12 Things You Need to Consider Before Taking Your Dog Hiking
There’s nothing better for the soul than to pop on a pair of walking boots and heading out into nature.
But as enjoyable it is to walk on your own or with someone else, there’s something special about being able to share the great outdoors with your four-legged fur-ball.
I can’t explain why, but hiking with your dog is just so much better!
(If you still need convincing, check out my 29 Photos to Inspire You to Take Your Dog Hiking)
To help make sure that Fido has just an enjoyable time as you do (especially if you are going on a BIG hike) here are 12 things to consider first before taking him along.
This is probably a very obvious point, but it’s too important not to mention.
If your dog is on the older side of the spectrum, long-distance hiking might be a bit too much for him and he may tire quickly and get injured easily.
On the other end of the scale, you don’t want to take a dog that is too young as the demanding nature of the hike may cause him more harm than good – this is especially important for very young dogs (less than 1-year-old) as their bones are still underdeveloped.
Please also bear in mind that what is classed as ‘old’ or ‘young’ will vary from breed to breed, which bring us nicely into my next point.
Although all dogs need regular exercise and walks, not every breed is suited for long hikes and outdoor adventure.
Some dogs love nothing more than exploring the great outdoors and have enough energy in the tank to go all day. Whilst other dogs are more than happy with a shorter walk around the park followed by hogging the sofa for the rest of the day.
In the same way that you wouldn’t lead a sedentary life for 5 years and then suddenly go run a marathon, you can’t expect your dog to go from short walks around the block to three days trekking up a mountain!
Before setting off, ensure that your dog has the fitness level required to complete the adventure otherwise your dog may experience injury, muscle soreness, lameness, and extreme fatigue.
I’m not just talking about rain here (although do make sure that you prepare your dog for the weather you may encounter – as pictured above) but try to plan your hiking adventures at the times of year that best suit your dog’s breed and coat length.
For example, dogs with extra thick double coats (such as Huskies, Alaskan Malamutes, Akitas, and Chow Chows) are going to find it very difficult hiking in the middle of summer in roasting 30°C/86°F heat.
On the flip side of the coin, dogs with really short hair (such as Whippets, Greyhounds and Dalmatians) are not going to have much fun roughing it in the great outdoors in the middle of winter and 6-inch snow!
This point is kind of a cross between taking into account your dog’s breed and fitness level.
By hardiness, I mean the dog’s ability to endure rough terrain and less than perfect conditions, and this will largely be based on your dog’s breed, fitness level, and previous hiking experience.
Your dog will have to walk (or if he’s like mine, run!) over various terrain and gradients. This alone can take its toll on your dog’s paws and limbs – especially if all he’s ever done is run around a flat grass field in a park.
Again, take the time to build up your dog’s hardiness before taking him on a big hiking adventure. Smaller hikes that allow him to adjust and navigate through different terrain is the way to go.
Food and water
It seems silly to mention this point because of course your dog is going to need food and water, but when you are off on a long hike (especially if it’s over several days) you need to be prepared to carry his food and water – along with your own!
Obviously, your dog can drink out of streams and rivers along the route, but remember to check if there are any natural water sources before you omit his water supply. I have been on hikes in summer where I encountered no water for the whole day and therefore needed to carry enough to keep my dog hydrated in the heat.
You can get small backpacks to allow your dog to carry his own food and maybe some lighter supplies, but again, remember to build this up gradually. Don’t just stick an extra 5kg on his back and expect him to run 10 miles up a mountain!
Other people, dogs, and livestock
It’s inevitable that you’re going to meet sheep, cows, horses, other people and their dogs along the way.
My dog has been well socialized, he’s friendly with other dogs and is used to staying out of the way of farm animals – even if a sheep walked up to him, he would run off in the other direction or straight back to me.
Obviously, I understand that not every other dog is the same and you may need to keep your eyes peeled and place your dog on his lead should you notice any of the above.
But if you have the opportunity to socially train your dog then I highly recommend doing so, it will make your hikes much more enjoyable.
For the majority of the hike, you’re going to want to allow your dog to run around off lead where it is possible and safe to do so.
In these situations, it makes your life much easier if you can trust your dog not to wander off or chase anything and you can easily recall him if necessary.
Similarly, if your dog has to be put on a lead at any point, the last thing that you want is him pulling your arms out. This will waste valuable energy and quickly tire both you and your dog.
Investing time into your dog’s training – both on and off the lead – will result in a much more pleasurable hiking experience for the both of you.
When I took my dog, Winston, with me to hike The Gritstone Trail, one of the things that I failed to take into consideration was how much sleep he needed.
I had planned for him to sleep inside my tent with me (as most wild campers who hike with their dog would probably do) but I never thought about the amount of sleep.
On our last day of hiking, I noticed that he was laying down for a snooze every chance he got even though he had been asleep with me all night in the tent.
I had forgotten that dogs need an average of 12-14 hours’ sleep per day, so remember to factor in some extra snooze time for your tiresome pooch when out hiking for a few days.
Vaccinations, worming, fleas, and ticks
Although sometime it may not look like, the countryside is teeming with wildlife – badgers, rabbits, foxes, deer, mice etc, not to mention other dogs and livestock.
Before taking your dog on any hikes, consult your vet to ensure that he is up to date with his vaccinations and worming, and that he is covered against fleas and ticks.
Just in case the worst should happen and you and your dog get separated, ensure that his collar has a tag with your contact details – especially your mobile number! It’s no good having your home number when you’re hiking 50+ miles away from home.
Also, ensure that your dog is microchipped and that the details are kept up to date at all times.
Last but not least, make sure that you take the right equipment for your four-legged friend.
A collar and lead are the most obvious, which most people do take. But often forgotten is a towel, canine first aid kit, and water bowl.
If you plan on doing any scrambling, it may also be wise to fit your dog with a harness that has a handle, just in case you need to assist him up or down any steep rocks.
That concludes my 12 things that you should consider when taking your dog hiking. If there is anything that I have missed, please let me know in the comments below.
If you are still unsure whether your dog is suitable to take on a long hiking adventure, please contact your veterinarian.
- 29 Photos to Inspire You to Take Your Dog Hiking
- *ATTEMPTING* to Hike The Gritstone Trail, UK
- My Cow Story – Taking on a Herd of Cattle!
- 16 Photos to Inspire You to go Hiking in the Peak District, UK