As you know, I’m all about hiking with dogs. I believe that almost any dog in good health can do it. However, it IS true that not all dogs can go the same distance or over the same terrain.
If your dog has never been hiking before, you should start them slow on easier trailsand work your way up to more difficult hikes. Even dogs that love hiking and have been hiking for years have their limits though.
I’ve Made Mistakes
Many years ago I made the mistake of pushing Chester too far. I didn’t notice that he was getting tired and overheating. I’ll admit that I knew way less about hiking with dogs back then. Also, I was too busy being proud that my 12 lb dog was hiking almost 15 miles in one day!
I would like to say that was the last time ever that I let Chester or Gretel push themselves too far. Unfortunately, it wasn’t. While the later incidents were never as bad as that first one, there were a few situations where I could have been a better pet parent.
Over the years, I’ve learned my lesson. Now I am hyper-vigilant about making sure I’m meeting their needs. Does that mean that I never make mistakes with Chester and Gretel while hiking? No. The point though is that I learn from them and do better next time.
Sometimes it takes making mistakes to learn where your dog’s limits are. For example, they may seem totally fine on the trail but you notice they walk really stiff the next morning. Or maybe, like happened with Gretel once, she was nuts on the trail but then showed the beginning signs of heat stroke while on the way home.
It’s through reading as much as I can about trail illnesses and injuries, and hiking with my dogs for 10 years, that I’ve learned to know when they’re doing too much.
Signs That Your Dog May Be Done Hiking for the Day:
The most important step in preventing an injury or illness when your dog is hiking is knowing THEIR warning signs. Every dog is different so it’s important to know your own dog. However, there are some common signs. For example:
- A rapid heart rate (if it stays high after resting) and reddened gums can be an indicator of heat stroke.
- A cold dog who is breathing slow and shallow, and seems to be in a stupor-like state, may have hypothermia.
- If your dog starts to limp they may have a crack or tear in their paw pad or may have pulled a muscle or tendon.
- If you notice that your dog is licking a specific area during breaks, they may have an abrasion there. This could be caused by chafing from their collar, harness, jacket or they may have scraped the area on a rock or tree.
For 5 more (important) signs, read the article I wrote – How to Know Your Trail Dog Has Been Pushed too Far – for the Sierra Trading Post Blog.
The Bottom Line
The signs that a dog is being pushed too far are sometimes subtle. Almost never will a dog act like they’ve had enough. Dogs have the tendency to go-go-go until they physically can’t anymore. It’s up to us, their people, to make sure they don’t overdo it.
Knowing how to identify your dog’s warning signs will help keep them safe and happy on the trails for years to come.
Has your dog every been pushed too far? How did you know?