If you happen to be both a dog owner and a hiker, you understand the desire to take your furry friend on the trails with you. Before you pack up to go hiking with your dog, it’s important to consider their age, their abilities, and items needed along the trail.
Hiking with your dog changes drastically from puppy, to adult, and then senior. Heading out on a hike that is just right for your dog’s development and ability is crucial. Here are a couple tips to make sure both you and your dog have a safe, fun time when you go exploring.
Prepare to Go Hiking with Your Dog
No matter the experience or age of your dog, there are some essentials you should always remember when it comes to hiking with your pup.
- Remember to look at the trail before
Some trails have dangerous conditions or activities (such as climbing) that your dog may not be able to accommodate. Look at the most recent trail conditions and their dog policy. Not all trails allow dogs.
- Bring food and water
It seems obvious, but just like you, your dog is going to be thirstier than usual on the trail. Make sure to pack a bunch of water and food to give your dog enough energy to keep up. We always bring an entire water bottle just for our dog.
- Check the weather
If the weather is going to be excessively hot or cold, it may be best to leave your pup behind. All dogs are effected by temperature differently, so do some research on your breeds ability to tolerate heat/cold.
- Bring the essentials
Make sure your dog has proper identification, a collar, a leash and First Aid items just in case. Also make sure they are up to date on flea and tick medications, heart worm preventatives and vaccines.
Hiking with a Dog 3 Months to Two Years
Shorter hikes are key for young pups (3 months to 5 months). Due to bone development, three-month-old pups should really only go on a 15-minute walk. There is an easy formula for determining how long you can walk your young dog.
Start with brief hikes on easy trails to see how they do. If your pup is a bundle of energy that could sprint away at any second, keeping them on a short leash is a good idea to prevent them over exerting themselves.
With all ages, but especially for puppies it is important to make be up to date on heart worm medications. Curious puppies love to chow down on things new things they’ve never seen before.
During your shorter hikes, try bringing treats and practicing commands such as “come”, “sit”, “heel”, and “stay”. These will be especially helpful as your puppy ages and can start to come on longer hikes with you.
2 Years to Five Years
Now that your pup is full grown, it’s safe to begin taking them on longer hikes. Just make sure you ease them in to the routine of hiking.
Start out with hikes that are around an hour in length and check their energy levels to see how they are doing.
If your dog seems to be handling the trails well, try introducing gear that will make packing for them easier such as a dog pack. If the trail you are on allows off-leash hiking and your dog seems to be comfortable with minding commands, you can try ditching the leash in areas you and your pup feel safe.
Five Years to Seven Years
As your dog reaches peak maturity, you may feel comfortable going on long hikes with them and are familiar with how they behave on the trails.
Experiencing the great outdoors with them is easy and routine. Plenty of water and food is needed for your pup as they burn a higher number of calories when excited and exploring. Just remember to keep an eye on any signs of arthritis such as limping or slowing down in pace.
Seven Years and Up
Your dog may begin to show signs of slowing down, but don’t let that discourage you from taking your dog hiking. Exercise is still very important to keep your older dog healthy and can slow down the aging process.
Arthritis is inevitable for an aging dog. You can help ease the effects with arthritic medication prescribed by the vet.
As you hike with your older dog, follow their lead – whenever your pup decides to take a rest, don’t rush them. Make sure the hikes are shorter in length. You can also make sure you hike in areas with plenty of shade and streams to keep them cool.