Hiking with your dog

Posted by on 09/03/2023

My dogs love hiking, it’s their favourite thing to do and of course we humans enjoy it immensely as well, there’s nothing more invigorating than getting out in nature to clear minds and recharge batteries. There are so many benefits for dogs too, both mentally and physically, it keeps them fit and stimulated and helps retain muscle mass and flexibility.

I think hiking together is also an amazing way to strengthen the bond between human and hound, working as a team you figure out together how to navigate a scramble and, in our case, probably as we often take the route less travelled, fight your way through the undergrowth!

I hope I will enjoy hiking with both of my dogs for many years to come, but, my older dog, Maya is almost 9 now and the time has come to start planning our itinerary that little bit more carefully.

Knowing our dogs’ limits whether they be a puppy, (although we shouldn’t really be hiking far with puppies anyway) an adult dog or a senior is always something that we must consider when hiking with dogs, because unlike us humans, our canines don’t know when they’ve overstretched themselves.

It goes without saying that before embarking on any hike with your four-legged friend that you ensure they have the fitness levels and stamina needed to complete it. You can’t just expect a pup, senior or otherwise to just have a pootle round the block on weekdays and then take on a 12-mile hike on the weekend.

Senior dogs can benefit from taking a few more rest breaks, especially on more strenuous jaunts, so it sometimes takes me a little longer than it used to to complete our walks, it gives me a chance to take a few more pictures and admire the views though, so it’s all good.

My dogs are spaniels, so given that they are driven by their noses and get a natural high from sniffing around new trails, I think it is most unlikely that they will ever nap on a hike, but if your dog will it would be a good idea to factor one in, especially if they are showing signs of slowing down in general.

One thing that I have started to do to make long hikes easier on Maya is to split them into two, staying overnight in our tent, or sometimes to cut down on weight, in a basic camping pod. My spaniels absolutely love doing this, so it might be fun to try.

Being equipped with the right gear for adventures is essential and we rely on Kurgo products for many of our hikes because they are well designed, robust and comfortable for the girls to wear as well as having that edgy adventure dog look! My pups have worn the RSG collar and Journey Air Harness on many a hike and they have stepped up to every challenge from coastal hikes to hill walks, without ever having rubbed or chaffed.

Is it wrong to say that the collar is my favourite ever because it has a bottle opener? OK so personally I don’t open many bottles when hiking, I save that for back at the tent, but it is really important to keep both you and your dog hydrated. The Gourd Water Bottle/Bowl is fantastic because the innovative design incorporates both a bottle and dog bowl meaning humans and dogs can share.

Sometimes the excitement of exploring makes dogs reluctant to drink water, if your pup is like this it’s a good idea to take a sachet of bone broth or something with you as not many will turn up their snout at this!

Dogs that hike need to fuel up, so I always carry some snacks and food for them, and on longer hikes we take at least an hours break for lunch, because you know, we all have to let out dinner digest! I feed mine a bit more than their usual ration for their evening meal too, to make up for all those calories they’ve burnt.

We all know that in the UK the weather can turn cold and or wet unexpectedly, so I always carry a water-resistant coat for the spaniels, and I love the Loft Dog Jacket as it does not seem to take much space at all in my rucksack and it keeps the chill off them too. Another advantage to this dog jacket is that it has a zipper to access the harness. This is especially useful to me now that Maya is ageing as I pop her on the lead when I think she is overexerting herself. This does not impress her!

Hiking when it’s warm is probably best avoided with dogs, especially as they get older, but if you do make sure that there is a natural water source for a dip and to soak a cooling coat. Just be mindful of the dreaded blue green algae.

Did you know that Kurgo has a solution for high energy dogs like my senior, Maya, who still thinks she is a puppy, and does not believe in resting? The G-Train Dog Carrier Backpack is an ingenious combination of a dog carrier and a regular rucksack. It is roomy and has padded slots for a laptop etc, and when you think your older pooch is tiring, you just pop them in the pouch. I love it!

You can take all the safety precautions you like when hiking with dogs but sometimes accidents happen. I religiously give mine tick prevention meds but sometimes they get a tick out hiking, occasionally a thorn gets stuck in a paw and once a paw was sliced open. That’s why an essential piece of kit you must carry is a First Aid Kit, whatever age your pooch is. It’s also important to give your dogs a thorough check over both during the walk and when you get back to your car, just in case.

I have always been big on protecting my spaniels’ joints, and as dogs age they are more prone to arthritis so I give Maya a glucosamine based joint supplement to try and aid her as much as possible. Having seen a few summers myself, I know how beneficial the human version of this supplement is, and so far, neither I nor Maya have stiffened up the day after a long hike, but sadly I guess that day will come. Of course, feeding a joint supplement has many advantages for dogs of all ages so I actually give it to my younger pup, Lucia as well.

I also pop a fleece or sweater on both spaniels as soon as they get back to the car, both to help them to regulate their temperature and to help protect their joints.

Remember your dog doesn’t have to stop hiking just because they have reached senior status, it just takes a little more planning. Happy Hiking everyone.