Man with golden retriever pup in backpack
Hiking,  Puppies,  Training

Hiking with a Puppy

We all envision getting our puppy and hitting the trail for a fun adventure.  Here are a few facts and tips to know about hiking with your pup.

Puppies are growing at a rapid rate during their first year.  There bones, joints and muscles are growing and changing rapidly as they move through puppyhood into adolescence.  One of the biggest concerns for both dogs and humans alike can be the repetitive movements that hiking or running on surfaces can have on our joints.  Dogs can get a torn or ruptured Cranial Cruciate Ligament.  The ligament connects the back of the femur (the bone above the knee) with the tibia (the bone below the knee). The CCL keeps the knee joint stable.  It is similar to the Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) in humans.    It can happen due to repetitive movements, a wrong jump, leap, or a simple movement.  Some dogs are more susceptible due to breed (larger dogs like Labrador retrievers, Newfoundland German shepherds, Rottweilers, and Golden retrievers) or by structure which would be determined by your veterinarian.  More research is being done on the usefulness of delaying neutering or spaying to allow for the normal hormonal shift for the dog’s full development and may be a preventative factor in health issues in later age.

Here are a few tips:

  1. No running on the trail. Let the puppy lead the pace.  Do not be in a hurry.  Let your puppy rest or take a nap on the way during that long hike.  One friend and trainer who hiked with her puppy recalled a 5-mile hike taking 3.5 hours with naps at various times for the puppy. (So bring a picnic lunch or snacks!)
  2. Avoid repetitive movements on hard surfaces until 2 years old/ full maturity. So no marathons or over use on hard surfaces.
  3. Use a harness and long-line, so the puppy can sniff and roam but that you have control in uneven territory or hazards. On a long-line, the puppy can also have a chance to stop and rest comfortably because of the slack in the long-line.
  4. Practice fun recall on the long-line. Let him sniff and then call him back to you.  Make a game of it with high value treats.
  5. If you are in rattlesnake country, you can use a rubber snake on the trail to practice “Leave It” and to recall to the owner.
  6. In recall, practice makes perfect! So practice recall often in non-distracting environments before you hike in areas with wildlife.

Enjoy your hikes and be prepared with your cell phone, water, high value treats, a 6 ft. leash and a long-line for puppy and any other gear to make your hike safe and enjoyable.  Happy Trails!