Tips for Hiking at Altitude With Your Dog

With little preparation, any fit canine can handle the alpine. Here's what you need to know.
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Yes, your dog can climb (reasonably-sized) mountains.

Yes, your dog can climb (reasonably-sized) mountains.

—Start with lower-elevation hikes and gradually go for longer, higher trails. Know your dog’s normal behavior and watch for changes. If she’s limping or looking lethargic, she’s telling you it’s time to return home.

—Always respect trail etiquette, since many people fear even small dogs. If your dog likes to bark or approach others, call ahead with “She’s friendly, she just makes noise.”

—Keep dogs under control. I use a retractable leash clipped with a carabiner to my pack, keeping my hands free for trekking poles.

—A bright-colored dog vest helps you spot dogs at a distance.

—Pack a multi-tool with folding pliers—useful for removing porcupine quills.

—Pack treats your dog can eat. Stay away from giving them trail mix because raisins and some chocolates can be lethal to dogs even in small amounts.

—Altitudes above 11,000 feet are considered extreme even for dogs. Because dogs can’t talk, it’s harder to see when they’re in trouble. Stop regularly and offer your dog water. If your dog has extreme symptoms—excessive panting, drooling, dry cough, vomiting, discolored (gray or blue-tinged) gums or tongue, or lethargy—get to a lower altitude and hydrate. If symptoms persist, go to your vet.