Two dogs run along Big Bear's Towne Trail in the fall

Safe Hiking with your Dog in Big Bear Lake

Posted: 02/25/20

Your four-legged pooch can be the perfect companion out on the trails. Exposure to the sights and smells of the wilderness is invigorating and plays to your dog’s natural instincts. However, it's important to remember that dogs don't handle heat and exercise the same way humans do. Be sure your trail outing is not only fun but safe for you and your doggie.

The Big Bear Environment

Big Bear Lake sits at an altitude between 6,000 and 8,000 feet. Higher altitudes drain your energy - and your dog's energy - more quickly, triggering dehydration and exhaustion more easily. When taking your dog on a hike in Big Bear, plan for additional water breaks. Even if your dog doesn't seem tired, the goal is prevention.

While Big Bear summer temps tend to be mild, temperatures above 75 degrees F can become dangerous quickly. It's important to understand that dogs don't handle heat the same way humans do. They are more susceptible to heat exhaustion and dehydration. Hot surfaces like asphalt can also burn your dog's paw pads. Plan your summertime hikes more mornings or later afternoons, and carry LOTS of water for your dog.

Likewise, winters can be frigidly cold for your dog and snow on the trails can cause frostbite on their paw pads. While booties are great for some dogs, other won't tolerate them. Pay attention to your dog's feet and protect them when necessary.

Watch For Cues

Knowing the symptoms of heat exhaustion in your dog are crucial. Keep an eye on:

  • excessive panting
  • dry/pale gums
  • increased salivation
  • rapid pulse
  • weakness
  • vomiting

If your dog sits down and refuses to continue, they are long overdue for a break. Take the time to move them into a shady area and cool them off with water. Let them decide when they are ready to continue.

A dog rests on a hike in Big Bear Lake
Overly hot weather should be avoided, as dogs are much more susceptible than humans to the dangers of excessive heat. It’s also essential that you take water for your dog. Dogs don’t sweat the way humans do. Panting is their main method for keeping cool, putting them at a higher risk of overheating than you when on the trail. Plus, if you don’t bring water for your dog to drink, you risk your dog drinking from ponds, streams, or standing pools of water, which can carry a high risk. American Kennel Club

Pet Etiquette on the Trails

Proper etiquette on the trails is essential for the safety and enjoyment of yourself, your dog, and other trail users. It is your responsibility to ensure your dog is properly trained to obey commands. Encounters with wildlife can be dangerous for both you and your pooch if your dog decides to chase other animals or become aggressive with other dogs.

The American Kennel Club calls on hikers with dogs to abide by the National Parks B.A.R.K. Rule which also applies to our San Bernardino National Forest trails.

Bag your pet’s waste
Always leash your pet
Respect wildlife
Know where you can go

The National Forest Service allows for dogs in wilderness areas, though they must be on a leash no longer than 6 feet and under your control at all times. Dogs are prohibited in the San Jacinto State Park Wilderness. The AKC also reminds hikers to be diligent about keeping their pooches hydrated and protected from harsh weather and terrain.

Always hike with a supply of:

  • Poop bags
  • A collar with ID tags and a sturdy 6-foot leash
  • Water supply and a portable water bowl
  • Dog food and/or snacks
  • A pet first aid kit
  • Pet-safe insect repellent
  • A dog life vest for added swimming safety
  • It is not recommended to let your dog drink from Big Bear Lake or other water bodies.
  • Dog booties for hiking in rough terrain and on hot asphalt

And make sure that if you Pack It In, you need to also Pack It Out! Protect our environment and do not leave trash, excrement or other debris in the wilderness.

A rattlesnake sits coiled under a log.

Rattlesnake Safety

In the warmer months, rattlesnakes can pose a threat to dogs - and humans! - out on the trails. It’s worth investing in rattlesnake aversion training to help protect your pooch from snake attacks. Here are some snake info and aversion training websites to get you started: