You have heard us go on and on about how ingrained the stereotype of small dogs is – of how they are often underestimated and are capable of so much more. We even wrote a guest post about it over at Will My Dog Hate me?
We get really excited every time we see a story about another small dog proving the world wrong.
On our blog we share our stories and talk about the miles we have hiked up steep mountains, scrambled over rocks and made our own tracks in the snow. We wish to inspire others to do the same.
I don’t want you to get the wrong impression though – we don’t believe that a sedentary dog should get off the couch and go conquer the highest peak in your area tomorrow (unless you can drive there. Ha, ha). Dogs are just like people, they need to build up strength and stamina first to help prevent injury.
In our guest post we talked about the book Following Atticus. Atticus is a Miniature Schnauzer who climbed all 48 Four-thousand footers in new Hampshire….in the winter! We think it is amazing that Atticus accomplished what many big dogs haven’t.
However, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Atticus started out on shorter, easier hikes. When it was obvious that Atticus handled those hikes no problem and wanted more, his owner Tom let him take on bigger and bigger challenges.
Tom said, “Atticus started out refusing to cross footbridges and insisting on being carried but later he started crossing them and even hopping over streams if they weren’t too deep”. As Atticus got more comfortable, stronger and used to hiking he was willing to take on greater challenges.
Chester is 9 and I wouldn’t think twice about taking him on a 15 mile mountain hike. However, he has been doing this stuff his whole life. As a puppy we started out with regular walks and then when he was old enough we progressed to running and hiking. He helped me train for my marathon (he ran the shorter runs with me) and we have hiked thousands of miles since then.
Gretel hasn’t been hiking that long. She seems to keep up fine on 3 to 8 mile hikes but we wouldn’t just take that as a sign to go for a 20 mile hike with her tomorrow. We would steadily increase our elevation gain and mileage to see how she does and adapt a training program accordingly.
We also have faith that either dog would let us know when they have had enough. While it is true that dog’s want to please and will follow your lead even though it is taxing for them, they are smart enough to know when they need to stop.
Even Atticus, a seasoned mountain climber, let Tom know when he just wasn’t up for it. On one hike when the wind was blasting them and the temperatures were below zero, Atticus “hopped out of the car, turned right back around and hopped back in”. Tom said “He had spoken” and they took the day off.
If you want to start hiking with your small dog you should start out slowly and even consider joining a beginning hiking program like Couch to Peak.
You should know your dog well and be able to interpret the signals your dog gives you so you know the difference between “needing a little encouragement” and “It is time to stop NOW.”
With a little preparation, adventure and fun in the mountains for you and your small dog is within reach.