How Far Should You Hike with Your Dog?
Everything You Need to Know About Venturing Out with Your Canine Companion
Being outside. Being able to explore new surroundings. Being with you. What more could a dog want? It’s easy to give your dog all of this with one simple act: a hike. Hiking with your dog is a great way to bond, let your dog stretch its legs, and enjoy time with you in nature. But, before you lace up your shoes and grab the leash you might be wondering: how far should you hike with your dog?
To answer that question, You have to consider a few factors related to your dog including its age, breed, and current shape i.e. how conditioned it is. You also need to consider where you’re hiking—the terrain and grade as well as the weather. Considering all of these factors, together, will help you best gauge how far you should hike with your dog.
What Is the Age of Your Dog?
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that, like humans, as dogs age, they aren’t able to be as physically active or energetic as they once were. Weaker joints and hips limit how far they can trek enjoyably. A good rule of thumb is to check with your vet for a gauge as to how many minutes of physical activity they think your senior dog can handle. You also need to consider distance if you’re the dog parent of a puppy.
On average, vets recommend limiting walks for puppies to about two minutes per week of age. That means a 30-week-old puppy can, on average, only handle walking for about an hour. And, again, the more intense the terrain, the more that time will likely decrease accordingly.
What Is the Breed of Your Dog?
Dogs come in all shapes and sizes. Some are tall and svelte; others short and stout. You’ll have to consider your dog’s breed when deciding how far you should hike with it. For example, a miniature dachshund with its short legs, long body, and low chest in no way can match the hiking ability or endurance of a Labrador retriever. You especially need to be careful if you are the owner of a flat-snouted dog like a bulldog.
These furry friends have trouble breathing and about of cardio up the side of a mountain is something they will never tolerate. For more information on dog breeds and hiking abilities, the American Kennel Club provides a comprehensive list of dog breeds best suited for hiking and trails. Check and out and see where your dog falls.
What Is the Activity Level of Your Dog?
Imagine trying to run a marathon a friend signed you up for when the only cardio you’ve done in the last year is walking to your mailbox. It would not go well. Consider that before taking your dog on an inaugural hike. Your pooch needs to train for a hike the same way you’d need to train for a marathon or even just a 5k. If your dog is a hiking novice, start with just a mile. Again this also depends on the age and breed of your dog.
Then for each subsequent walk or hike, you can increase the distance by a half-mile. If you notice your dog showing signs of fatigue—stopping, sitting down, heavy panting, a cold body, decrease the distance by a quarter mile for the next hike and then increase by a quarter mile until you get to a distance that is enjoyable for both you and your dog. If you notice your dog walking with a limp, not using a leg or paw, see your vet and suspend exercise until the ailment heals and your vet clears your dog for exercise.
What Is the Grade and Terrain of the Hike or Trail?
When deciding how far you should hike with your dog, there are other factors to consider outside your dog. Two factors are the grade and terrain of the hiking trail. If it’s harder and more exhausting for you to hike up a steep trail, it’s going to be harder for your dog. You also need to consider the terrain. Unlike you, dogs don’t have fancy hiking boots or trail-running shoes. They’ve just got their paws.
So, jagged terrain littered with rocks just isn’t a good idea for your furry friend. Muddy terrain or uneven terrain is also a bad idea. Another is paved paths, which if the temperature is high enough, can burn their paws, which brings up the topic of weather.
What Is the Weather for Your Hike?
Weather is another major component when deciding how far to hike with your dog. It’s always more draining for you to hike during scorching temps with high humidity—and you have the luxury of wearing breathable fabrics or shedding outer layers.
Your dog, unfortunately, does not. They’re stuck with a fur coat that makes the warmer temps unbearable. Always check the weather before you hike and consider it when deciding how far you’ll go—especially if it’s 90 degrees and you have a long-haired border collie.
So, how far should you hike with your dog? The question may be simple, but the answer is anything but. However, by considering all of these factors, you’ll ensure that you and your dog have a safe and enjoyable hike—full of exploration, adventure, and time together. What more could your dog want?