You know how your dog loves to go out for a walk, don’t you? She will get all excited the moment you reach for the lead, and she will be the first one out the door, if possible too. Of course, that’s just for a walk of about 30 minutes or so. But what about a long hike?
A healthy dog of average size has plenty of stamina if she has been properly fed and exercised. A hike tends to be a very long walk, in terms of dog walks, but she can be prepared and made ready for the hike if you go the right way about it. Don’t just assume she can hike straight off – train her first:
In this article, I will provide you with 7 powerful and very useful tips on how to get your dog up to speed for a hike. Not only that, but your dog will enjoy every minute of the hike too. It might even be you who feels the strain of the hike first!
Taking your dog on a hike is a great way for you both to bond and have a lot of fun. For your dog, there’s so much to see and do. Nature is all around, and there are new and exciting scents and smells to explore. If you prepare the right way, you will both have a great time!
The important points to bear in mind when training your dog to hike with you include:
- keeping you and your dog safe
- keeping other wildlife safe
- respecting other hikers
- respecting the hiking trail and area
- doing all the above and still having fun!
Here then are 5 powerful tips on how to get dog in shape for hiking:
1 – Build up your dog’s endurance
Don’t expect a dog who has spent her life lounging on the couch all day to be able to suddenly go on a hike. You will need to build up her endurance first.
If her daily walks are relatively short, 10 minutes a time or so, then take her for longer walks of at least 30 minutes each. If possible, walk for longer, and take her out for walks at least three times a day.
If the weather is quite warm or hot, take her out for walks in the early morning and later evening. The sidewalk will be cooler then on her paws. She will also benefit much more by exercising in cooler weather.
2 – Maintain full control over your dog at all times
You want – you really, really want – to have full control of your dog at all times. Your dog must respond to recall immediately. If she does not now, then train her until she does before taking her on a hike.
You never know what you will meet on a hike. If the unexpected happens, you want to be in a position where your dog will come to you immediately when you call her. This is simply common courtesy to other hikers, after all.
Remember also, there are a lot of wild animals ‘out there’ when you go on a hike. Some wild animals might pose a danger to your dog, or vice versa. It is imperative, therefore, that your dog is trained to respond well to the recall command.
3 – Protect your dog’s paws on a long hike
When a dog is not used with walking for long distances, her paws can get sore over time. This is especially so over rough terrain if she is more used with walking on a smooth concrete sidewalk, or on the grass in a park.
One answer is to get her dog socks, or dog boots. However, dogs don’t like walking with strange things on their feet. A better solution is to apply a protective wax on the paws. This feels more natural to the dog and will be very effective in protecting her paws from small cuts and scratches.
One word of warning: don’t apply the protective wax in the house before taking her out. The warmth of the home will create a waxy mess that you will regret. Wait until you are out on the trail before applying the protective wax to her paws.
4 – Bring a first aid kit for your dog along
Of course, you hope you won’t need to use a dog first aid kit, but it’s best to be prepared, just in case. You can purchase an off-the-shelf first aid kit for your dog, or make one up yourself.
You will need things like bandages, dressings, cotton wool, tweezers, scissors, disinfectants, painkillers, and a thermometer, for a start.
The tweezers will always come in handy, as most of the time the thing that can bring a bounding dog to a limping dog is often nothing more than a small splinter in its paw.
Remember also to include the phone number of pet emergency services for the area you are hiking in. You probably won’t need to call them, but be prepared, just in case.
5 – Take the right kind of food with you
You will need to bring calorie-dense food along on the hike. This will help to keep the weight down while maintaining a high-calorie intake to make up for the calories you and your dog will expend.
The best way for your dog is to bring high-calorie treats. These are easy for your dog to eat, and they will provide all the energy levels she needs. Make sure your dog actually likes the treats before setting out. That’s important!
You can make your own treats if you prefer. Use ingredients such as bananas, beef, whole-grain pasta, and peanut butter. Any high-calorie food that your dog likes will do, in fact. Be inventive, but test out your home-made treats on your dog before you go on the hike.
6 – Use a suitable backpack
There are good backpacks, and then there are not so good backpacks. Make sure the backpack you use is a good one that is comfortable to wear, and suitable for the job.
You should also consider getting a backpack for your dog too. These strap on to your dog’s back, and they are comfortable for her to wear. You don’t need to pack her backpack too full, so there shouldn’t be too much weight for her to carry.
Having a dedicated backpack for your dog will mean you can take more stuff with you and spread the load. Get her used to the idea by strapping on her backpack and loading it up when you go for walks, several weeks before the hike day.
7 – Take all the obvious extras with you
While you no doubt intend to have a trouble-free hike, things can happen to upset your plans. For this reason, pack things like:
- a flashlight and extra batteries
- printed maps of the hiking area
- printed out articles on dog first aid
- emergency numbers (making sure your phone battery has plenty of power for the trip)
- an extra dog collar and dog lead, just in case.
A well-planned hike will ensure that you and your dog have a really enjoyable time together. However, it is true to say that many dog owners decide to take their dog on a hike, and just go without any real preparations.
Most of the time they get away with it, having a great time with not even a hint of trouble. However, I certainly would not recommend doing it that way. Should the worst happen, and it can, you’ll be glad you took the time to find out things like:
- how far can a dog hike in a day?
- how old should puppies be to hike?
- what’s the best leash for hiking with dog?
- how many miles can a dog walk in a day?
In short, it’s all about how to prepare your dog for a hike. Get it right and you won’t have to worry. Get it wrong and all hell might break loose. I know which one I’d prefer!