Five Tips for Training Your Dog to Hike Long Distances
Let’s say you have a dog that hasn’t hiked before. You want them to start hiking long distances. Here are five steps to get your dog used to long distance hiking.
Bring enough water for you and your dog. Humans are typically advised to bring about a gallon of water per day of hiking. Unless you have a small dog, you’ll probably want to bring about the same amount for your dog.
The average dog drinks about 8 ounces per 10 pounds of body weight. When hiking, they may need twice this amount. There are 128 ounces in a gallon, providing enough water for an 80-pound dog.
Keep Your Dog’s Energy Levels Up with Light Snacks
During a long hike, you will likely pack yourself some snacks. Long distance hiking with dogs requires lots of energy. You and your dog both need extra nourishment to stay energized for a long hike.
Make sure that you bring enough food. Pack dry foods and snacks that you can store in airtight containers or dry bags.
I have found that plastic bags for carrying dog food and treats don’t last long on a hike. They keep getting holes and messing up and smelling out my backpack. Problem solved with these light weight, hard-wearing, re-usable dry sacks. They keep the food dry and it contains the smell of the dog food in your pack.
What foods do you bring hiking for you to eat?
Protein bars? Your dogs can have a canine version of a protein bar.
There are calorie-filled bars for dogs.
You may also pack jerky in your bag, which is another snack that you can get for dogs.
If your dog starts to get fatigued, remember to take a break. Along with water, give your dog a well-earned snack.
We talk about the best snacks to give your dog to keep them going on the hike, later in the post.
Hike 20 Miles in a Day: How To Do It (and why)
One of the most common question I receive when post pictures of my small dogs hiking is, “How far can they hike?”
I recently announced plans for a 4-day backpacking trip. I will be hiking with my 11 lb miniature Dachshund Gretel for 7 – 10 miles a day.
Someone left a comment on that blog post scolding me for having “bad judgement” because “Dachshunds aren’t built for this kind of “adventure.”
I responded that her comment was a bit judgmental. (Ahem – breaking the stereotypes of what people think “poor” small dogs aren’t capable of is a huge part of what this blog is about).
A lot of things factor into a dog’s hiking ability. Surprisingly, size is not at the top of the list.
Things that matter most are a dog’s age, health, physical condition and “ability to breathe well”.
For example, a dog with a heart murmur or diabetes may not be suited for hiking long distances (or hiking at all).
A dog that has had back, knee, or hip problems may not be suited for hiking long distances.
Brachycephalic dogs – those with short snouts who can have a harder time breathing like mastiffs, bulldogs, and pugs – may not be suited for hiking long distances.
I say “may” because there is no black and white rule and I am no vet. I can say that I have encountered dogs of almost all breeds and sizes out on the trail.
Besides the factors I mentioned above, it depends on how much your dog likes it and what kind of shape they are in.
Although I am planning to hike 7 – 10 miles a day with Gretel this weekend, we didn’t get off the couch yesterday and decide to do it.
Before I started Gretel hiking, I got the Ok from the vet that she was in good health and capable of it. We also started easy and slow and I let her work her way up.
With both dogs, I started hiking with them on shorter trails – about 1 – 3 miles – until I was sure they liked it and could do it without being stiff and sore or excessively tired afterward.
We still kept our hikes to around 5 miles for a while. After several months, we started venturing out on longer trails and, eventually, steeper hikes.
The whole time I would watch them closely for signs to make sure they weren’t pushing themselves too far.
We would turn around when they had enough and increase mileage a little when it was clear they could handle more.
At 13, anything over 7 or 8 miles is too long for my Dachshund Chester now.
Gretel is still young but I don’t plan on pushing her to hike beyond 12 miles.
Really, 10-15 miles a day is a lot for most people and dogs, no matter if they are large or small dogs.
I know some people and dogs who can hike 15 – 20 miles a day but that’s not typical.
I won’t lie, the hike this weekend will be a challenge for us. Although Gretel has hiked almost 12 miles in a day before, and she has hiked 8 miles two days in a row, she has never hiked 8-10 miles, 4 days in a row.
Heck, I don’t know how *I* will do. I am pretty out of shape with bad knees and a bad back.
Although I don’t KNOW how she will do, I have a pretty good idea she’ll blow me away again with her athletic ability. Otherwise, I wouldn’t even think about doing it.
I’ve been hiking for almost 20 years. Half of that has been with one or both of my little Dachshund buddies. I have enough experience to know my limit, know what Chester and Gretel’s current limits are, and know that I should have a plan B in case we have to cut the hike short for any reason.