The first and most fundamental consideration in hiking with a dog is to remember that there are many types of hikes and immense variations on dog sizes, types and abilities – making it a mistake to lock in on one mindset of what “hiking with a dog” even means. Let’s start off by agreeing that the term “hiking” means different things to different people. There is no wrong way to approach a hike with your dog and the possibilities to approach this are endless.
Consider Breed, Size and Abilities
The type of dog, its breed and size will all have bearing on what the actual dog hike might look like. There is a plethora of questions to consider. Is the dog a candidate to be a pack dog or not? Is the relationship between the owner and pet suitable for the pet to follow commands? Is the dog generally energetic and up for any new physical challenge or is it more of a pooch who is a proverbial lounging couch potato – looking for a spot to take a nice nap? Is this a wolf breed (like a German shepherd) that is genetically geared for what we typically envision as a good hiking dog? Or is it instead a little Dachshund with short legs and long body – making its low undercarriage a difficult hurdle in almost any terrain with clearance issues? All of these considerations will help define what particular “hike” we are speaking of here.
Remember, we certainly don’t have to adhere to some vision of a large long-legged breed bounding over the tops of bushes and sage brush – surging ahead of its owner to reach the summit. A hiking scenario that falls short of that picture should not be discounted. A revised type of hike that meets the specific needs of the pet is more than suitable.
Variations on Hiking
The most important consideration is that the owner and dog get an outing, each get exercise and enjoy a new experience. This can be accommodated in a great many ways. Small dogs, aged dogs or generally inactive dogs can be accommodated by selecting less challenging hiking paths. There are also many tools to help make hikes enjoyable even if they don’t have the stamina to go the entire distance. Many small dogs can enjoy a hike if they have an option to be carried in a dog perch backpack in an outdoor setting or in a stroller where the terrain allows. Brachycephalic breeds overheat more easily so small accommodations can make hiking within limits possible rather than not hiking at all.
Don’t Forget the Usual Pet Accommodations
Whether the type of hike is in a rustic outdoor setting where the owner and pet are sleeping in a tent and careening over challenging terrain – or it consists of a day hike on a groomed trail in a city park…never forget to prepare for the basics. For the pet’s safety and comfort, it warrants thinking ahead and anticipating basic things you’ll need to take along. It’s always a good idea to make a mental journey through the trip to jog your memory on details of needed items you may have forgotten. Regardless of where you hike, the pet will need:
- water (a safe fresh source): bring a water bottle if necessary
- food & Snacks
- collar and leash
- ID Tags and Vaccination/Rabies Tag
- sweater/Rain protection Gear
- pet bed or sleeping pad