earth would someone not want dogs?*), or that it’s too hot or cold for me (ironic coming from someone who doesn’t have fur, so wears clothes all the time), or that my paws might freeze (another irony coming from someone who always hikes with shoes on. I don’t, I might add), or that I might get hurt (if it’s that dangerous, why are you hiking, oh, my beloved human?).

I don’t understand why she worries so much, since she does things when we’re hiking that have me worry about her. But, because I love her, and I know that she loves me, I want to share with you some tips that will make your hiking trips with the furry members of your family a success. Consider them Bella approved. I hope to see you (well, mainly my dog pals, but since you bring them, you’re okay to see, too) on the trails soon!

  • Know Where You’re Going – I still don’t understand why some places won’t allow dogs to hike. Honestly, I think that, compared with many humans, we’re much better behaved. We can sit, stay, fetch frisbees, and roll over on command (when have you humans been able to get another human to do any of those tasks when asked?). But, I obviously don’t make the rules.

So, it is important to know if the trail you intend to hike is dog-friendly or not. For example, the Adirondack Mountain Reserve (AMR) in Keene, NY, does not allow dogs on its property. Even more than knowing whether dogs are or aren’t allowed, there are some trails that are frequented more frequently than others by dogs and their humans.

furry black and white dog bella and her owner

Some of my fellow canines like meeting other dogs, making these trails an excellent choice (especially since people who like dogs often bring dog treats on hikes!). But, some of my canine friends don’t like meeting new friends (especially my dog friends who have lived in some not-so-good situations before finding their forever homes), so trails that may have fewer interactions might be better for them.

Whether dogs are allowed or not, or there are lots of potential new friends on the trail or not, it’s still safest and best for my canine friends and I when our humans bring maps and compasses, and don’t rely only on their cell phones or other GPS technology for direction. Unlike batteries, the loyalty of a dog won’t ever fail. So, for our sake, and yours, please make sure to know where you’re going!

  • Food and Water – So, this may seem like a no-brainer to you, but we dogs need food and water. And, although we may seem like we’re constantly running around at home, when we’re hiking, we’re using extra resources, so we need more food and water than we may ask for at home, regardless of whether we’re hiking in the spring, summer, fall, or winter. I promise you that this isn’t just an excuse to get more treats (although I will never say no to a treat, so bring them all on!).

Because of this extra nutrient and hydration requirement, on hikes, my human packs extra water and some snacks for me, and also brings a collapsible silicone bowl, so that I can drink out of it (I haven’t mastered the apparent art of drinking water that my human pours from a bottle). I do love to drink from water on the trail, but my human is paranoid about giardiasis and other potential pathogens (that whole public health thing), so she tries to only allow me to drink from water that she knows is clean (filtered or collected from fast-flowing. She won’t let me dive into fast-flowing water, myself. Something about being worried that the current may be too strong for me).

I am not picky when it comes to dog snacks (I don’t think that my human would like me sharing about my love of certain animal snacks, so I won’t talk about how I sometimes try to sneak gobbling down deer poo. Or rabbit poo. Cocoa puffs for canines!), but my human is picky about what I eat, so she will only bring snacks on the trail that are good for me. She buys some commercial dog treats that my vet recommended to her, and also makes some treats for me (I think that she has shared two of those recipes in the Adirondack Almanack. She will be sharing more, if I have anything to do with it!). Sometimes (okay, pretty regularly), she shares her food with me, too (my current favorite – apple slices). She is always careful to first check and make sure that whatever food I am offered won’t hurt me, and that I’m not eating too much. Although I might look small and adorable, eating too much when I still have a lot of hiking to do can be counterproductive (I disagree, because I will never turn down a snack. But, she is rather vocal about this, and follows the same advice for herself, so I guess it has some merit).

  • Poop Happens, so Prepare for Poop – I know that you’re probably thinking that I’m going to write about making sure to bag your dog’s poop and carry it out. Yes, everyone knows that (or, at least I hope that they do!). And, I might add that it is a glorious thing to have someone bag your poop and carry it around like a treasure.

But, I digress.

Although dog poops may result in the following descriptions of poop-on-hiking-trails, I am not discussing dog poop here, but human poop. Yes, some humans do choose to leave dog poo on hiking trails rather than bagging it and carrying it out, but for some strange reason I can’t understand, humans also like to mark the hiking trails by leaving their own poop un-bagged.  I can’t tell you how many times my human has gagged a bit while hiking, due to some fellow human deciding that dropping a deuce on the side of (or, in some instances, directly on) a highly trafficked trail was a good idea (spoiler alert – it’s not). So, to further encourage you amazing human hikers to implement Leave No Trace principles for yourselves and your canine hiking partners, let me describe the following scenarios.

Imagine, if you will, giant piles ‘o steaming poo, the aromas shared with all on the trail due to the crisp and clean Adirondack breeze wafting those poo-fumes in hikers’ faces (dog and human alike). Or, even worse, giant turds with trailing turdlets on the trail (super tricky to differentiate from smaller rocks. Just saying). In the winter – turdsicles = the bonus, larger, frozen, and somewhat pointy gifts emerging from the original frozen turd. Or, my personal favorite Adirondack Hiking Poop Trail Encounter, Fall Feces, Hiding Under Fallen Foliage, which cause Sneaky and Slippery Skids. You know the type – you step on the pretty, fallen leaves and then do the awkward hiker shuffle, as you try to not fall on your butt when your feet kick out from under you. When determining the cause of your unfortunate foot slippage, rather than smelling the tangy notes of fallen oak and beech leaves, you instead inhale a deep whiff of – (you guessed it) – poop.

bella the black and white dog

You know what helps avoiding these unfortunate scenarios? That’s right – proper outdoor pooping technique. Yup – that’s a thing (at least, according to my human. I like to drop one wherever I please, but I have been told that’s not exactly acceptable among you two-legged folk). Along with the commonsense practice that dog poop should be bagged and carried out, human poop should also be disposed of properly. That means either digging what my human calls a cathole at least 200 feet away from a water source (and well off the trail) and then giving the evidence a good and solid burial, or, for you hardcore humans, packing that out, too. Granted, I have heard that it’s easier to bury in warmer months and pack out in colder months (see reference to the turdsicles, above), but whatever you choose, remember that if you are hiking with a dog, no-one will think twice about poop bags (just saying!).

Now, of course, going number one or number two in the woods when you humans are hiking with a canine friend like myself can be challenging, or so I have been told. Although my human insists on staying with me when I am doing my business, she doesn’t appreciate the reciprocal experience, except for when we are hiking. And, I can vouch for the fact that she also does not appreciate my instincts to chase squirrels and birds kicking in when she is trying to do her business in the woods, especially when she is trying to do that while also holding my leash. According to her, having all her necessary tools for the trade (possibly including, but not limited to an e-tool, biodegradable toilet paper, and those wonderful poop bags) readily available in her pack helps. And, lots of treats, used for distracting me, so that I don’t do the aforementioned squirrel and bird chasing thing and drag her off of her woods potty perch. Or knock her over while she is doing her business (she especially does not like that. At all). She says the trick is to ensure that both of us are as calm as possible so that everything that is necessary can happen quickly and efficiently (Stealth Potty 2.0, Potty With Dog Edition). And, when done, to take care of everything so that nature is cared for and we can both emerge from more secluded sections of the woods without any shame (I’m speaking for her, as I never have any shame. Ever).

I have lots more tips for humans who hike with dogs (as my human likes to say, I am a compendium of information. Whether helpful or not remains to be seen!), but I thought that this was a good start. I hope that my recommendations help you humans and your furry hiking buddies enjoy (dog and human) poop-free hiking trails, and I look forward to meeting you on the trails.

Especially if you remember treats!





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MB, an ADK 46-R, is an Assistant Professor and Director of the Online MPH Program at George Mason University. In her free time, she can usually be found scampering up and over mountains whilst munching on eggplant bacon, writing odd things, or doing zoomies with Sig and Bella, the shollie and entledoodle dynamic duo who own me. She can also be found at:

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15 Responses

  1. Alan West says:

    I am a dog lover, however when hiking dogs should be kept on a lease. Nothing worse than a big dog bounding towards you, ending up with his paws on your shoulders and hearing, “He won’t bite”.

  2. Annette Scheuer says:

    Thank you for this! It’s one of my life’s missions to discourage hikers from bringing dogs with them unless they absolutely know for sure it is safe for the dog and they are prepared to give the dog shade, water and rest. Too many dogs dehydrate, get injured and die on hikes in the High Peaks and elsewhere. People forget that the dog’s experience is much different from a human’s and it is much more difficult for a dog to keep up, stay cool and navigate hot or sharp rocks and scramble over boulders and slippery tree roots. Try climbing in your bare feet with a fur coat on in July. Then you’ll know if it’s okay for your dog. Please, hikers, for strenuous hikes, please leave your dog home. Everyone knows the loyal dog will go with its person to the ends of the earth, to hell and back, even if it is dangerous for them. Please don’t exploit their willingness to do that. Keep them safe.

  3. nathan says:

    I’ve had more bad experiences with dogs than good in hiking, people leaving dog poop scattered around lean-to’s, running loose all over, chasing animals, snatching food, barking at night..
    Too many people cannot control or police their dogs, they should be banned from trails period. never ever off leash.

  4. Alan R says:

    I’ve been bitten twice while hiking. Both times the miserable creatures came up from behind, without barking, to bit my fat ass. “Gee, he’s never done that before.” So from here on out, will you please keep Fido leased? Well, no… That was a bridge too far for the owners in each incident. Meanwhile my hike prematurely ends as I troop into town for a tetanus (sp?) shot.

    • Rob says:

      You got a tetanus shot for a dog bite?? You ran right into town for one?? Must have been some serious bites.

    • geogymn says:

      If you ever have the misfortune of being bit by a dog, get the owners name and report it to the police. Doing so insures that the proper documents are provided by owner ( rabies shot record ) and it is now on record just in case this dog bites again.
      I got bit and didn’t follow the advice stated above. I got home and learned it is important to make sure the dog’s shots are up to date. When I called, the owner was sorry but initially wouldn’t provide the paperwork. After I stopped being cordial he told me I could come by at a specific time and pick them up. That’s when I threatened to call the cops. He came right over and delivered the paperwork. Jerk.

  5. Duke says:

    No mention about leashes! Aren’t dogs on state trails required to be leashed? If not they should be!

    • Smitty says:

      No that’s a common misperception. Only in certain areas such as the high peaks or where marked is a leash required. How would you go hunting with a dog if it had to be leashed? I do enjoy seeing the pure joy of my golden doodle running off leash. Some dogs are high energy and need this kind of exercise. But this is why I seek out little used trails for our adventures and leash her whenever I see another hiker approaching. She’s so friendly and sweet most other hikers are happy to give her a pet and be on their way. But if your dog is nasty, either to humans or other dogs, yes please keep it home.

  6. Paul says:

    People should just have enough sense to not take their dogs hiking. The vast majority of the dogs out there are poorly trained, or in many cases “trained” in terrible behaviors. How many people encourage their dogs to jump up on them when the greet them at home? You see this behavior even on things like the Westminster dog show (dogs encouraged to jump all over their owners and trainers) after they win something. These are supposedly well trained show dogs. Chances are if you see an un-leashed dog in the woods it is probably gonna jump on you, and their owner will think it is cute. I have two trained bird dogs and the last thing I want to do with them is take them to a place like the high peaks and let strangers ruin them.

    • JohnL says:

      A 46ER (and non-dog owners) observations.
      A. Everybody thinks every stranger they meet loves their dog as much as they do. Spoiler alert…..we don’t!
      2. In all my (very) advanced years, I have never heard a dog owner say ‘Be careful….he/she bites’.
      C. Hiking and passing strangers on narrow mountain trails is bad enough just dealing with the people sometimes. What could go wrong with people and strange dogs meeting each other unexpectedly on these trails…..everything.
      4. Finally getting to my point. Leave ’em home! Take em to your local town park. Go hunting with them. Feed them scraps under the dining room table. Do anything EXCEPT take them hiking on Adirondack mountain trails.

      • Rob says:

        A 46er (and a dog owners) observation
        A. Not everyone is a dog lover
        B. Yup, you are correct
        C. You don’t like passing people on hiking trails. Everything will NOT go wrong if a dog meets people on the trail.
        D. Dog loves the town park. She is not a hunter and she does not eat ANY scraps. You want the trails to yourself so you want dog owners to stay away.

        • JohnL says:

          Granted, I might have gotten carried away with my Issue C above. Agreed, not EVERYTHING will go wrong, but a LOT could and often does in those situations.
          As for point 4, gosh no. I don’t want dog owners to stay away. I like dog owners, at least the ones that don’t jump up and try to lick my face or bite me. I would just like them to leave their dogs home and enjoy the pristine, silent wilderness that we all love to experience when we hike sans canines.
          I was’t exactly suggesting you feed your dog table scraps. You can feed him anything you want. I worded that poorly. My bad!
          All of the above are respectful personal opinions based on my own unique experiences. But, of my 4 comments we agree on 2 and you misunderstood one of the remaining ones so we’re in more agreement than not.

    • Rob says:

      A well trained dog will not be ruined by strangers if you take them to the high peaks. You can’t ruin a dog trained properly.

  7. COL (R) Mark Warnecke says:

    I think more people should be leashed. Maybe a muzzle isn’t a bad idea either (for people that is).

  8. Thank you Bella for your eloquent explanation ❤️

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