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Hiking is a pleasant activity alone, but it becomes even greater when you bring man’s best friend along. You’ll appreciate nature so much more once you know how to train your dog for hiking with you. Just remember to follow the leash laws of your area — some trails don’t allow for dogs to be off their leashes due to wildlife that could injure them or species that should be protected.
How to Train Your Dog for Hiking Long Trails
Ideally, you want your pup to join you on long treks on trails you’ve never explored before. Knowing how to train your dog for hiking is critical in any situation but especially crucial when you want to take long hiking trips. To build your dog’s stamina, you should consider going on longer walks before changing up the terrain.
1. Take Breaks When Necessary
Your dog likely won’t be used to hiking long distances. Until his stamina builds, it’s best to stick to short trails until he feels used to the climb. If you find that your dog is panting excessively, find somewhere to sit and take a break. Everyone’s a beginner at some point, and your dog deserves the same grace you gave yourself when you started hiking.
If your dog is a puppy or a senior, you may find yourself taking more breaks than if your dog were a healthy adult. Try to avoid intensive trails that you know could give your dog trouble if he’s extremely young or old. Breaks are key to any journey. Plus, it means that you get to spend more time with your best friend.
2. Bring Water and Treats
Two things you’ll need for sure during your trip in the great outdoors are water and treats. Treats can keep your pup motivated during arduous treks through nature. You can also use them as an excellent reward for when your dog behaves well, like if she listens to your commands when she’s on or off-leash.
If you need water, so does your dog. Whenever you stop and rest, make sure to offer your dog some water. If she’s tired, she’ll appreciate the opportunity for hydration. Hiking can take a lot out of you, whether human or canine, so you must learn to recognize the signs that your dog needs a little more motivation or some extra care.
3. Keep an Eye Out for Trouble
If you’re taking your dog on a difficult hike anywhere, you should know the signs of dehydration and exhaustion. Dogs have fur covering their entire bodies, so they can’t exactly take off layers when they get overheated as humans can. It takes only a minute for dogs to start overheating, so keep an eye on your furry friend for the duration of your hike.
Memorize the signs of dehydration and heat exhaustion. If your dog’s eyes have sunken in or his saliva is thick, you can consider that a sign of fatigue and dehydration. When you notice these things, stop right away — or find an appropriate place to step to the side — and treat your pup with some water and rest. Move him out of the sun if possible. Once he’s fully rested, you can decide whether to keep going or go back home.
How to Train Your Dog to Be Off-Leash
To fully experience the joy of hiking with a dog, you must train your dog to travel with you off the leash. Training your pup to follow you off-leash is a vital part of learning how to train your dog for hiking, as it frees up one of your hands and eliminates the danger of your dog getting trapped by a long lead. You should always have treats or other motivation on hand for your pup when you begin a training regimen.
1. Start With Closed-In Areas
If you have a backyard or an open space in your home with few distractions, life has provided you with an excellent opportunity to work with your dog. Before starting your training session, make sure you have ample small training treats that you can quickly reward your dog with.
Repetition is essential, so whenever your dog comes to you when called, reward her with a treat. This action teaches her that she should always come back to you, which can be immensely helpful in an area full of distractions like a nature trail.
Over time, you should begin calling your dog around the house. When your dog comes to you on the first call, reward her with a little treat. Soon, she’ll know that coming when her name is called ends in something nice — something like learning to walk off-leash.
2. Branch Out to Familiar Areas
Once your dog knows how to listen in closed-in areas, start working on the command in a familiar — but unusual — place. If you have a backyard that you frequently let your dog out into, consider using your front yard. Alternatively, if you don’t have a yard, consider walking your dog in a familiar area. Practice recall techniques heavily when you’re in this area — even if there are distractions. It might be best to keep a leash on your dog but not hold it, just in case you need something to grab if your pup gets distracted and darts away.
3. Work on Short Trails
For your first trails, consider keeping your dog on a leash. For a short hike that she can test her skills on, aim for a trail that’s around a mile longer than your usual daily walks. Once she reacts to your voice and listens to you on this short trail, you can try it again with her off the leash. Remember, you should only graduate to this step if you feel your dog is ready. If there is any hesitation in your mind, train her more before allowing her off the leash on a trail. That way, you can avoid any potential accidents.
Go See the Sunset With Your Best Friend
Whatever your motivation for hiking is, you should understand that your dog wants to be with you through it all. Your pup is your best friend, and even if he can’t keep up with you on trails like he used to, or she still has a lot of growing to do before she can tackle the intense trails you want to take her on, your dog will have a blast just being with you. Keep this fact in mind when thinking of how to train your dog for hiking: dogs want to do their best for you, and they will follow you anywhere. All you have to do is ensure that they can do so safely.