Hiking can be a great way to get outside for bonding and exercise with your dog. Hiking isn’t for every dog, however, and there are a few things to be aware of before hitting the trail. How should you prepare for hiking with your dog? What do you do when your dog overdoes it?
Before you go
Hiking with your dog can be an enjoyable way for you both to get fresh air and exercise. To make your hike fun and successful for both of you, some extra planning and preparation goes a long way.
Is your dog up for a hike?
Before hitting the trails, it’s important to first consider if your dog is in the right shape for hiking. If in doubt, consult your veterinarian about whether your dog is ready and able to hike with you.
- Puppies – You don’t want to take a puppy or adolescent dog on too strenuous of a hike until they have finished growing. Too much strain on a young dog’s growing bones can lead to pain and future issues with regular development. Veterinary experts from Preventative Vet recommend waiting at least one year before doing more rigorous exercise like difficult hikes or running with your pup. A good rule of thumb with puppies is to let them set the pace and respect when they are tired.
- Senior dogs – Older dogs have lower stamina and strength than a dog in the prime of their life, notes veterinary experts at Preventive Vet. These dogs are also likely to suffer from joint discomfort that can make strenuous hiking more harmful than beneficial for their health. Swimming might be a better activity for you and your senior dog.
- Brachycephalic breeds – Dogs with short snouts and flat faces, like French Bulldogs, Bulldogs, and Pugs, often have difficulty breathing. This can result in issues with getting enough oxygen during physical activity, as well as making them susceptible to overheating in warmer temperatures. Typically, these breeds require very modest levels of exercise so hiking is not the best choice for these pups!
- Physical training – Just like people, dogs need to build strength over time or risk soreness or even injury. Start with shorter, easier hikes and gradually increase the length and difficulty of your hikes. Monitor your dog for signs of fatigue, soreness, or paw pad tenderness and avoid hiking when the temperatures soar as heat stroke can happen quickly in dogs.
Vaccines and preventatives
Your dog should always be up to date on their vaccines before going hiking, particularly rabies and any vaccines that may be necessary in the specific area you plan to hike. Ticks, fleas, and mosquitoes also pose a risk to your pup, as they can carry some serious illnesses. Talk to your veterinarian to make sure your dog is taking appropriate parasite preventatives.