How To Train Your Dog For Hiking
Hiking is great. Hiking with your dog is epic.
However, you can’t just hit the trail with your dog. Your pooch could be unfit or untrained for your trek.
There are two ways your dog needs to be “trained” before going hiking. And no, this article won’t discuss how they use the bathroom.
Before hiking, your dog needs to have adequate physical fitness and command response. This article will focus on how to get better at both of those.
Without further ado, let’s go!
Before we get into the nitty-gritty, we have to talk about your dog’s health.
The truth is that some dogs are not fit for hiking.
Little dachshunds (whose legs are as long as your thumb) won’t be able to scale Mt. Kilimanjaro. Additionally, most elderly dogs (or puppies!) don’t have the stamina to climb for hours.
When you combine the elevation, duration, and altitude that comes with hiking, it’s easy to see why this could be a difficult task for some dogs.
So, please consider that your dog might not be suited for hiking.
If you’ve got a smaller (or less fit) dog, consider going on a shorter day hike. Or, consider picking up a dog carrier backpack that allows you to carry your little one.
Even if you have a dog that seems like it’d be suitable for hiking, are you sure they’re ready to rock ‘n’ roll?
Ask yourself, “what is my dog like on long walks?” If you can’t take a lap around the block without your dog plopping down to take a nap, hiking might be a bad idea. On the other hand, if your dog can play fetch for hours on end, go for it!
If they don’t exercise much, you’ll need to get them warmed up for it. Start by walking around, then ease into running or sprinting. Be patient, you don’t know if your dog is sore or not!
Exercise is also a great time to get them learning commands, which reminds me…
How To Train Commands
Before we get into the specific commands, let’s outline how to teach your dog new tricks.
The general recipe for teaching your pup a new trick is straightforward: command, action, reward. You say the cue, your dog does the activity, then receives the prize.
For example, the most basic dog command is “sit.” If you want to train our dog to sit, you would say, “sit.” Then, when your dog sits, give them a treat. Simple!
You might be wondering you to get them to do something (since they don’t speak English).
Great question. The answer is to show your dog what to do with your hand or body. Then, continue the command until Fido does the action. The main factor to consider is that you 100% do not want to give the reward until your dog has completed the task. Very important!
OK, now that we’ve gone over how to teach commands, here are some of the most basic commands your dog should know before going hiking.
First and foremost is “come.”
The biggest problem you’ll face in the woods is all the sights and sounds. Between leaves, squirrels, other people, or even poo-poo, there’s a lot of fun stuff your dog might want to chase after.
To keep them out of trouble, teach them to “come.”
An easy way to do this is to practice the command at different distances. Your dog will probably understand the order much better at a shorter range than from miles away. So, start small and extend the gap between you and your dog.
“Come” – need them to come back if they chase after something. Do reps with varying distances, and of course, reward them with a treat.
If you haven’t got that down, use a long leash. A long leash will allow your dog to explore the trail without running away from you. There are also leashes available that clip to your bag, giving you a hands-free experience.
Hiking can be overwhelming for dogs, so make sure you keep them close.
Instead of using “come” to get your dog to return from danger, nip the problem in the bud and have them “stop!” before even running ahead.
You never know what danger lies in front of you. If your dog starts running ahead, you want your dog to halt in their tracks before trouble gets to them first.
To practice this, start walking. Then, stop while saying, “stop.” If they stop, give them the treat to reward them. If they keep going, take it slower or speak more clearly.
The last essential command is, “let’s go.” (You can also sub in “hurry up” if that suits your fancy)
This command is for when you want your dog to stop what they’re doing and get back on the path. Maybe they’re sniffing some moss or just taking a breather. Either way, use this command to get them going.
This command can also be used if you see some trouble coming up. For example, if you see a dead carcass or something fishy, you can use “let’s go” to keep your dog from getting distracted.
Putting It All Together
There you have it, you now know how to train your dog for hiking.
To recap, make sure you start by regularly exercising with your dog, so they’re in hike-ready shape. Then, choose a route that won’t be too overwhelming for your furry little one.
When you want to teach them new commands, use the “command, action, reward” recipe. That’ll make sure they learn cues in as little time as possible.
Above all, make sure you’re patient. Training your dog new commands will take time. Be cool, stay at it, and they’ll learn in no time.
Lastly, have fun. Hiking is a great way to bond with your dog while getting some quality time outdoors. Enjoy!
If you have any dog hacks that you’d love to share, please email cynthia@Newyorkdognanny.com