Hiking with your Dog

Should I take my Dog on a Hike?

Hiking with your Dog

Hopefully the next few minutes will answer that question by giving you enough information to make an informed decision if Hiking or Walking is the right fit for you and your dog.

Why go Hiking with your Dog?

Dog Backpacks for Humans

To start with, taking your dog on a hike will provide health benefits for you both. Getting outside in some moderate to tough terrain will get your lungs working and your blood pumping, bringing with it all the associated health benefits of increased metabolism and additional air intake into the lungs oxygenating your blood.

Bonding with your Dog. This is often overlooked, but for those people who work long hours or travel a lot, the bond between them and their Dog is often weakened. Playing, walking and throwing rocks and sticks with your dog will strengthen the bond between you both.

Bonding while Hiking with your Dog

Hiking with your Dog will give you some one on one time with them to try out some additional training. I often do this with my most disobedient Dog “Sparky”. He likes to run off ahead when off the lead, and pulls constantly when on it, even to the point of almost choking himself. When he’s off the lead, and whenever he gets a certain distance ahead I will shout “Wait”. Generally he’ll look round but keep walking a little curious as to why I shouted. As the Hike continues he always improves in his obedience. I always fuss him when he does Wait for me and he seems to get the message that he has done something good. By the end of the hike he is normally far more obedient and cooperative than before we started.

Hiking with your Dog allows him/her to Socialise. Dogs are social animals. Keeping them cooped up in a house all day and night prevents them from socialising with both other dogs and humans. When we’re out on a hike with our dogs I can guarantee that I won’t see anyone else on the trail for ages, then minutes after I let my three off the leads someone will come the other way with theirs off the lead. Mine are incredibly placid, but will be over there in a flash to check out what’s going on and have a sniff. This usually ends well and in a friendly manner, but they have been snapped at by grumpy dogs in the past. I believe the meetings with other dogs and people on the Hike are beneficial psychologically for my dogs and the other dogs too.

I was talking to a friend of mine the other day and she said that when she bumps into people when hiking with her dogs and the other people have theirs, that she can often remember the dogs names and not the people’s. That made me laugh.

Saying that, I have to admit that I don’t take my dogs on every hike, much to their disgust, as all the hikes I do aren’t necessarily suitable for them.

What are the best Hiking Dogs?

The answer to this one is easy. “It depends”.
Does your type of dog suit the types of walks you have planned?
The size, age and general health or fitness level of your dog are of extreme importance when considering a hike with your dog.

Best Small Dog for Hiking

Obviously, if you have a toy breed, they are going to have smaller legs, and not be able to walk as far, and as fast, as a larger dog. Don’t subject a dog with short legs to miles of walking. They most likely won’t be able to handle the journey. You could always pick the dog up, if they are small enough, but if you’re hiking in the heat, simply being next to your hot body may be enough to exhaust the dog, and give them a heat stroke or some other complication.

Conversely, if you have a large dog, they should be able to handle just about any reasonable hike that you yourself you can handle. Unless of course you have an extremely large dog. You alone will need to decide if your dog is fit enough and ready and willing to take on the hike.

A dog is just like a human; if they sit around the house all day long, they are not going to be able to handle a five mile hike on the first nice day of the year. If this is the case and you don’t feel your dog is ready to charge right into a full scale hike, start off with a few short brisk easy ones to build up to tougher hikes.

Hazards when Hiking with a Dog

Some owners are oblivious to the possible hazards that can await a dog during a hike, and sometimes inadvertently put their dog in unnecessary danger. One of the first steps of preparing for a hike with your dog should be to consider a few factors relating to the Hike and the characteristics of your particular dog. Do they go together?

Extremes of weather. Make sure that you are not hiking with your dog in extreme heat or cold. A long haired dog can get overheated very quickly in temperatures above 70 degrees, especially if they are running. Some dogs, like one of mine, don’t have an off switch, and they will run themselves silly until they are about to pass out, so you need to calm them down every once in a while so they can take a breather.

You need to consider the Hike itself. The Distance, Route and Terrain will all feature strongly in your decision whether the hike is suitable to take a dog or dogs along. Think carefully before deciding.

What hazardous features are there on the Hike? On some of my local ones we have a Quarry, Reservoir, Cliffs and fast flowing Rivers. All can be a danger to your dog if you are not prepared.

On one of the Hikes we do in Birtley in the UK we follow a Bridle path which suddenly ends, crosses a tarmac road, then continues again. As we know about it we put the dogs on their leads before getting too close to the hazard. If doing this hike for the first time, we would have had to check it out on Wikilocs or Google Earth prior to starting the hike to know it was even there.

Other Animals on the trail will have to be taken into consideration too. I mentioned other dogs earlier, but on some of out hikes we are often overtaken by Horse Riders out exercising their Horses, and typically is it when our dogs are off their leads that they appear. Horses can get startled by a fast moving small dog and are known to kick out when afraid. Just another thing to keep in mind.

One of our hikes in Spain goes around a disused quarry, it is partly filled with water and quite scenic, but the path that goes around it is made from tarmac which is in a bad state or repair. In summer in Spain the Tarmac can heat up to ridiculous temperatures. It would be mad to take our dogs on that hike as they would burn the pads of their paws on the Tarmac and they would be in pain for some time if we did.

Dogs and the Law

Also remember that Dogs come under the rule of Law. You are legally responsible for any damage that is done by your dog. This includes damage to property and personal possessions, damage or injury to other people and of course other animals. So if your large aggressive dog decides to take a chunk out of someone’s Chihuahua or Cat, you can expect to be picking up the Vet’s bill at least and possibly paying out compensation. Use some common sense here. If your dog needs to wear a muzzle or stay on the lead, make sure that it does.

Lead or no Lead?

Guess what the answer to this one is? “It depends”!
Is your dog well trained and behaved? If so, there’s a good argument to have it off the lead most if not all of the time.
Is your dog poorly behaved (like one of mine)? Then they need to be on the lead the majority of the time unless you are in wide open spaces. This is exactly what we do with all of our 3.
Does your Dog run off chasing scents and become totally oblivious and deaf to you calls? Then keep it on a lead unless you are somewhere that has the space and is a safe environment for it to do it’s thing and run free without danger.

Hiking with your Dog with no lead or leash

Is your dog vicious and liable to bite or nip at another animal, person, child? If so, it should be on a lead and be wearing a muzzle.
It’s quite self explanatory this common sense stuff when you think it through really.

What type of Dog Lead for Hikes?

“It Depends”.
It took us some time, and some trial and error to work out the ideal lead for us and our dogs, but in the end we chose a short leash.
Your choices are vast, so just try a few our and see what suits you and your Dog.

Types of Dog Lead/Leash.

Types of dog lead

Let’s have a quick look at what’s available to you. This list is only the main players as there are now an enormous range to suit every possible need due to manufacturers becoming more creative in their designs.
***Click on the Titles to check out examples***

Dog Hike alone or in a Group?

Dog Hiking Group

A friend of mine is in the process of setting up a Dog Trail Walking Group at this minute. It’s something I hadn’t heard of and it got my attention. I put in a simple Google search for “Dog walking group near me” and was amazed at all the results.

Walking alone or as a group will each have their Pro’s and Con’s. I guess the choice will be very much down to your preferences and your Dog’s temperament.

I can see it being a great way to meet people, socialise and get some exercise at the same time.

If you can’t find a group near you, and it’s something you think you’d be interested in. Start your own. It may sound off putting, but I also Googled ” Start a Dog Walking Group”, and yet again there were loads of results and a quick half hour’s browse enlightened me on the need for Liability Insurance as well as some Loose Group Rules.

Here’s a Video on the subject of setting up a group dog walk or a Pack Walk as he calls it:

Specialised Dog Hiking Equipment

Who’d have thought that there is actually an industry building up around Hiking with your Dog? I was astounded at just how much specialised kit was available once I started doing a bit more research for this post.

So, what did I find? Some of them have to be seen to be believed. LOL

***Click on the Titles to check out examples***

Wow, it just goes to show that every need and whim is catered for in our modern society. I had so much fun researching that bit that I got totally sidelined from writing.

One product that caught my eye was the Dog Poo Carrier, and the reason it did was that I often find myself walking for 5-10 km with a full poo bag in one hand. The trails that we walk are pretty remote and there are no bins in which to dispose of anything, and it’s definitely not getting put in my Daysack with my sandwiches and water, not even with a knot in it. So I was intrigued as to how they solved this.
Check out the innovative solution from Turdlebag.com (great name):

About Turdlebag

Hiking Dog Poo Carrier

The Turdlebag full dog poop bag carrier idea was born during countless walks and runs while living in Utah with our dog, Tuco. Our town had loads of urban trails and no garbage cans. During one particularly messy run I started thinking about how I really needed a way to carry her turds without, well, carrying them. I went home, pulled out my trusty sewing machine, and we had our first Turdlebag full dog poop bag carrier.

As we were using the very rudimentary Turdlebag full dog poop bag carrier v.1 made by yours truly (it’s come a long way since then!) we started noticing other people with their plastic bags tied to their leashes, and the full bags sitting at the side of a trail, waiting hopefully to be remembered and thrown out later. So we decided to share some Turdlebags with friends, and the response was overwhelmingly enthusiastic – many of them told us that once they started using their Turdlebag full dog poop bag carrier, they couldn’t remember how they managed before they had one!

So, thanks to loads of support from our friends and families, we developed a much improved version of Turdlebag full dog poop bag carrier – hopefully it will make your life a little easier, too.

I think that’s pretty cool and innovative. They have made a new business by solving a need in their Niche. Brilliant and good luck to them. You can check out their products and designs here: Turdlebag.com

What should I take on my Dog Hike?

hiking dog bowl

So, back to reality after all that fun. What do I actually need to be taking with me when hiking with my dog? Good question. Here’s what I take, and it’s not a lot.

  • Water and a Small Bowl (I have found that they won’t drink out of my cupped hand even when super thirsty).
  • Small Hiking First Aid Kit (I take this whether the dogs are coming along or not).
  • Poo Bags

That’s it. Pretty minimalist I know, but that’s me all over, even when hiking on my own. I did start to wonder what other Hikers took on Dog Hikes, so I did a bit of a Google search to see it there was some sort of recommended Dog Hiking Kit List.

Is there a Dog Hiking Kit List?

The definitive answer appears to be “No”. Surprisingly, there are only opinions out there. Even the American Hiking Society just gives a few pointers, but there is nothing definitive. There are a few things I could add, such as:

  • Food
  • Towel
  • Tracker
  • Doggie Jacket
  • Packs for the Dogs to wear
  • Clip on Collar Light or LED Collar
  • Hand Brush for removing thick mud
  • Spare Leash and Collar
  • Toy to keep dog occupied

However, in my opinion, what I take is enough to get by for a day hike and the rest are all optional luxury items.

Well, now that you are armed with the information you need to Hike with your Dog safely and responsibly, I’ll quickly remind you of the benefits and then you can get out there and have fun.

The Benefits of Hiking with your Dog

Health Benefits of Hiking with your Dog
  • Reduces Dog Barking at home due to boredom
  • Positive Health Benefits for you both
  • Helps you to Socialise with other people and their dogs
  • Strengthens the bond between you and your dog
  • Allows to to Discover your Local Area
  • Facilitates extra Dog Training
  • Promotes Obedience

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