How Far Can Dogs Hike? Hiking With Dogs Safely
When I say, “Let’s go hiking,” my dog’s reply is, “How far?”
It’s a good question – how far can my dog hike? I want hiking to be good for both you and your dog, physically and mentally. That means that you need to know how far your dog can hike safely.
Bring Your Dog: Hiking is Good for You
It’s well-documented that spending time in nature has huge benefits for human mental health and physical health. Being in nature helps lower blood pressure, improve focus, and more. Hiking has the additional benefit of getting our increasingly sedentary species moving.
There aren’t any studies that I know of that document reduced stress levels or improved physical fitness for dogs that hike. But we can use the concept of parsimony (the simplest explanation is generally the correct one) to assume that our dogs likely get similar benefits from hiking.
They’re urban and sedentary now, just like their owners. And that’s not what they were bred for.
Plus, hiking with your dog can give you an excellent opportunity for bonding and training. I can say firsthand that hiking with my dog makes me feel happier, more relaxed, and more connected with my dog. The exercise benefits for both of us are enormous! He’s much easier to live with when he’s well-hiked.
How Far Can A Dog Hike?
Everyone wants to keep their dogs safe on hikes. That means packing the right gear (like TerrainDog backpacks, harnesses, and leashes). That also means not overstepping your dog’s physical capabilities.
Dogs are capable of hiking incredible distances. My own dog happily hikes more than 20 miles in a day, several days in a row.
But their capabilities depend on their breed, age, physical fitness, and temperament. The terrain and weather will also affect your dog’s stamina.
Your dog might not be able to hike as far on rough terrain, in hot weather, or due to soreness from the day before. It’s hard to give a firm number for the estimation of how far a dog can hike – it just depends on too many variables.
Short-nosed dogs, small dogs, dogs with short legs, and giant dogs will all generally have less stamina than a medium-sized, light-boned dog. In heat, dogs with long thick fur will need more breaks.
Some humans are capable of running ultramarathons. I am not (yet). My grandfather will never be able to run an ultramarathon – he’s just too old at this point. A friend who’s had two torn ACLs at age 25 probably will never run an ultramarathon.
The same goes for dogs. My incredibly fit five-year-old Border Collie (a breed known for endurance and energy) will easily run circles around even the fittest Pug or Newfoundland. He will also outpace most twelve-year-old Border Collies or any Collies with old injuries.
Talk to your vet about your dog’s health and start working up slowly. Start with a short three-mile hike (shorter for small dogs, old dogs, young dogs, and out-of-shape dogs) and build from there. Your dog needs to build up endurance just like you do!
The biggest thing is to listen to your dog. If your dog normally runs ahead with a wagging tail and is sticking close to you today (or even lagging behind), take that as a sign your dog needs a break.
Some dogs don’t show it when they’re tired or sore. If your dog is a go-getter, you’ll have to become a master observer to avoid overworking your dog.
Ways to Extend Your Dog’s Hiking Distance
Many dog-friendly hikes get cut short because of improper equipment. At a minimum, my dog and I always have:
- Poop bags. Obviously.
- A doggie water bottle – especially if it’s not a riverside trail. A collapsible water bowl plus your own Camelback water is a great solution if you are short on space.
- Treats to reward good behavior on trail and keep Barley’s energy up.
- A comfy harness, ideally in bright and/or reflective colors.
- A durable leash, even if the trail is off-leash friendly.
On longer hikes, I also pack along:
- Booties and/or paw salve. Barley usually hikes “barefoot,” but I like to have backup on rough and rocky trails.
- A small first aid kit with antibiotic ointment, gauze, tape, steri-strips, Q-tips, scissors, and tweezers.
- A backpack so Barley can carry his own stuff.
Having the right gear with you will help your dog hike further and be happier. Plus, you’ll feel even more relaxed knowing you’re well-prepared for the adventures ahead!