Every dog loves going on a nice long hike. It seems like they can hike all day without every getting tired. But how far can a dog actually hike? If you’re worried about your dog getting worn out, here’s what you need to know.
So how far can a dog hike? Most healthy and athletic dogs can hike between 10-20 miles, but every dog is different. It depends on your dogs age, breed, activity level, size, etc. If your dog is healthy they can probably hike farther than you.
There are lots of factors that can affect the total distance a dog can hike. If it doesn’t seem like your dog can keep up there’s always room to improve. Just start off slow, take lots of breaks, and slowly build up mileage as you go. Keep reading to figure out if an extended hike is right for your dog.
What factors affect the total distance a dog can hike?
Did you go on a 5 mile run the first time you hopped on the treadmill? I highly doubt it! You started off walking and slowly increased your pace over time.
You’ll need to take the same approach with your dog. Start off with a short, slow hike and go just a little bit farther each time. After a few weeks on the trail you’re dog will be a better hiker than you.
The total distance your dog can hike will depend on his age, breed, overall health and activity level. Most healthy dogs will be able to hike somewhere between 10-20 miles depending on their activity level. Small dogs, old dogs, and brachiocephalic breeds won’t be able to hike as far.
Just remember that not every dog will be able to hike the same distance. Plan your hike around the dog and slowly add miles as both of you improve. You’ll be surprised at how fast your dog will adjust to longer hikes.
Some Dogs Can Hike Farther
Most dog owners just assume that hiking comes naturally to dogs. Just because your dog is generally healthy doesn’t mean they can hike all day long. You need to think about your dog’s overall health and fitness level before hitting the trail.
Factors That Influence a Dogs Maximum Hiking Distance
There are lots of factors that will affect the maximum distance your dog will hike. You’ll need to think about your dog’s age, fitness level, overall health, breed, and temperament. Every single dog is going to have a different max hiking distance.
Figuring Out When Your Dog Has Hiked Too Far
You can’t ask for a better hiking partner, but a dog isn’t going to be able to tell you when they’ve had enough. All a dog wants to do is please their owner so they just keep on hiking through pain and physical exhaustion.
It’s your job as a responsible dog owner to set the pace and plan a hike that suits your dog’s needs. You don’t have to hike 20 miles your first time out. Plan your hike around the dog. Start off slow, take regular breaks, and pay attention to your dog’s energy levels.
Activity Level Influences The Distance a Dog Can Hike
A highly active dog will almost always be able to out hike their owner. Unfortunately, most dogs don’t get as much exercise as they should so they turn into a lazy couch potato.
Just like their owners, most dogs are fat and lazy. Most dogs don’t get enough exercise to handle a long hike. Think about how much exercise your dog usually gets in a week.
Even dogs that go on regular walks aren’t getting all that much exercise. Going on a 20-30 minute walks per day might get you 10-20 miles max per week. Do you really think your dog is ready to handle a 10-20 mile hike?
Just like humans, dogs need to gradually build up their activity level. Start off with a casual 1-2 hr hike and work your way up from there. After 1-2 months of regular hikes, good luck keeping up.
Young Dogs Can Hike Farther Than Older Dogs
We all know that older dogs suffer from injuries, weak joints, and limited mobility. Honestly, you’d be surprised how far an old dog can actually hike. With regular exercise, even older dogs can handle a short 5-10 mile day hike.
Puppies are a completely different story. Ever try taking a puppy on a long hike? They absolutely love it for the first 20-30 minutes, then they lay down and refuse to walk. When they’re done they’re done, young dogs just don’t have the energy/fitness level to go on long hikes.
With a puppy, you should be able to add a few minutes per week to your daily walks. After they turn 1-2 years old you can really start to crank up the mileage. Once most breeds hit 2 years old they can usually last all day long (10-20 miles).
Some Dog Breeds Aren’t Meant For Long Hikes
Think about how breed affects a dogs activity level. What kinds of activity was your dog bread for? Think about where your dog falls into the 7 AKC Dog Breed Groups.
Dogs that fall into the sporting, hound and working groups will be able to hike farther than toy/Non-Sporting breeds. Assess your dog’s breed and work within his physical limits.
Brachiocephalic Breeds Have Breathing Difficulties With Exercise
Some dogs just weren’t bread for long-distance hikes. Brachycephalic breeds like bulldogs, boxers, pugs and french bulldogs don’t have the lung capacity for long-distance hikes. They have flattened faces and shortened muzzles so they tend to have breathing problems.
Obviously boxers can hike farther than bulldogs so assess the individual breed and plan your hikes around the dog. Check out this post by the Kennel Club for more info on brachycephalic breeds.
Long Legged Dogs Can Hike Farther
Smaller dogs breeds just can’t handle long-distance hikes. They can keep up with humans over short distances, but they’re basically running to keep up. You’ll either need to slow down your pace or shorten the hike for them to keep up.
Other breeds like labradors and huskies are meant for extreme endurance. With regular training they can handle very long distances. A 20+ mile hike is nothing to a physically fit labrador. Just make sure you keep an eye on their paws.
Healthy Dogs Can Hike Extra Miles
Try to form an unbiased view on the overall health of your dog. How old is your dog? Does he have pre-existing health problems? What about arthritis and hip-dysplasia?
Just ask your vet for a recommendation if you’re not sure. Make sure you work within your dogs natural limits. Don’t force a dog with health issues to hike long distances. Hiking should be a fun activity for both you and your dog.
Training Your Dog For Long Distance Hikes
Did you just wake up 1 day and decide to go on a 10 hour hike? I highly doubt it! Unless you’re a gifted athlete (or kinda crazy) you most likely went slow and built up your endurance over time.
You can’t expect a dog that’s never hiked before to hop off the couch and hike all day long. It takes a lot of time and physical training to really build up a dogs mileage. Here’s how to train your dog to hike longer distances.
How Do I Prepare My Dog For Hiking?
- Start Slowly: Start off with short 1-2 hour hikes and slowly build up your mileage. Hike for a few hours after work throughout the week and take longer hikes on the weekend. You’ll want to increase mileage by 20-30 minutes each week.
- Slowly Increase Mileage: After a few weeks on the trail, you should be able to slowly increase your mileage. Plan lots of short walks during the week and 1 long walk on the weekend. When just starting out a healthy dog should be able to handle a 5 mile walk.
- Take Extra Breaks: Plan on taking lots of breaks when first starting out. Bring along lots of treats and water to keep your dogs energy levels up. A nice long lunch will give older dogs a chance to nap at the half way point.
- Watch The Weather: You will need to adjust your pace/distance as the weather warms up in the summer. Be very careful hiking with a dog in hot weather. Once the weather gets up into the 80’s it’s time to take short hikes.
- Bring Lots of Water: I would highly recommend getting your dog a pack so he can carry his own water. You should definitely check out the Ruffwear Lineup of Dog Packs. They’re big enough to carry all the food, water and gear your dog will need on the trail.
- Watch For Signs of Exhaustion: By the time your dog starts to show signs of weakness, it’s too late. He’s already in pain and needs to rest. Keep an eye out for signs of physical exhaustion. Watch for a change in energy, slower pace, panting, and loss of appetite. Stop, take a short break and get your dog some water.
- Elevation and Terrain: Going through hills, rocks and rough terrain is just as hard on dogs as humans. If the hike is hard for you it’s just as hard on your dog. Start off hiking through flat easy terrain and slowly increase hiking difficulty.
Yes, just like humans dogs get sore when they hike. Make sure you start off slow and give your dog lots of breaks. Elderly dogs won’t be able to hike as far and will need extra breaks.
Yes small dogs can hike long distances, but you will have to slow down your pace. It’s hard for those little legs to keep up with a human. Start off with short hikes and build up your distance/pace.
You would be surprised at how far some small dogs can hike.Your average small dog should be able to handle a 5 mile hike. One of my buddies has a weiner dog that can easily hike 20 miles per day, but they hike every single day.
Wait until your puppy gets his first series of shots to go hiking. Usually by the 7-9 month mark a dog will be old enough to start going on short hikes. Slowly add additional miles as your dog reaches the 1-2 years old.
Yes, senior dogs can definitely go hiking. Most healthy senior dogs cand handle a 1-2 hour hike with lots of breaks.