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How Hiking Can Improve a Dog’s Overall Health

benefits of hiking with your dog

If you’re a dog owner, there’s a good chance you love taking your furry friend on hikes. And there’s a good reason for that – hiking is an excellent way to improve your dog’s overall health! 

Here are just a few ways hiking can improve your dog’s wellbeing. 

1) Hiking helps keep dogs lean and fit. All that walking and climbing burns calories and builds muscle tone 

2) Hiking gives dogs a reason to move around and stretch their legs. Dogs who don’t get enough exercise are more likely to suffer from obesity, joint problems, and other health issues 

3) Hiking provides your furry friend with mental stimulation, all those sights, smells and sounds to investigate

Exercise ideas for dogs with heart ... x
Exercise ideas for dogs with heart murmurs

In this blog post, we’ll explore hiking with dogs and see how a good hike can benefit your pup. So read on to learn more!

Can any Dog go hiking?

While all dogs are capable of going on hikes, certain breeds have tons of energy and are especially suited to these types of activities. These breeds include but aren’t limited to:

  • Border Collie 
  • Springer Spaniel
  • Husky
  • Labradors 
  • Australian Shepherd
  • Jack Russell 
  • Hungarian Viszla
  • Portuguese Wate Dog 
  • Irish Setter  

If you own one of these breeds, then congratulations! Your pet was made for long trails and will likely love spending time outside with you.

You might like to read: Go Hiking With Your Dog In These Top UK Spots This Summer

However, if your breed isn’t listed here, then don’t worry – just because they weren’t bred for hiking doesn’t mean they won’t enjoy it! It’s always important to remember that every animal is different and has its own unique preferences when it comes to physical activity. 

As such, while most dogs will enjoy being active outdoors with their owners, some toy breeds may not want anything more than a nice walk around the block or a few minutes in the backyard playing fetch. 

To determine what kind of exercise is best suited to your pet, consult your veterinarian before beginning any new physical activity with them and consider how old they are (older pets should take things slow) and what health conditions they may have.

Brachycephalic breeds like Bulldogs and Pugs are prone to heatstroke and special care should be taken if walking with these dogs. 

Benefits of Hiking for Dogs 

It can prevent health problems

Hiking is one of the best ways to get your dog out of the house and out of your daily routine. It’s also an excellent form of exercise that can help build muscle mass, prevent joint problems and even osteoarthritis!

Strengthens the core 

Walking around the block uses the same muscles, however hiking where your pooch may have to step over obstacles, walk on uneven surfaces or climb inclines uses different muscles, can improve balance and flexibility and improve your canine companion’s core strength. Read more about how to condition your dog in this article.

Combats obesity 

One of the biggest problems dog owners have to face is managing their pet’s weight; many dogs in the UK are overweight, leading to them being prone to conditions such as diabetes and heart disease. Burning off those extra calories will keep your pooch lean and active throughout their life. 

Help keep them mentally balanced

Hiking can help your pup calm down. It reduces their stress, anxiety, and hyperactivity by increasing serotonin levels in the brain. This chemical is responsible for keeping our moods balanced, so it’s no wonder hiking helps dogs feel better!

They learn new skills

Whether it’s following commands or learning how to walk nicely on a  leash, hiking provides an opportunity for pups of all ages (and breeds!) to practice what they’ve learned from training sessions with their owners. 

Strengthens the bond between dog and owner 

Hiking is a fantastic way for you and your canine companion to spend quality time together and strengthen your relationship. Spending one on one time with your pet can reduce unwanted behaviours such as whining or excessive barking. 

Mental stimulation 

Did you know that walking your dog can also help with their mental health? Mental stimulation is essential for all dogs. Bored dogs can develop frustrating behaviours like chewing. 

Walking exercises the mind as well as the body. Watching wildlife, exploring new trails, seeing other people and dogs, and having millions of new scents to explore all provide excellent mental stimulation for your dog

Helps them sleep better 

A long walk in the countryside will help your pup release its pent-up energy and help them sleep better at night

Getting Started 

We recommend that you speak to your vet before beginning any new physical activity with your dog. They will be able to give you specific advice relating to your dog because, as we know, they are all different.

While hiking is suitable for most dogs, going from lazing on the sofa to walking the Highlands is a big jump and could result in injuries.

Build the time, distance and intensity up slowly 

Start with half an hour in fair conditions and increase this by 10 minutes every week to work up to your eventual goal. Most dogs can work up to hiking between 5-10 miles daily with the proper conditioning and as long as it’s not too hot! 

Look after your dog’s paws

It’s essential that you don’t overdo it in the early days of hiking with your dog. They may develop paw pad injuries from walking on rocky surfaces or rugged terrain if you do. 

You can protect their paws by ensuring they have boots before going on any hikes. (These also come in handy if your dog should injure its paws when hiking) and checking for any cuts or scrapes on their feet when you get home, applying paw balm if necessary.

When Not to Hike with Dogs 

Just like humans, there are times when hiking with your dog is not such a good idea; these include:

Extreme heat 

Hiking in sweltering weather is not good for dogs. If you are hiking with your pooch in the summer, make sure that you give your dog plenty of breaks to rest and cool off in a shady spot. Carry plenty of water and try to limit strenuous hikes to the early morning or evening when it is cooler, especially if your dog isn’t used to hiking in the heat. You can purchase special cooling vests for dogs, so they stay nice and cool while they walk along with their humans during those hot days of summertime fun!

It’s too cold 

It’s not just hot weather that can make hiking less than fun for your dog; freezing temperatures can present hazards too. Yes, you can buy winter coats for dogs, but slippery surfaces, ice and rock salt, which is put down on roads, can cause serious damage or injuries to your dog’s paws. 

Always tell someone where you are going and what time you are expected back if you are hiking in adverse weather conditions. 

Brachycephalic breeds

As we’ve mentioned above, some breeds of dogs aren’t suited to long hikes Brachycephalic dogs can’t regulate their body temperature like other dogs due to their short nasal passages and can easily get overheated which can cause serious health problems and even be fatal. 

That doesn’t mean to say hikes are off-limits; just keep them short and don’t go out when the temperature soars if you have one of the breeds below. 

  • British Bulldog
  • French Bulldog
  • Pug
  • Pekingese
  • Boston Terrier
  • Boxer
  • Shih Tzu
  • Lhasa Apso
  • Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

Your dog isn’t ready

It’s a good idea to make sure your beloved pet has mastered basic training and is well socialised before taking them hiking. Having them drag you through the woods or attacking every dog they meet is just going to make for an unpleasant experience for both of you. 

If your dog can sit, leave it and come when called, then you are ready to hit the trial. 

Puppies

Young dogs are full of energy, so you could be mistaken for thinking long hikes are perfect for tiring them out. Unfortunately, too much exercise can hinder a pup’s development and cause serious issues with their bones and joints in later years. Keep hiking on the back burner until your pooch is over a year old, 18 months in larger breeds. 

Senior Dogs 

Older dogs may still seem full of energy, but it’s important not to overdo it as they may suffer from joint pain or have underlying health conditions you may not be aware of. Whatever your dog’s age, it’s essential to keep an eye on them on the trail for signs of fatigue, discomfort, or injury. If you have a smaller dog, perhaps carry a backpack to carry them if they become tired. 

5 Tips on Hiking with Dogs 

Leave no trace 

It’s essential you pick up your dog’s poop when hiking; being in the wilderness is not an excuse to just leave it. Not only does it look unsightly but other hikers may step in it. Dog waste can carry diseases and even destroy delicate ecosystems, so always pack some poo bags before hitting the trail. 

Use a harness 

Harnesses are a better option than a collar for dog’s when hiking, they give you more control and many have a handle on top that can support your pup on rugged terrain or help them over obstacles. Plus, they are safer. Imagine if your best friend fell wearing a collar they could easily choke.

Don’t let them off-leash

Very few dogs have perfect recall, especially if they spy a squirrel in the distance or something grabs their attention. It’s always best to keep Fido on a short leash when on the trail. Other walkers may not be keen on your dog jumping all over them and there may be livestock nearby or nesting birds on the ground.  

Pack a first aid kit 

No matter how careful we are, accidents occur, so always pack some first aid essentials such as bandages and antiseptic spray; these can be a lifesaver when hiking with dogs. Also, take along your pet insurance details with you and the phone number of a local vet. 

Take plenty of water

Like humans, dogs need to stay hydrated when hiking, so make sure to take plenty of water. Don’t assume Fido can drink from streams and rivers; untreated water has parasites and dogs can suffer from Giardia from drinking dirty water. Consider purchasing a portable water filter if it’s too much to carry. 

Conclusion 

Hiking is a great way to provide your dog with mental stimulation and physical exercise, which can help them live a longer life. It also offers an opportunity for you both to bond as well as keep them from gaining weight. 

It’s not just dogs that benefit either; enjoying fresh air and nature is beneficial to pet parents’ physical and mental well-being. 

However, it’s crucial that if you do hike with your furry friend, they have the right gear and check the weather forecast. You should also be mindful of how active they are before going out on a long hike because some breeds may need more time than others to recover from strenuous activities.

We hope this post has inspired you to dig out those walking boots and a leash and discover your next outdoor adventure with your four-legged friend.

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