Just because your dog is small doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take them on hiking trips. Hiking with small dogs can be very rewarding for you both.
Jack Russell Terriers, Corgis, and Shetland Sheepdogs are all smaller dogs ranked among the top active breeds for outdoor adventures.
However, there are some things you should do to ensure a happy hike for both you and your pint-sized hound.
These tips for hiking with small dogs will ensure all your hiking trips are safe and enjoyable for you and your little buddy.
Prepare Your Dog for Hiking.
When you first starting to hike with your small dog, start easy and increase your hikes over time. You may want to start with short hikes – about a mile.
Once your dog is used to hiking you can gradually increase this number until you work out your dog’s daily walking limit. Each small breed will different and age and temperament will also factor.
Pay attention to how they are travelling so you don’t push them beyond their capabilities. You know your dog better than anyone so will know if they are struggling.
A great way to prepare your dog and get them hiking fit is to begin shorter walks around the neighbourhood or a local park. You can then slowly increase the distances and begin hiking on different types of terrain.
Choose The Right Hiking Gear
There is plenty of great hiking gear for dogs to make hiking easier for both large and small dogs. Since smaller dogs often need more assistance along trails, the right gear will help you and your dog enjoy the hike more.
Ensure your dog has a good harness. A proper harness, especially one with a handle on the back will give you leverage to better assist your dog with obstacles. A harness is also more comfortable than being lead on a collar and will also prevent them from slipping their head from a collar.
You may need a jacket for cooler weather or a cooling vest or harness core cooler insert for hot weather. If you are planning a multi-day hike or camping hikes, ensure your dog has a good travel bed or sleeping pad to rest after a long day hiking.
Protect Your Dogs Paws
Footwear is especially important for your small dog on hikes as it provides exceptional paw protection. Since many trails have rough terrain with rocks and limbs lying around, your dog’s paws can end up with bruises, scrapes, and cuts. Also, consider the temperature and what paw protection may be required.
Whether protection from the ground, extreme elements or for extra tread on the trail, dog hiking boots are a worthwhile and inexpensive investment.
Get your dog used to wearing hiking boots while they are doing their shorter training hikes.
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If they aren’t wearing boots, a pot of paw wax will provide an invisible shield to protect and nourish their paw pads. Especially in extreme climates.
Choose The Right Trail
Small dogs will often show the same bravery and willingness as their larger counterparts, but they do have different physical limitations. So, when hiking with a small dog, it may be important to choose a trail with less challenging terrain.
Dog breeds with short limbs and longer spines such as Corgis and Dachshunds should avoid hiking on trails that are highly uneven with large boulders or rocks.
When these breeds jump off higher surfaces it puts a great deal of stress on their spines. Remember such breeds are prone to herniated discs.
Pomeranians and Beagles can have similar problems with their necks on uneven or rocky terrains.
Obstacles such as downed trees, steep declines, and rocks should be avoided, as should water. While streams and creeks are not a big deal for large dogs, they can be dangerous for small breeds.
If your favourite trail includes any sort of moving water you should consider investing in a dog life jacket with a handle on top or have provision for safely carrying your dog across. A dog carrying backpack is great for this purpose.
Allow Periods of Rest
Resting periods are important for everyone on the hike, especially when the weather is hot. Small dogs require more frequent stops than larger dogs as they have different obstacles to overcome.
Being short puts them closer to the ground, so they pick up more heat radiating off the earth. Their little legs also have to move faster than a large dog, so they can reach the point of over-heating sooner.
Small breeds such as French bulldogs, pugs, and Boston terriers are brachycephalic, or flat-nosed, so they get hot much faster than other small breeds. You’ll need to pay special attention if you are hiking with one of these types of dogs.
Allow for Snack Breaks
Just like you, your dog will need some sustenance and plenty of hydration on the hike so make sure you pack enough snacks and water. Since hiking burns lots of calories, small dogs especially will need food breaks to replenish burned calories.
Rest breaks are a great time to re-hydrate and offer some snacks to keep energy levels up and fight off hunger. Carry a dog travel water bottle to make it easy for regular drinks.
Make sure you pack all-natural snacks that won’t make them thirsty. Some lower quality snacks are high in salt, sugars and artificial flavourings which make dogs very thirsty.
Plan Picnic Hikes
Short hikes with a picnic stop are a great way to build up your dog’s hiking fitness and give your petit hound the opportunity to rest, snack, stretch and sniff. A picnic and a hike is also a great day out for you.
Take a Dog Carrier Backpack
No matter how much determination or training your small dog has done, sometimes, even with breaks, little legs get tired. Some small dogs may not be able to make the full hike and will need to be carried.
That’s where a dog carrier backpack comes in handy. Your little hound can still enjoy the hike and take a break. It also gives you somewhere to stash all your goodies such as snacks, water and leads.
Some dogs will happily pop into a normal day pack with their head hanging out for a section of the trail. Or, you may choose to take a dedicated dog carrying backpacks such as the K9 Sport Sack or the Pawaboo dog carrier backpack.
Whichever way you decide, it makes everyone’s hike happier if you are prepared to carry your dog comfortably for some of the distance.
Be Aware of Wildlife in the Area
Be a responsible dog owner and be mindful of any wildlife in the area for the sake of the natural environment and the safety of your dog. Don’t allow your dog off the leash if they are prone to chasing wildlife.
Apart from being bad form, it could be unsafe for your dog. Consider the area could have snakes, wild dogs, or bears and letting your dog off the leash could prove dangerous for your adventurous hound.
Small Dog Hiking
Plan properly by preparing your small dog for hikes with some training before heading off on long trails. By choosing the right type of trail, investing in some dog hiking gear and hiking to your dog’s ability, you can have a great time hiking with your little dog.