Written by Anna Hollisey
Is hiking good for dogs? Where’s the best place to start hiking? What equipment should you take with you? And what do people do with dog poop when they’re hiking all day? If you’re a keen adventurer and you’re ready to take your dog hiking, read this first!
You know what we’re going to say, don’t you?... You’re the best person to answer this question. Start with a general health-check:
Now, consider their typical lifestyle.
…It’s the name for dogs who suffer from aches or injuries because they’ve been for an extra-long walk on the weekend. It’s a new problem caused by our desk-job lifestyle. How many of us squeeze in short walks all week and then pack up the car for a hike on Saturday? If our dogs aren’t prepared for the additional exercise, they can suffer. It doesn’t mean they can’t come hiking with you. It just means that they might need a training programme to prepare for it!
When your dog is young, it’s important to build up their walking stamina. Puppies should begin with short leash walks (around 30-40 mins for a 6-month pup) and progress to longer adventures (around an hour by the time they’re one year old). Their growing muscles shouldn’t be subjected to sudden increases in exercise because that can cause long-term damage.
12 months is the age when most dogs will be mature and fully-grown. So when they’re around one year, most dogs will be able to start hiking or running with their owners. Like we said already – a gradual introduction is wise. Start with shorter hikes or jogs and stop if your dog seems tired.
Terrain matters. For the first hike with your dog, choose a place where the terrain is easy on the feet. Grassy paths, forest walks, and sandy dunes are all low-impact surfaces which are easier for dogs to manage. A rocky mountain can cause slips and injuries to canine limbs. If there’s a place for swimming, that’s excellent for dogs too.
Before you go, check the weather – most dogs shouldn’t be outdoors too long in temperatures over 77°F or below 45-32°F.
A leashed walk – at your pace – can be more challenging for a dog, who gets no say about the speed or distance. Let your dog off-leash if it’s possible (and legal). This way they can run or slow to walking pace, gauging their own capability. Just be sure that your dog’s recall is reliable, so that you can call them away from danger.
TIP: If you’re hiking with a dog on-leash and your arms are aching, you could try a waist leash – some brands feature storage for your keys, phone, and treats, too!
Another great reason to start with a short hike: you’ll figure out what you really need for successful hiking with your canine companion. After a test-run, you’ll be able to make your own checklist – it could contain some of the following:
Do you have questions about hiking with your dog? Ping them over to us on social media and we’ll tackle them in our next blog post! Here are 3 of the most popular questions about doggy hiking.
Don’t start with a full-day hike in the mountains. Choose soft terrain and a short route. This gives your dog the chance to acclimatize, and you the chance to learn from mistakes (like forgetting a water bowl… it happens). Introducing your dog to hiking is just like teaching a young person to hike. Start slow and gradually build up to steeper or more challenging routes.
Some dogs (such as Toy or flat-faced breeds) won’t cope with hiking. If you’re a keen hiker who wants a companion, consider a Working Group breed like a Shepherd, Husky, Collie, or Spaniel, or a hunting dog like a Rhodesian Ridgeback. Many high-energy dogs will love hiking as much as you do!
Attaching it to your dog’s collar is a bad move! They push through the brambles and splat, poop explodes on their face.
Instead, carry a secure zippered bag for storing scooped poop (inside another bag). Double-bagging reduces the risk and the smell, which is important when you might be carrying it all day.
Tip: Seasoned hikers plan their route to include picnic stops with trash cans!
Get your puppy walking confidently with our guide to puppy walks. Make sure you know about the signs that your dog’s overheating and learn how to spot a corn on their feet. Does your dog need to wear boots? All our advice about winter walking is here.