If you enjoy long hikes, it’s natural that you’ll want to take your dog with you. You’re wondering how far can your dog hike, right? The answer takes some explaining.
How far can a dog hike in a day? Your dog can fall into 2 groups. ‘Active hiking dogs’ hike long distances on a regular basis. Expect them to hike 15 to 20 miles per day. The second groups are ‘dogs that aren’t used to long hikes’. You can expect them to hike up to 10 miles per day.
Some dog owners could assume that hiking long distances comes naturally to all dogs. After all, dogs are descendants from wolves who can all day, right? Wrong!
Different types of people have different capacities to exercise. It’s the same with dogs. Different dogs can hike different distances. You are a responsible dog owner. You want to know the factors that will determine how far your dog can hike in a day so you keep them safe and comfortable.
What Factors Impact How Far a Dog Can Hike In A Day?
An active dog that is used to long hikes may be able to hike up to 20 miles in a day. However, there are many factors that impact your dog’s hiking abilities. Some of these factors include the following:
- Activity level
- Overall health
Younger and older dogs may not have the energy to trek long distances. Most vets recommend that you limit your walks to about two minutes per week of age.
Consider a 20-week old pup. You may only be able to walk for about 40 minutes before the pup gets too tired. Bones of a young pup are not yet fully developed. As a result, they can’t spend as much time on their feet.
Older dogs may not have the energy for a long hike. They are more likely to suffer from issues that limit their mobility, such as weak joints or hips.
Some dog breeds are better suited for long walks.
Small dogs with short legs simply cannot cover the same amount of ground as larger dogs.
Some breeds are naturally built for long-distance travel.
Labrador Retrievers and Border Collies are well suited for life on a hiking trail.
The Bernese Mountain Dog, Siberian Husky, and Alaskan Malamute also have the endurance for long trips, especially in rocky or snowy terrain.
Do Pitbulls make suitable hiking companions? Find out here.
Other breeds are great for protecting you against wild animals.
You also need to consider the activity level of your dog. What if your dog spends most of the day sitting around the house? You cannot expect your dog to suddenly enjoy long hikes! Like humans, dogs need to slowly get accustomed to exercise.
Before a long hike, consider the overall health and fitness of your dog.
Does your dog have any pre-existing health issues?
Health issues could make hikes uncomfortable for your dog. be sure to check in with your vet before heading out.
Dogs with arthritis or hip dysplasia, mean long hikes may not be an option.
While these factors may impact whether or not your dog can go hiking, you know your dog best. If you think that your dog can handle the exercise, then go for a long walk and work your way up to a long hike.
Five Tips for Training Your Dog to Hike Long Distances
Let’s say you have a dog that hasn’t hiked before. You want them to start hiking long distances. Here are five steps to get your dog used to long distance hiking.
Tip #1 – Start slowly
Don’t rush this!
Start with shorter 2 to 5-mile hikes.
Walk around your local park with your dog.
Then walk on one of your favorite hiking trails, but start on flat, easy-to-travel terrain.
Tip #2 – Increase time gradually
Gradually increase the amount of time that you spend walking your dog.
Timing the walks helps you estimate the distance. The average human walks at a speed of about three miles per hour. A healthy dog can typically keep up with this pace.
Tip #3 – Take regular breaks
Every 20 minutes of walking you should cover about one mile.
Consider the need for regular breaks.
Difficult terrain may also slow your pace.
Tip #4 – Notice your dog’s energy levels
Does your dog still have a lot of energy after walking for an hour? Then you can add more time to your next walk or hike.
If not, sustain the one-hour hikes until you notice they are getting less and less tired.
Tip #5 – Vary the terrain
You should also start adding variety to the terrain.
Take your dog over hills and uneven ground.
Work your way around builders and other obstacles.
This will help prepare your dog for all the possible conditions that you’ll experience while hiking.
Always Pay Attention to Signs of Fatigue or Dehydration
Some dogs can cover a lot of ground during the day. You still need to monitor their tolerance levels.
Look for signs of fatigue or dehydration. This can help you hike long distances. The following are the main signs of dehydration:
- Excessive panting
- Dry gums and nose
- Dry-looking eyes
- Reduced energy
- Loss of appetite.
Dehydration is a serious issue. Without water, your dog will start to lose essential electrolytes. This can eventually lead to kidney problems, organ failure, or death.
Always take a short break if you think your dog is starting to get dehydrated. The breaks don’t need to be very long. Just a couple of minutes to give your dog some water and possibly a snack.
With no breaks, your dog may push himself beyond exhaustion.
Keep Your Dog’s Energy Levels Up with Light Snacks
During a long hike, you will likely pack yourself some snacks. Long distance hiking with dogs requires lots of energy. You and your dog both need extra nourishment to stay energized for a long hike.
Make sure that you bring enough food. Pack dry foods and snacks that you can store in airtight containers or dry bags.
I have found that plastic bags for carrying dog food and treats don’t last long on a hike. They keep getting holes and messing up and smelling out my backpack. Problem solved with these light weight, hard-wearing, re-usable dry sacks. They keep the food dry and it contains the smell of the dog food in your pack.
What foods do you bring hiking for you to eat?
Protein bars? Your dogs can have a canine version of a protein bar.
There are calorie-filled bars for dogs.
You may also pack jerky in your bag, which is another snack that you can get for dogs.
If your dog starts to get fatigued, remember to take a break. Along with water, give your dog a well-earned snack.
We talk about the best snacks to give your dog to keep them going on the hike, later in the post.
Additional Safety Tips for Going on Long Hikes with Your Dog
There are a couple of safety tips on long hikes with your canine pal. Signs of dehydration and fatigue is a big one. Here are some others:
- Make sure they are up to date on vaccinations;
- Be aware of any current medical issues;
- Stay on top of flea and tick issues;
- Have your dog microchipped;
- Inform the park authorities of when you plan to return.
Visit your vet
Taken your dog to the vet recently? Start with a general checkup. Is your dog in good health? Are they up to date on all vaccinations and rabies shots? Talk to your vet about going for a hike with your dog? Any concerns related to your dog’s health?
Is your dog is recovering from an injury? Do they suffer from certain immune system issues? If so, hiking may not be the best option. Your vet can discuss these concerns with you.
Has your dog recently dealt with a flea or tick problem? Ensure that you continue to use preventative products. Flea or tick shampoo or sprays can help keep your dog from attracting more pests.
Microchip your dog before the hike
Microchips implanted in dogs are an added form of protection. The microchip contains the dog’s name and your contact information.
Say your dog runs off and gets lost during your hiking trip. The park authorities/animal control can use the information on the chip to track you down and reunite you with your dog.
Are Dogs Permitted On Your Trail?
Plan ahead. Do your research. Some hiking trails don’t allow people to bring dogs. In fact, most of the US national parks don’t allow you to bring a dog. Check out our list of parks that allow you to hie with your dog here.
Before you go hiking:
- Check the trail regulations. Find out whether or not you can bring your dog.
- Check for special requirements for dog owners. This includes picking up dog waste and keeping your dog on a long leash. National Parks often require dogs on a leash up to 6ft long.
Even if a leash isn’t required, you should still use one. Keeping your dog leashed is proper trail etiquette. Oddly enough, not everyone loves dogs. If you come across other hikers, they will not feel threatened.
Protecting Your Dogs Paws
I bet you wear hiking boots. They protect and support your feet.
Your dog may also need protection. Why? Uneven terrain. Walking over twigs, thorns, and branches. And this type of protection is especially important during long distance hiking with dogs.
Pay attention to your dog’s paws. It will make the hike as comfortable and enjoyable as possible for your dog.
Your dog may develop cracked pads or cuts on the bottoms of their paws. It can bleed. It can make walking painful. It increases the risk of infection.
During your breaks, check your dog’s paws.
Look for any signs of cracking.
This is more likely when your dog’s paws get dry.
If you detect any cracks, stop any infection from developing. Clean the crack with alcohol wipes or an antibiotic cream that you keep in the first aid kit you have brought eith you. If you see bleeding cuts, follow the same procedure and let your dog rest.
Prevention is better than cure! Apply protective paw ointment directly to the paws before you begin your hike. The ointment keeps the paws from drying out. It protects them from minor scrapes and cuts. I recommend Paw Soother paw wax.
Dog boots or socks
Another option is to use dog bootiesor shoes. These shoes come in a wide variety of styles. Most dogs don’t enjoy the feeling of having something on their paws.
Having the right size is key to having your dog feel comfortable. Try a few different styles of shoes before finding the right fit. There are thick doggie boots with rugged bottoms for hiking treacherous terrain.
There are also doggie socks that provide moderate protection and more breathability.
What Should You Bring?
If you are camping with your dog in the woods or on the beach, we have comprehensive checklists of what to bring on this website. Below we’ve captured the basic items that you’ll need to bring with you.
We’ve mentioned food and snacks quite a bit in this post.
There are so many different varieties, your dog is bound to have their favorite.
But food is an important element to focus on in this post because it will help your dog cope with the distance of the hike and keep their energy up.
Normal kibble is bulky and quite heavy to cary on a hiking trail. But ti’s the cheapest option.
Dehydrated dog food weighs less than regular kibble. That matters when you are hiking.
Try Honest Kitchen’s (human grade) dehydrated all natural dog food that’s made in the USA. It comes in 3 flavours – turkey, chicken and beef and is grain-free.
Even lighter in weight to carry on the hiking trail than dehydrated kibble is freeze dried raw food. It’s more expensive.
See if your dog likes the Stella and Chewy’s Freeze Dried Dog Food. It comes in 7 different flavours: beef, chicken, lamb, duck, pork, salmon and turkey. It’s made in the USA from all natural ingredients with no added hormons, antibiotics, grains or fillers.
To mix things up a bit, try your dog on Vital Essentials range. This dog food is sourced, made and packaged in the USA. There’s lots of variety as it comes in beef, chicken, duck, rabbit, salmon and turkey flavours.
These choices are bound to tempt even the fussiest hiking dog. It will sustain their energy during the hike, especially when you are doing long distance hiking with dogs.
The best snacks for a doggie hike come in a resealable pack to keep fresh and moist.
These are small enough to bag up and put in your pocket. For your dog, these are soft and easily digestible. You can dish these out to your dog at any time during the hike.
I have 2 recommendations for you to give more variety to your dog’s hiking diet.
For small pieces you can keep in your pocket, try the Zuke’s Minis. Each piece is less than 3 calories so it’s perfect as a light snack on the trail. It’s free of corn, wheat, soy and contain no artificial colors or flavors. Six flavours available: chicken, duck, peanut butter and oats, pork, rabbit and salmon.
For treats you can give whole as a strip or break into smaller pieces, there’s the all natural human grade chicken strips made by Spot Farms.
Dog cookies or biscuits
Easy to pack, these are better stored in a box inside your pack or the pack your dog is carrying.
Don’t keep these in your pocket as they will crumble as you hike.
Try the biscuits baked by the Blue Dog Bakery. These are made with natural whole wheat, real eggs and non fat milk. These ingredients keep them low in fat and easy to digest – a perfect light snack on the hike.
These can be store bought or made at home.
Zuke’s also make Powerbones which boost your dog’s energy in a healthy way during strenuous activity like a hike. Made in the USA, Powerbones are free of wheat, corn, soy, artificial colors, flavors or by-products.
These dehydrated strips of meat (beef, chicken) are a more chewy treat.
Brutus and Barnaby prepare thick slices of real chicken breast (not bits of different chicken parts compacted together) as jerky. It’s low in fat and processeed with no additives
Bring enough water for you and your dog. Humans are typically advised to bring about a gallon of water per day of hiking. Unless you have a small dog, you’ll probably want to bring about the same amount for your dog.
The average dog drinks about 8 ounces per 10 pounds of body weight. When hiking, they may need twice this amount. There are 128 ounces in a gallon, providing enough water for an 80-pound dog.
Staying overnight? What about a doggie tent? Give your dog enough space to in the tent to feel comfortable. If possible, consider using a two-room or three-room tent. The extra space helps prevent your dog from tracking dirt and mud everywhere.
Click here to read about other sleeping arrangements for your pooch.
First aid kit
Another essential item is a first aid kit. Most first aid kits include the basics for treating minor injuries for humans or dogs. These items include antibiotic ointment, adhesive bandages, and gauze pads, allowing you to treat scrapes and cuts.
Where Should You Hike?
Have a read of the articles below to explore some options for locations to hike with your canine companion:
- Off leash trails in Colorado
- Grand Lake Colorado
- Cherokee National Forest, Tennessee
- National Parks in the U.S.
Choosing and Fitting a Dog Pack for Hiking
A dog pack is also useful for long hikes.
Instead of carrying your dog’s gear in your hiking pack, you can make your dog carry his own weight. A dog pack is a simple piece of equipment that resembles the packs typically used on pack animals.
These packs typically feature a symmetrical set of pouches, with one pouch hanging on each side of your dog’s torso.
A healthy dog in his or her prime can carry about 25% of their body weight in these pouches. For a 60-pound dog, you can add about 15 pounds worth of dog treats and gear.
When choosing a pack, make sure that it’s the right size for your dog. Use a piece of string or a tape measure to measure around the widest part of your dog’s rib cage.
Most dog packs list a recommended size on the chest measurement. Ensuring that you have the right fit makes the pack more comfortable for your dog. Weight distribution also impacts the comfort of the pack. When loading gear into the pouches, always distribute the weight as evenly as you can.
Enjoy your hike
Hiking is a great activity for you and your dog. But you need to make sure your dog is ready before going on a long hike. If your dog isn’t used to hiking, you should start small and work your way up to longer hikes. Make sure your dog has no health issues.
You also need to make sure your dog is comfortable before going on a long hike. Remember to take regular breaks, inspect your dog’s paws, takes dog snacks for energy and bring plenty of water!
Where To From Here?
Now you know how far your pooch can hike in a day, it’s time to select a location for your next hiking adventure.
Check out the biggest and the best list of gear I recommend when hiking with your dog by clicking here. This gear ensures you and your dog have everything to make your hike fun and safe.