All I want to do is lay down after a long hike! I have sore knees, swollen feet, and an achy back. On the other hand, my dog Zoey acts like she could hike 10 more miles. It’s hard to tell if she’s sore or just really good at hiding it.
Do dogs get sore from hiking? Your dog might not act exhausted after a hike, but he’s probably sore. If your dog isn’t used to hiking he will get sore. Their muscles are just like ours! Add too much exercise and they will get sore. A dog can’t tell you when they’ve had enough so watch out for signs of exhaustion.
Most dogs won’t be able to handle a 20-mile day hike on their first day out. Think about your dog’s physical activity level, age, and prior injuries before planning a hike. All of these factors determine how far your dog can hike without feeling sore.
While it might not be easy to tell if your dog is sore, this article will give you the information needed to recognize the warning signs and train them for longer hikes.
Why is Your Dog Sore After a Hike?
Did you just wake up one day and decide to go on a 15-20 mile hike? Of course not! You have to slowly build-up mileage by going on lots of short hikes.
Dog’s muscles aren’t all that different from humans. You can’t expect a dog to just hop off the couch and exercise all day long without getting sore. It takes regular exercise and a healthy lifestyle.
So how far can a dog hike? It all depends on your dogs age, activity level and past hiking experience. A healthy dog that gets lots of exercise can usually hike 10-15 miles without getting sore. With regular training you can usually bump up the mileage to 20+ miles.
Just remember that not every dog is the same. You need to plan your hike around the dog. These are some of the factors that could affect your dogs soreness after a hike.
- Age: Both puppies and senior dogs have trouble hiking long distances. Dogs are in their hiking prime between ages 2-8 years old. With that being said, you might be surprised how far an old dog can hike. My last boxer could handle a 15-mile hike up until the week he passed away.
- Breed: Some breeds just aren’t meant for physical activity. Brachiocephalic breeds like bulldogs, pugs, etc can’t handle long hikes. Before heading out on the trail make sure your dog is physically capable of hiking long distances. You don’t want to carry a heavy dog the last couple of miles.
- Activity and Past Experience: If you give a dog enough time they can be trained to do most physical activities. With regular activity, most young dogs can easily out hike a human. It will just take some time to get used to longer hikes.
- Personality: Every dog has its own personality. Some of them are just lazy prima-donnas. Most dogs love to hike, but some of them could care less. It’s hard to force a stubborn dog to exercise. My last bulldog used to lay down and refuse to move after a short walk around the block.
- Difficulty Level: Just because you’re going on a short 5-mile hike doesn’t mean it won’t be challenging. You can’t compare strolling down a manicured trail to climbing up a steep mountainous grade.
Signs of Soreness in Your Dog
It can be hard to spot muscle soreness in a dog when they love to hike. Dogs are really good at hiding pain. Even a dog that looks excited to keep going can be hiding muscle pain. They can seem perfectly fine 1 minute and refuse to walk the next.
Watch out for signs of muscle soreness while your dog is hiking. You really need to know how your dog usually acts. Look out for unusual changes to the dogs personality.
Do they usually show visual signs of pain like limping or do they get vocal by whining or whimpering? Those signs are easy to recognize, but others are harder.
Is the dog withdrawing or seeking extra attention? What about an increase in aggression? Altered breathing, excessive localized licking, differences in the way a dog lays down, drinks, and eats are all signs. It’s all about recognizing those subtle changes to the way a dog acts.
I’ve found that pain and soreness varies between dogs. You have to know your dog, and with enough experience you start to develop a special sense. You start to recognize the difference between normal “Owies” and what needs immediate veterinary intervention.
Don’t let your dog get to the point of pure physical exhaustion. Never let a dog get to the point where he’s limping, lame and difficult to move. This will usually go away in a few days, but might need veterinary attention.
5 Tips to Reduce Your Dogs Soreness After a Hike
It’s hard to prevent muscle soreness in your dog. They just don’t like to show pain until it’s too late. You need to be a responsible dog owner and work to minimize muscle soreness on a hike.
- Slowly Build Up Mileage: Start off slow with 1-2 mile hikes after work and build up your mileage over a couple of months. Add an additional 2 miles every other week until you reach your goal.
- Start Off On Easy Terrain: Remember that no two hikes are the same. Hiking through difficult terrain will slow you down, add muscle soreness, and increase the risk of injury.
- Take Extra Breaks: Take lots of breaks so your dog can get in enough water and lay down for a bit. You might want to pick up a lightweight backpacking dog bed like the Ruffwear Highlands Bed(weighs 12.7 oz). You might want to check out my article explaining how much water you need to bring for your dog on a hike.
- Watch For Signs of Injury: You might mistake serious injuries for general muscle soreness. If your dog is licking their paws after a hike that could be a sign of injury that needs to be addressed.
- Give Adequate Recovery Time: You need to give your dog a few days to relax after a long hike. This should speed up muscle recovery and reduce the risk of injury. Try to alternate short 1-2 hour hikes with longer hikes spread randomly throughout the month.