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Is there anything better than grabbing the leash, loading your pup into the car and hitting the trails? Maybe not, but before you lace up those hiking boots make sure your dog is actually built for hiking as not all dogs are. It’s a great way to exercise with your dog but making sure they’re comfortable on the trail is a top priority.
Things to Consider
Your Breed: Certain breeds (or mixes of breeds) have the genetics to handle the hill. Got a Poodle, Labrador or Golden Retriever? These dogs, in addition to any other breeds in herding, working or sporting dog groups make excellent hiking partners, says Dr. Lindsay Butzer, DVM. On the other hand, if you have a Mastiff or French bulldog, you should be careful hiking as their bodies may not adapt to the terrain as well. Likewise, if you have a small breed like a Yorkie, Bichon or Shih Tzu, they may be fine for a short walk, but “make sure you have the strength to carry them if you want to go on a longer hike,” says Butzer.
Most athletic breeds like Vizslas, Dalmatians, Labradors and Goldens (over 6 months of age — you don’t want to hike with a puppy) should be able to do 1-3 mile hikes without too much pre-training. And if you have a super athletic dog like a Border Collie or an Australian shepherd, you can easily do distances of 6 to 10 miles (with breaks of course) since that’s what they’re built to enjoy, says Butzer.
Work Up to Longer Distances: Even the big, athletic dogs should build up to long hikes. Just like their human parents, dogs get sore and tired and benefit from building stamina. “You can start practicing endurance training with [increasingly] longer walks to get them ready physically for a hike,” says Butzer. She suggests adding small distances to your regular walks, in half-mile increments, until you’re regularly covering 3-5 miles.
Signs They’re Happy (or Not): If your dog is walking or running at a good pace next to you without having to take too many breaks, this is a great sign your pup is happy and within his comfort zone. But pay close attention to the color of his tongue as you train and hike. “If [it] starts to turn blue, this means your dog is cyanotic, is not oxygenating properly and could collapse,” says Butzer. Additionally, if your pup starts to lay down or you feel like you’re really pulling on the leash, you’ll want to turn around.
As you make your way through the trails, have a plan in case your dog breaks free. They should always be wearing an identifying collar with your name and number on it. And of course, microchipping is a great backup and can help reunite you with your wayward pooch.
The right hiking gear can also make your days on the trails safer, more comfortable and more fun. Here are a few products we love for hiking with you dog:
Frisco Outdoor Premium Ripstop Nylon Dog Harness with Pocket
This padded harness allows you to leash your dog from his chest or back rather than his neck for safer hiking. The armature is padded and adjustable and includes a handle on the top so you can get him in and out of the car, out of a puddle or any other obstacle easily. It also has a handy zippered pocket for poop bags. You’ll want to keep this harness in the car so you’re ready to head out whenever the mood strikes.
Springer Travel Dog Bottle
Clip this water bottle to your belt and you’ll always be able to hydrate your pooch on the go. Squeeze the plastic bottle and the small bowl on top fills with water. Squeeze again when he’s done and the excess water goes back into the bottle so you don’t waste a drop. It also comes in three sizes: 15oz, 22oz and 44oz, which is perfect for any longer hikes.
MayPaw Heavy Duty Rope Dog Leash
We love these heavy-duty, colorful leashes, which fit comfortably in your hand thanks to the padded handle and keep your dog safely by your side in crowded parks (or parking lots) with its 6ft length. It’s made from sturdy nylon that can handle a significant amount of tug and pull throughout the hike.
iYoShop Hands-Free Dog Leash
This hands-free bungee leash is perfect for well-behaved dogs on the trails. The belt includes a little zippered pouch for poop bags and your phone. There’s also a pocket to store treats if your pup is navigating the terrain well. Reflective threads and shock absorbers keep you safe from motorists and startling squirrel chases alike.
K9 Sport Sack Air 2 Forward Facing Dog Carrier Backpack
If you do have a small pup and want to be prepared for when he gradually tuckers out, a carrier backpack may save your back when it’s time to hold him. This one allows him to sit with his head and paws out so he’s still part of the action. It also has a padded rest pad so they can rest comfortably. There’s also an adjustable chest and shoulder strap that can accommodate different-sized dogs.
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