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If you enjoy the great outdoors and you want to bring along your furry friend, make sure your pooch is up for the trip and keep some important safety tips in mind. Hiking can be great exercise for your dog if he or she is in good physical shape. Here are some things to consider before you and your pup hit the trails.
Physical fitness level – Because hiking is much more strenuous than just going for a stroll around the neighborhood, make sure your dog is physically up to the task. Hiking is often on uneven terrain at an elevation. Make sure your dog’s fitness level is right for the trail you plan to take. If you’re trying to build up your pup’s endurance, start on a less strenuous path and work your way up to more challenging hikes.
Behavior – Is your dog well-behaved enough to hike? Though you may be somewhat isolated on a hike, you want a dog who knows his or her manners and follows instructions well before you hit the trail. You may encounter other people, dogs and wildlife on the trail, so you want a pup who will listen and stay calm should you encounter company while hiking.
Health – Consider your dog’s general health, in addition to his or her physical fitness level. Puppies need to be completely weaned before a nursing mama hits the trail. Puppies need their mom nearby to nurse, and a nursing dog’s body is already under stress just caring for her little ones. Also, hip dysplasia may count your dog out for hiking, depending on how bad the condition is. Consult your vet about your dog’s health before planning your hike.
Size – Don’t count your small pup out, but realize that smaller dogs may not be ideal hiking buddies, depending on other factors like health and physical fitness level. A young, healthy and physically fit smaller breed may make a fine hiking partner, but realize that a smaller dog has to take many more steps to cover the trail and there may be obstacles your dog needs help with on the trail like large gaps or rocks. Larger dogs, over 40 pounds, tend to make very good hiking partners. However, it really will vary based on all of the factors listed here, and if you’re in doubt, ask your vet for advice.
Weather – If the weather is looking hot and humid or freezing temperatures are at hand, it’s probably best to leave your dog at home for your hike. Dogs can easily overheat, and that’s the last thing you want out on the trail far away from medical help. Also, stay away from hiking in extreme cold, as this can be bad for your pup, too. Your dog’s heat and cold tolerance will also vary based on size, breed and overall health, so keep your individual dog’s heat and cold tolerance in mind before you decide what’s best.
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Lisa Marino, CPDT-KA, KPA-CTP, PMCT, has taken her varied teaching experiences and applied them to helping owners understand and train their beloved four-legged family members. She has more than four years’ experience leading group dog training classes at Best Paw Forward in Hartland, WI, and opened Head of the Class Dog Training LLC in Winchester, VA in 2012, where she conducts group classes and private lessons, as well as helps owners to modify their dogs' problem behaviors.
Lisa earned her CPDT-KA in 2012, is a 2015 graduate of the prestigious Karen Pryor Academy and is a Pat Miller Certified Trainer.
She has 4 registered therapy dogs and is a Pet Partner Therapy Team Evaluator and a member of HOPE AACR. As a former middle school teacher, she works well with families and children and does school presentations on various dog related topics.
Hiking With Your Dog