Live in Ohio? Click Here



Going on Hikes Safely with Your Toddler

October 17, 2015

These past few weeks, I have been hiking more with my dog and my two year old toddler.  As a professional dog trainer with Four Legged Scholars Dog Training Salt Lake City, I want dog lovers to be able to easily hike with off leash dogs and their toddlers safely!  Many things can occur on at hikes with your children that can easily create an unsafe environment.  Because toddlers don’t understand that they can be bitten and have such animated behavior, it doesn’t take much for a dangerous incident to occur and if one does it will only take seconds. My goal is to educate you so that you can avoid a dog bite from ever occurring.

When hiking in off leash areas with your toddler be aware of the following.

1.) Hike at times when the dog volume is a bit lower and it is off peak hours.  The higher the dog volume the more likely something out of the ordinary will occur.  Your toddler can easily be crowded by numerous dogs that approach your child all at once.  The higher the dog volume, the more vigilant you will need to be in reading the dogs’ behavior.  You will also have take action quickly if something goes askew.  Tanner Park in Salt Lake City is a good example of a location that can become extremely busy.

2.) Hike in areas where dogs are more spread out and where you will run into dogs more sporadically.  An awesome choice is Neff’s Canyon in Salt Lake City. Dog training can also be fun on this hike!

3.) Always supervise your toddler around dogs.

4.) Teach your toddler to not pet dogs until your he/she can be calm and attentive.    Not all dogs are kid friendly.  Of course if your toddler is going to pet any dog, your child needs to be at a point where he or she can pet the dog softly and calmly.

5.) If your toddler can talk, your child should always ask if he/she can pet any dog that he or she approaches before interacting with the dog.

5.) Your toddler should not approach any dog until he or she can approach a dog calmly.  If your toddler is not at this point it is best to redirect your toddler away from the dog or pick up your child to avoid the interaction.  Toddlers enjoy running.  Running directly toward a dog especially right toward a dog’s face is very confrontational and definitely can trigger even an obedient dog to bite.

6.) If your toddler is able to do the above, the dog that your toddler is going to pet should also be calm.  A very excitable dog is likely to jump.  The dog may not be jumping at a distance and if the dog is running fast and has jerk / quick movements it is best to pick up your child or avoid the confrontation with the dog. A jumping dog can easily knock over your child and probably has very little obedience training.

7.) Learn to read basic dog behavior.  Many owners will assume or believe that their dog is great with children and their dog may not be.  An assertive dog that may show aggression toward your child will be making himself look bigger.  The ears and tail maybe upward.  The body posture might also be stiff and the dog might show direct eye contact toward your child.  A fearful dog will be making himself look smaller.  The body posture will be more slouched. The head, tail and ears may also be down.  The dog may also avoid eye contact.  Any dog that is showing the above behavior should be avoided and could bite. It is very important to study about behavior and dog training. Salt Lake City has many sources for learning about reading dog behavior.  Here are three blog posts written by Our Salt Lake City dog training company: article 1, article 2, article 3, article 4. Learning about calming signals can also be helpful!

8.) Keep your hikes short, go at your toddlers pace, and create the hikes to be fun.  If you are honoring your toddler’s needs you toddler will be more likely to listen to you if a dangerous situation does arise with a dog.

9.) Speak up to dog owners.  If you really feel that an owner’s dog is extremely fearful or being aggressive, you have a right to assert your boundaries.  Ask the owner to call his dog and get out of the situation with your toddler as fast and as calmly as possible.

10.) If a dog is on leash, in an off leash hiking area avoid petting this dog.  An off leash dog cannot escape or move around as easily if he/she is uncomfortable.  As a result, they are more likely to get aroused very quickly and may bite if they are triggered.  The owner may also not want to be disturbed as they maybe performing obedience training with their dog as well.

11.) If you are hiking alone with your toddler, make sure your dog is well-trained.  When you are hiking it is important that you are already ahead with dog training.  Salt Lake City, has many awesome hiking areas and if your dog is not listening to you well it will be a lot to juggle your dog and your toddler at the same time.

12.) Hike with another person.  Have one person that is delegated to handle your toddler.  The other person can handle your dog especially if your dog still needs dog training.  Salt Lake City can be a safe hiking area if your dog and your toddler are both under great control.

13.) Do not have your toddler eat around unknown dogs.  Many dogs will tempted to snatch this food away from your child as they may not perform obedience well.  It is best to go off the trail or have them eat a time that no unknown dogs are around.

If you are concerned about your toddlers safety on a dog hike, please contact a professional dog trainer. There are many positive reinforcement dog trainers. Salt Lake City has many training options.

Your Turn!  We want to hear from you in a comment below!

Do you feel safe when you are hiking with your toddler?  What did you learn from the above about safety with your toddler and dogs?


Johanna Teresi, Professional Trainer and Owner of Four Legged Scholars LLC, Dog Training Salt Lake City

Blog Archives

Britnie Sorensen
Britnie Sorensen
18:11 06 Apr 24
This is our second round of training with Johanna! Our Bullmastiff Abbi is different from our previous dogs, and we knew Johanna would be able to help us. We reached out and were in excellent hands! Johanna was able to redirect our training efforts, majority of sessions were held virtually and supported with videos of us training Abbi. We will keep using Johanna no matter where life takes us. Her love and compassion for our puppy, and us, come through in every interaction. We are in a much better place and understanding of Abbi after working with Johanna!
Roberta Bonnell
Roberta Bonnell
01:37 24 Mar 24
My Australian Shepard had moderate separation anxiety and Johanna was able to help me get him to a point where I can see him being able to be home alone before the end of the year! Very grateful for all of her training expertise.
Karen Mara
Karen Mara
21:19 21 Jan 24
I recently met with Johanna for help with my rambunctious teenager, Roger. We worked on coming when called, leash walking, and staying calm around other dogs when on leash. After two sessions, Roger made huge improvements, and he continues to improve as we practice on our own. Johanna really understands dogs and is very good at communicating with people. She knows how to make dog training fun. I've worked with other trainers, and Johanna is by far the best.
Wendy Nighswonger
Wendy Nighswonger
18:47 08 Jul 23
I have known Johanna for 13 years. She has helped me with several dogs, but she recently helped me train my new black lab puppy, Raven. I have moved to another state so all of my training with Raven was done online via Zoom. I believe that the one-on-one training I received through Zoom was more personalized and thorough, especially with the way Johanna placed every ounce of training and recommendation on a board through an app that I can refer back when I need. Johanna is very intuitive and knew when stress was on overload for me, therefore tailoring my training for that day around making Raven feel good while simultaneously taking my stress load down. Johanna has years of experience and while her knowledge is a gold mine, it is her gentle patience and love for her clients that make this training so perfect. I would hire her again and again. She is a true canine whisperer. Thank you Four Legged Scholars and thank you Johanna!Wendy N. ~ Oregon
Christina Richards
Christina Richards
18:13 10 Feb 23
Johanna at Four Legged Scholars is great. She tailored my program to fit my needs and was easy to work with. My puppy responded very well to what she taught us together over Zoom. She's patient and understanding. We're still utilizing the things we learned and he's a well-behaved puppy. Thank you!
Karyl Bennion
Karyl Bennion
19:49 05 Feb 23
I adopted Frida as a companion that I could travel, walk and hike with. She loves to hike and walk but pulled on the leash and jumped at distractions. I learned how to be calm and talk in a non threatening way to her. She responds to this much better than yelling at her. The click and treat method that I learned works so well in getting her attention as well as the "target" training. Frida has improved greatly with these methods. I will continue the knowledge I have learned with her. I did the live on-line training and it was very successful. I am so happy we signed up.
Rachel Giddings
Rachel Giddings
02:57 12 Dec 22
My dog was abused in his previous home and has always been afraid of strangers. I wanted to train him and help him to be more confident, but I didn't know how to do that if he was afraid of his trainer.Doing online training with Joanna was perfect for both of us! Joanna helped me learn how to read my dog and understand his triggers. We then worked together on BAT training, which taught him self-soothing behaviors and showed him how to confidently and safely handle difficult situations. I never thought I would have fun doing homework with my dog, but he and I benefited from it tremendously. Working with Joanna via Zoom was perfect for my dog and me.
Shawn McMillen
Shawn McMillen
02:09 24 Oct 22
My 2 year old doodle was struggling with people walking by the house, barking incessantly, tugging on walks, improving recall when off leash and , for me, how to be a better more engaging human for my buddy. The personalized, online sessions exceeded all my expectations. The review of video homework sessions was awesome. We saw improvement in each of the priority areas and I developed real, tangible, lasting skills/tools to be a better pet person. Thanks Johanna!
Courtney Daniels
Courtney Daniels
19:59 12 Sep 22
12 years ago I got a puppy and quickly realized I was in over my head. I wanted to have a good, well trained dog, but I was overwhelmed by methods and my puppies behavior.I joined the four legged scholars puppy training with my little 4 month old puppy Bowie, and saw immediate understanding with the clicker work. It gave us this incredibly ability to communicate and she excelled.We went on to take several courses that established general obedience, helped me turn a STRONG leash puller into a loose leash master (I took that course twice because it was a huge issue for us and I NEEDED help and reassurance from Johanna that I could do it) as well as skill class, that helped solidify a beautiful relationship between us. Learning clicker shaping allowed me to confidently teach complex and unique commands on my own as well, like waving hello and closing kitchen cabinets.My Bowie has climbed to the top of mountains for me staying right by my side never pulling on her leash. I've targeted her off trails to protect her from startling a mama moose and her baby. She's loved on my kids without jumping on them and knocking them over. She's allowed the neighbor girl who has always had a fear of dogs to walk her without pulling at whatever pace she was comfortable with. She shows off with all her fun little tricks Johanna gave me the tools to train my dog into an amazing companion.I feel so lucky to have found your training program and to have the relationship I do with my Bowie girl. These courses have a profound and lasting impact on the lives of families and their pups, thank you for that gift.
Megan Pond-Maxwell
Megan Pond-Maxwell
16:02 18 May 22
I am so grateful to have found Johanna. She was with us every step of the way as we tackled separation anxiety training and reactivity training with Daisy, my Mini Australian Shepherd. As a first time dog owner, I felt at a loss about how to manage my very vocal, scared, stressed, yet loveable dog. She had all of the typical puppy behavior, such as jumping, nipping/biting, leash pulling, as well as barking. On top of that, she was also not able to be alone without feeling terrified, as well as vocally and behaviorally reactive to other dogs, adults, and kids. I felt completely overwhelmed and Johanna created programs that felt manageable and doable. Each training session, I felt understood and empowered working with Johanna. Over the course of our programs, I felt that we accomplished the steps of the training process, strengthened the dog-human relationship, and increased my own awareness of my dog's emotional cues so that I could better work with her. My dog can now be on her own feeling relaxed and playful, her problematic puppy behaviors have significantly improved, she can walk on her leash loosely, listen to commands, and she can better tolerate other adults, dogs, and children as compared to where we first started. Our online experience was very positive. I look forward to continually implementing the tools and skills we have learned along the way to move forward in a positive direction that strengthens our human-animal bond and reduces distressing behaviors and emotional stress and overwhelm. Thank you Four Legged Scholars! I highly, highly recommend working with Johanna.
Emily Harward
Emily Harward
03:36 24 Apr 22
Our rescue dog is sweet and playful with us, but her behavior around other dogs and people could be unpredictable. She would act aggressively around adults (lunging and barking), and would sometimes be aggressive toward other dogs. We chose to do online training with Johanna. I was skeptical that online training would work, but it ended up being very effective. Johanna taught me the skills I needed to train my dog, and provided resources that I could use throughout the week as I worked on the assigned tasks. I was also able to send her videos of me working with my dog, so she could provide feedback and help me improve. Johanna personalized the program and made changes as needed to ensure that I could meet my goals. Since working with Four Legged Scholars, neighbors have commented on how much better behaved my dog is, and I don't have to worry about her lunging and barking at people or other dogs when we are out for a walk anymore. We still have a lot of work to do with our dog, and I feel like doing the personalized online sessions with Johanna has given me the knowledge, and resources to continue training my dog.
Angel Lanoy
Angel Lanoy
15:22 16 Jun 21
We have a large family, including three big dogs. So when our biggest dog Obi, the Rottweiler, started showing aggression we panicked. The vet suggested we put him down after an experience in the office. He then said we could also try training and gave us Johanna's business card. Just a phone call with her made us feel like there was hope. We signed up to do the online sessions with FourLeggedScholars. The process from the first contact to the last was well oiled and very helpful. Obi gets to stay with our family now and we feel like meting with her has given us the guidance and knowledge we need to keep our family, friends and him safe. I was a tad worried about doing the training online, but it really worked out great and we were able to fit such a big task into our busy schedules. I feel like she set us up for success from the very beginning. Thank you.
More reviews

You May Also Like …


  1. Scott Teresi

    Excellent list! It’s chock full of good advice. Worthy of being published all over the internet for people with toddlers and dogs!

    • fourleggedscholars

      Thank you! I am glad you enjoyed it! If you ever get a dog you will have some good ideas to apply with Andrew! Hope you are doing great and love you so much!