Hiking is even better when you have a canine companion. In his youth, my Beagle Lincoln and I went on plenty of long hikes, and he seemed to love every minute of it. Yes, there were many times when I had to pull him away from some scent he’d discovered, but that goes with Beagle territory.
Beagles make great hiking dogs because of their energy and stamina. Despite this, your Beagle needs to be well-conditioned for these long walks on uneven surfaces because they can be prone to leg injuries. Beagles can stray off the trail though. If they catch a good smell or see a small furry animal, they are going to follow it.
This article will discuss preparing for hikes with your Beagles and what to look out for during the hike.
Are Beagles Good Hiking Dogs?
Beagles make great hiking dogs. They love adventure. And they are really energetic dogs.
When you’re on a trail, you should be mindful of other hikers and dogs. Beagles are cheerful and friendly. So they make great hiking companions.
If you’re on a trail with large gaps between rocks or you have to climb boulders, keep in mind your Beagle’s small stature.
Historically, Beagles were used as scent hounds on a hunt. When you’re on a hiking trail, an off-leash Beagle can get distracted by a smell and wander off. There are two solutions: leash your Beagle or train them. So why does their strong sense of smell make them prone to wandering off?
Beagles Sense of Smell
There’s a good reason why Beagles are used as sniffer dogs to detect narcotics, food, and plants with the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol.
Beagles were born to follow a scent trail: it’s in their genes as hunting dogs. They were bred to hunt rabbits mostly but can hunt foxes, jackals, and wild pigs.
|Breed||Number of scent receptors|
|Basset Hound||220 million|
|Beagle||Between 220 and 225 million|
|German Shepherd||Between 220 and 225 million|
These dogs in the table above have an incredibly strong sense of smell compared to humans who have only 6 million olfactory receptors.
So during a hike, your Beagle will likely follow their nose, rather than you as their human. If you would like to know how long a dog picks up a scent, read this article.
Are Beagles Good Off Leash?
Generally, Beagles are not good off leash. As scent hounds, they tend to run off exploring new smells. Every Beagle is different. As a dog owner, you know your Beagle best.
If your Beagle tends to stay close to you when they are off leash, then these Beagles are good off leash.
But if your Beagle runs off exploring new scents here, there and everywhere, keep them on a leash when hiking. Most National Parks require dogs to be leashed anyway.
How Long Can Beagles Walk?
Beagles can do a regular walk for 2 hours a day.
Given their stamina and energy, a Beagle will hike as long as you want to hike, provided they are fit and well. So they can endure hikes of longer than 2 hours. They love adventure and smelling everything in sight.
How Far Can Beagles Walk?
Beagles can walk 6-8 miles on their daily walks. When properly conditioned, your Beagle can do hikes of 10 miles or more.
Beagles are energetic dogs, and hiking is a good way for your pet to release some of that energy. It also helps avoid the excess energy from becoming a destructive habit (like chewing).
Nothing, other than real hunting, pleases a beagle more than spending time with his person in the natural world. It combines what he loves best – you and all those wonderful odors only found outside.
When Can Your Beagle Start Hiking?
The Beagle skeleton is not fully developed until the dog is about 18 months old, so avoid any strenuous conditioning or hiking until then. Otherwise, you could set your pet up for future joint issues or affect healthy bone growth.
Consult your vet as to whether your Beagle is old enough to start hiking.
Training Your Beagle for Hiking
Start out with basic obedience training, which you can begin in puppy-hood.
Keep in mind that Beagles are not the easiest dogs to train.
It’s not because they are less intelligent than other canines, because that is certainly not true. Instead, like most hounds, Beagles are independent and, as noted, ruled by their olfactory glands.
According to this canine psychologist, Beagles as a breed…
…may learn a new trick after more than 100 repetitions and obey around 30 percent of the time.Canine psychologist, Stanley Coren
You want your dog to pay attention to you, and when a Beagle is on a scent, he may experience selective deafness when you try to call him back.
Since teaching a dog to come when called can mean the difference between life and death in an emergency, this is a critical concept to work on.
If your Beagle is not listening to you, read this article for help.
For best results, use food as a reward when training. Praise is good too, but nothing works to encourage Beagle training like a tasty treat. They are very food-oriented dogs. The American Kennel Club ranks Beagles in the top 10 breeds that love to eat.
In addition to coming when called, teach your beagle stand, sit, stay, and down.
When on a walk or hike, use these commands to keep them focused and stimulated.
Conditioning Your Beagle
As with any human or animal, your Beagle needs conditioning before he can go with you on a long hike. As with any “weekend warrior,” an out-of-shape Beagle is more prone to leg and other injuries if not fit.
Start by taking your Beagle on walks of about an hour or so. Take note of his energy levels. If he’s exhausted when he comes home, he is not ready for longer excursions.
Once he builds up stamina and seems like he has energy to spare, you can take longer walks.
You can extend the length of your hike by including a sleepover.
Keep your Beagle in mind by ensuring he is tied up carefully in the night, and make sure he can see you. Losing sight of you for any time beyond what you may need for the call of nature can cause your pet to become very upset.
Whatever you do, never leave your dog on his own at the camp. If he gets loose, you may never find her again.
There is also the potential for theft, as there are unscrupulous people who think nothing of stealing a nice, friendly dog. That’s not a scenario you want to even think about.
Health Issues With Beagles
Not every Beagle makes a good hiking dog, but that is usually because of specific health issues affecting the breed:
- Dislocated kneecaps
- Hip dysplasia
- Intervertebral disc disease.
Patellar luxation or dislocated kneecaps
Most Beagles will recover entirely after surgery to repair the luxation.
But, there is a strong chance that the dislocation may recur.
Some Beagles with a history of patellar luxation may be good hiking dogs, but it is vital to consult your vet as to whether your dog is capable of long hikes.
Hip dysplasia or hip socket malformation
This also requires surgical intervention.
Intervertebral disc disease
The disease affects the discs in the spine, making any movement painful.
Surgery is usually necessary to free your Beagle from pain.
Watch for Discomfort on the Hike
Keep an eye on your dog during and after every hike.
If he appears sore, the cause may prove muscular, which should subside in a day or two. If the soreness persists or he seems to be in actual pain, take him to the vet as soon as possible for diagnosis and treatment.
As long as you realize there are limitations, you and your Beagle can share many precious hours exploring trails and nature.
Keeping Your Beagle Safe on Hikes
There is more to keeping your Beagle safe on a hike than ensuring he is always on a leash.
For both of your sakes, confine your hike to mornings and evenings in hot weather.
Your Beagle is vulnerable to heat and humidity. We’ve done some research on how hot is too hot to walk a dog.
Under such conditions, he may have difficulty regulating his body temperature. In a worst-case scenario, he could develop heatstroke.
Symptoms of heatstroke
Symptoms of overheating or dehydration include:
- Excessive panting
- Sunken eyes
- Dry nose.
A dehydrated dog loses skin elasticity, so submit your Beagle to the pinch test.
Gently raised some skin near his shoulder blades, then let it go. If the Beagle is sufficiently hydrated, the raised skin immediately falls back down. If the dog is not adequately hydrated, the raised skin will remain upright much longer.
Treating an overheated Beagle
Take your dog to a shady spot and give him water if you suspect he is overheated or dehydrated.
Before going on a long hike, make sure you bring enough for your Beagle, and a portable container for him to drink from.
If a hose is available, spray him with water to help cool him down.
Even if your dog does not seem overheated or dehydrated, take regular breaks during your hikes so you and the Beagle can rest and hydrate.
Even if your route takes you past ponds or other water sources, bring clean water for your dog. Allowing him to drink out of ponds, puddles, or lakes may expose him to parasites, causing gastrointestinal and other issues.
Feeding and Hiking
Do not feed your Beagle, and then take him off on a hike soon after.
Either feed him a few hours before the hike or a few hours after your return.
Make sure he has cooled down from the hike before feeding.
Follow these measures to avoid gastrointestinal upset or a life-threatening illness like bloat.
Because Beagles love their food, they are prone to becoming overweight.
Regular exercise, including hikes, can keep them at a healthy weight.
Keeping your Beagle at a suitable weight also reduces the stress on his joints and skeleton, allowing him to remain your hiking companion for a longer period.
Those Precious Paw Pads
If your hiking terrain is rocky and rough, you want to ensure that your dog’s precious paw pads are protected. That might mean investing in a good set of canine hiking boots or paw wax to protect his pads. Not only will this protect him from scratches and cuts, but if you are traversing rugged country, they can help him navigate the terrain better. Do dogs really need shoes for hiking? We cover the answer here.
When you invest in a pair of dog boots for hiking, you can also use them when walking your dog in the hot summer months.
Avoid the Heat of the Day
Another reason to avoid hiking in the heat of the day is the potential to travel on the pavement. Since you are not barefoot, it may not occur to you how hot the pavement might become, even if it is only the length of a parking lot until you reach the trailhead. If your Beagle’s paws are unprotected, he could burn the skin on his pads. This is when dogs need shoes in summer.
The leash you might use for your Beagle while on a hike is not necessarily the same one used for daily walks around the block.
Never use a retractable leash while on a hike, as it does not take much for such a leash to get stuck on bushes, underbrush, and the like.
Begin with a relatively short leash, perhaps 4 feet, to have more control over the animal. As your Beagle becomes more accustomed to hiking and better behaved, try longer leashes. In National Parks, dogs must be on a 6-foot max leash at all times.
Rather than a collar, take your Beagle on hikes using a good-quality harness. This way, there is no need to pull on his neck and possibly cause tracheal or other damage.
The Aging Beagle
As your beagle ages, he may not have the ability to go on the same length of hikes as in her youth. However, as long as your dog is healthy and not exhibiting any signs of lameness, he can continue to accompany you.
Arthritis and Beagles
Older dogs and older people may suffer from arthritis. Talk to your vet about supplements or medications that may ease your Beagle’s soreness or stiffness.
Movement is vital when it comes to arthritis management.
While a dog with longer legs can keep up with a hiker more readily, the relatively short-legged Beagle shouldn’t have much of a problem.
Getting out and hiking the trails together provides you and your dog with fresh air, exercise, and a special bonding experience. As long as you look after your Beagle’s welfare, the two of you should have many happy years together exploring the countryside.
Where should you go on your hike? Here are some useful resources.
|Name and link to article||State|
|Hiking with dogs in National Parks||Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Utah, Maine and Virginia|
|Grand Lake Colorado: dog friendly hiking trails||Colorado|
|Off leash hikes in Colorado||Colorado|
|Cherokee National Forest||Tennessee|