Hiking with your dog is a great way to bond with them. All dogs love to get out on the trail and do some exploring but it’s important to know how long of a hike and how simple or technical it should be for your individual dog. Assessing weather conditions (hot and cold) are very important too and always keep your dog hydrated with water in both hot and cold temps!!!
Smaller dogs with short legs and noses like bulldogs and pugs can not do extensive 5 mile hikes as they tend to over heat quickly in warm weather conditions and in general are just not build to do long distance adventures. Some (but not all) smaller breeds or mixes can find it challenging to maneuver obstacles on natural trails. If you are asking a bit too much of your little dog you will find yourself doing quite a bit of work on the hike. Good to set your hiking expectations on the “short” and simple end when out with smaller furry family!
If you have an elder dog you will also need to be aware of a shorter easier hikes. Important to observe the health and agility of older dogs and fine tune your hikes to accommodate their needs. Elder dogs are often extremely sensitive to cold and heat due to medication and or aging joints. Do not overdue your outing as this can stir up painful arthritis leaving them miserable after a hike that you hoped would be a happy experience out in the woods. Dog’s will often go until they literally DROP! Help keep them happy and sound by guiding them on appropriate adventures! This will also keep vet visits at a minimum as they age.
Overweight dogs should follow a similar short and simple outing. Overweight dogs put a great deal of stress on joints and ligaments. Hot temps can also be dangerous for them. If you are not mindful with their adventures you will cause injury and again, possible vet visits. As their weight loss progresses so will their stamina and ability to maneuver on a longer outing and eventually more challenging terrain. Guardians must practice patience when out with dogs who are carrying extra pounds. Don’t push them past a healthy hike. Better to keep things joyful and comfy.
If you will be on an adventure with a group of dogs, it is of course very important to be mindful of all the dogs needs in general but especially when the pack involves all ages and sizes. As just touched on, “one hike does not fit all dogs.” This can be extra challenging for families who have multiple dogs at different ages and stages of health. Take a good look at your pups, do they move comfortably? Do they tend to get gimpy (painful) after too strenuous of an outing? Are they on medication? Is there deep snow, this will make the hike more difficult. Are they youngsters or elders? Depending on breed, past physical history, and the individual, 6-8 yrs is roughly the start of a dog’s elder years. Tailor the outing and look for some kind of a balanced adventure for all. The bottom line is if you have dogs that are on different ends of the age spectrum it will be more responsibility and take a more patient creative approach to care take both their needs.
As touched on, temperatures play a big part in accessing a hike. What ever the weather, always take water with you!!! This can not be stressed enough. Some dogs are not big water drinkers, we suggest a water bottle that you can squeeze with a spout that can that can be gently placed in the side corner of your dogs jowls. This way you can squirt small amounts of water into the side of their mouth wetting their gum line off and on through out the hike helping to keep them hydrated. Hydration is a huge component to keeping your dog comfortable and healthy on the trail and when you return home. High energy treats can also be helpful for active dogs on extensive hikes to give them a boost of stamina mid way. Be wise, always assess the elements you are going to be faced with when going out on a hike. Taking a Husky out on a 90 degree day for an extensive 5 mile hike with no water or taking a German Shorthaired Pointer out in 14 degree weather around lava rock without a jacket and foot ware is just simply not wise or fair.
There are many things to stop and think about when going for a hike with your dog(s.) It is important to take the time to do so. Last but not least, its a very good idea to always have a dog first aid kit while hiking. Injuries can and will happen. Being mindful and prepared for this with basic first aid tools can be a life saver for your dog and only offer you the ability to be a more knowledgeable loving guardian for your pup. Often you can find local kennels or vet offices that offer basic dog first aid classes. See link below for info on basic first aid kits. There are different types of first aid kits you can build for your dog depending on the surroundings you live in and what elements you may be faced with. Some will include different tools, bandages and/or pain relievers for wherever you are located! Being in the high desert during summer months you may look into having antihistamines for bug bites, snake bites, stings and plants. Or you may have dog booties, skin & paw balm for colder dry temps. Here in Bend, Oregon you can check with Bend Pet Express for dog first aid kits and what you may need for our local surroundings and what your dogs could possibly come in contact with.
If your not sure what type of hike is suitable for your dog then you can always check the area’s visitor center for info, ask locals or check out local dog stores for insight on trail options and off leash dog trails. For Bend visit https://www.dogpac.org/
Please, when you are out on the trails be respectful and ALWAYS cleaning up after your dog(s) on the trail. This is the responsible thing to do! No one likes to step in dog poop, not even dogs. There is not a human on the planet that looks forward to climbing into their car after a hike and smelling the nasty aroma of dog poop and then finding out they or their dogs have smeared it in the car in one shape or form. UGH!!!
Below are some basic bullets on things to think about before heading out on a trail with canines. Happy hiking and bonding with your dogs!
- Assess your dogs age
- Health and needs
- Check the weather/temps
- Pack high energy snacks for healthy active dogs on long excursions
- Pack dog gear (jackets, booties, etc)
- Carry a basic first aid kit
- ALWAYS pack H20 to keep your pup hydrated during hot and cold temps (eating snow does not count as it takes too much energy for dogs/humans to melt in the mouth and will not be enough to keep you or your dog ‘properly’ hydrated.