If a dog is (wo)man’s best friend when curled up on the sofa, then they’re certainly the ideal adventure buddy in the Great Outdoors!
A good long hike or an overnight camp can be much more fun in canine company, and dogs can increase your feeling of security when heading off the beaten track.
But good preparation is essential to keep you and your pooch safe and happy so, don’t ‘paws’ - read on!
What’s the best breed of dog for hiking?
How far you hike depends on your dog’s breed, their age and any medical conditions. Short-muzzled breeds, such as boxers and pugs, often struggle with stamina and are more susceptible to heatstroke, while bloodhounds and sighthounds with high prey drives might be capable of zooming for miles but are prone to getting excitable around livestock or wildlife.
Huskies are excellent endurance dogs and suited to all-weather hiking, while pointers such as Weimaraners and Hungarian Vizslas have the energy for lots of exercise.
Border collies are great hiking companions, given plenty of reinforcement training against their herding instinct, while Labradors and German Shepherds also have the energy and temperament to keep up.
Think about your dog’s paws over rough ground. The delicate paws of whippets and greyhounds aren’t ideal on rocky or uneven terrain, but spaniels, on the other hand, have well-designed paws and coats to protect against stones and thorns.
Puppies should have all their injections before being taken on walks and these need to be short initially, to build up stamina slowly.
What to pack for hiking with dogs
The rule here is, what we need, our dogs need when it comes to food, water and warmth. Now, that’s not to say they should get half of your trig point treat, but when you eat, they should eat.
The same applies for water; collapsible dog bowls are inexpensive and fold up well in your rucksack, while short-haired dogs will benefit from a fleece or waterproof coat in autumn and winter.
Brecon Beacons National Park ambassador and Ordnance Survey Get Outside champion, Tracy Purnell, says there are many things to consider when out walking with dogs - and she should know!
Better known on social media as ‘Asher Marley’, thanks to her adorable Alaskan husky and marvellous Malamute, Tracy’s hikes throughout the UK need careful planning and some special kit.
“The pulling power of the two dogs combined is immense, so I use a walking belt and adjustable leads,” said Tracy.
“Asher and Marley are great for getting me up those hills, but they need to be kept under close control when around other countryside users, their dogs, livestock and wildlife.
“The walking belt also has handy pockets for dog waste bags, my phone and keys, as well as a bottle holder at the rear. The adjustable leads are great for letting them have a little more freedom when we are in more remote areas, with no one else near, while the belt helps distribute the force to my centre of gravity, giving me much more control.
“It also lets me walk hands-free, to open gates, read a map, take photographs and pick up after them! Bungee leads are also great for less impact if you have a dog that likes to pull.”
Other hiking essentials include:
- Waste bags (and it goes without saying they’re to be taken away with you when full)
- Doggie first aid kit
- Tick tweezers
- Self-adhesive bandage
If you have a larger dog, a harness can reduce their pulling power. A dog pack is a neat idea if you want your pooch to help carry the load, while doggie boots or traction socks are kind to tired paws over harsh ground or in cold weather.
Keeping your dog safe outside
However much fun it is to stomp for miles across wide open space, there are a number of dangers to heed. In the summer, dehydration, sunburn and heatstroke can be potentially deadly, so stick to shady trails and routes near water, where your dog (and you!) can paddle and cool down.
Similarly, winter walks can simply prove too cold for many dogs, putting them at risk of hyperthermia and frostbite. Feel the tips of your hound’s ears, which are a good indicator. Other tell-tale signs include shivering and other obvious signs of distress, such as whining, moving slowly and limping if paws become cold.
Dogs are at risk of poisoning from a number of wild plants and flowers, especially bulbs such as
In the UK, it’s rare for a dog to be bitten by a snake, but adder venom can prove fatal in extreme cases, with attacks more likely in spring and summer.
Keep dogs on leads at all times around livestock, not just in lambing season. Under the Countryside Code, owners must keep their dogs under control and landowners are allowed to use ‘legitimate and reasonable means’ to protect their property and livestock. This is open to interpretation, so stay on the safe side and don’t put your dog or any other animal at risk.
Tracy said: “There are so many things to consider when out with your dog. Livestock and wildlife can be startled and disturbed, while dogs can cause a problem to other countryside users, mountain bikers and fellow dog walkers.
“Asher has terrible recall and a high prey drive so, unless we’re in a secure area, he’s kept on the lead throughout the walk. Just a small consideration for others can insure we all enjoy the outdoors responsibly.”
For safe and happy trails, never push your pooch beyond his limits, while having the right pet insurance can cover you both should an accident happen.
Camping with canines: excellent outdoor etiquette!
When camping with your canine, remember other campers might not find their antics as endearing as you do!
A ground stake - a hefty metal spiral that screws into the ground and attaches to a long lead - gives your hound freedom to move around without stealing anyone else’s sausages.
Never leave your dog unattended and don’t allow him or her to bark; if another dog is causing distress, just move to a quieter pitch. Respect on and off-lead areas; many campsites have designated dog-walking areas to keep everyone happy.
Hiking is just one of the ways to keep your dog healthy and help them maintain the right weight. If you’re thinking of getting a dog, whatever your lifestyle, read about 10 popular dog breeds here!