7 Reasons Why Hiking with a Small Dog is Better
UPDATED: April 13, 2020
I love all dogs and do not discriminate based on size. However, it’s a fact that there are differences between small dogs and big dogs.
First, some people wonder if small dogs can hike the same trails that big dogs can. I can assure you that small dogs are indeed capable of hiking long distances, sometimes over rough terrain.
Next, people want to know why they should choose a small dog over a big dog when getting a new hiking companion.
While there are some negatives of hiking with little dogs (I list those too – see below), there are a whole lot of positives.
Advantages of Hiking with Small Dogs
1) It’s easier to avoid tense confrontations with other dogs on the trail
Although dogs of all sizes should be socialized and trained to greet other dogs in a friendly manner, you don’t know what kind of training random dogs on the trail have had.
You also don’t know their history with other dogs and people. Maybe they have just had a bad encounter and are on edge.
In addition, most dogs consider a narrow trail a “confined space”, and it’s not uncommon for them to feel nervous, and act out, when they feel “cornered”.
Although most dogs you meet on the trail will be friendly, you may want to pick your small dog up to avoid any conflict.
If you’re approaching another dog you’re unsure how they might react to your dog, or your dog might react to them, a small dog is easy to pick up to avoid confrontation.
2) There is less poop to pack out
Small dogs equal smaller poops so you don’t have as big of a “stink bomb” to pick up or carry out.
3) They do less environmental damage
There are always some exceptions to this one but, generally, a small dog will “leave a smaller pawprint” on the trail.
Literally, if they go off trail, they will leave smaller footprint – aka. trample less vegetation.
Small dogs often dig smaller holes too (no dog should be allowed to dig holes on the trail but just in case you don’t see it).
If they poop somewhere you don’t see, since their smaller “package” will leave behind less potentially-water-contaminating bacteria.
4) You con’t have to carry as much dog food when backpacking
This one may be a “wash” because small dogs can’t carry their own dog food (see disadvantages below) so you have to carry it for them.
If you’re carrying food, water, and treats for your small dog, you won’t have to carry as much as you would with a big dog.
However, there may be reasons that a big dog can’t carry their own food either – reasons they can’t carry a backpack like risk of overheating, they aren’t fit enough, they aren’t trained to wear a backpack, etc.
Since small dogs eat less than big dogs, the amount of dog food you’d have to carry for your dog on a backpacking trip would be less. And less food means less extra weight.
5) They make great sleeping bag warmers
Whether you’re taking your small dog on a backpacking trip, or you are staying at a campground and just doing day hikes, your furry buddy can probably fit inside your sleeping bag with you.
They act as natural foot or body warmers.
6) They’re easier to carry out in an emergency.
When your dog weighs under 15 lbs, you’ll have a much easier time if you have to carry them out for any reason.
There are many reasons your dog might not be able to hike out on their own including, a paw injury, getting stung by a bee and having an allergic reaction, becoming too exhausted to go on (from hypothermia, overheating, or too little training).
One of THE biggest advantages of hiking with small dogs is that you won’t have to face the possibility of leaving your dog in the woods overnight if they get injured.
I’ve heard stories of large dogs getting injured on the trail and the owners having to leave them because they were not prepared to stay the night outdoors and couldn’t carry them out.
7) They’re a great conversation piece on the trail
Most people aren’t used to seeing small dogs out hiking. These people are usually amazed that your little dog “made it that far”.
In fact, it’s more common for people to say something about my Dachshund’s size or ability when we pass them than not. Believe me, I think I’ve heard about every comment there is.
This can sometimes open up to a larger conversation – maybe an opportunity to quickly educate people about the ability of small dogs, maybe about the breed of dog you own, or maybe just a nice pleasant conversation at a common lunch spot.
These are what I think are the primary advantes of hiking with a small dog.
There are others too though including:
- You can use your hand as a water dish because they usually only drink a few ounces at a time.
- If they are afraid of getting their belly wet, they are light enough to pick up and carry across the stream.
- A small dog takes up less space so it’s easier to step aside on the trail to give others room.
- Less fur to groom if they get dirty or muddy
- Will carry less dirt and mud into your car
5 Disadvantages of Hiking with a Small Dog
Of course, there are also disadvantages to hiking with a small dog.
If you want to hike with your little trail buddy, here are some things you should consider:
1) Some obstacles are too much for them
While small dogs have a lot of tenacity, there are just some obstacles they can’t physically overcome because of their small stature.
They typically get tired sooner and can’t go as far in deep, powdery snow.
Even though small dogs have a lot of energy and stamina, there are simply some obstacles that are physically impossible.
They can easily be lifted up ladders or ledges. However, sometimes you would have to navigate the obstacle while carrying them and it may not be possible.
2) Their tendency to push themselves can lead to injury
Almost all dogs will try to push themselves beyond their limits to keep up with you.
However, small dogs usually think they are big dogs trapped in a small body.
That means they can have a tendency to push themselves even more than they can physically handle so you have to watch them closer and be more alert for signs of fatigue and dehydration.
3) Small dogs are more affected by temperature changes
Smaller dogs, especially Dachshunds, are closer to the ground so they catch all the heat radiating off of it and get hotter faster when the sun is out.
They don’t have as much body mass as big dogs so when it is cold they tend to get colder faster (which is why choosing a dog jacket that fits well is important).
Read this article if you’re unsure if your dog needs to wear a jacket when hiking in the winter.
Due to their small size, small dogs don’t naturally generate as much body heat. This is easily remedied with a jacket though.
4) They can’t carry their own stuff
Although you may be able to find a dog backpack for your small dog, they probably won’t be able to carry mutch.
Besides the pack having a small volume, dogs should only carry about 10% of their body weight.
A 10 lb dogs, even when properly conditioned to carry extra weight, should not carry more than 1 lb on their back.
And small dogs prone to Intervertebral Disk Disease (IVDD) and back injuries – like Corgis, Dachshund’s, Chihuahuas, and Shih Tzus – should never be asked to carry anything.
5) They can be more susceptible to predators
Small dogs can easily be mistaken for a rabbit, or other small prey, by eagles, owls, weasels, badgers, bobcats, etc.
In addition, getting bit by a rattlesnake can be deadly for dogs with a small body mass.
Looking For Small Dog Hiking Partner?
I own and hike with Dachshunds. You might be wondering if they are the only small dog breeds that like to hike.
There are many small dog breeds that have a lot of energy but almost any dog can make great hiking companions of trained properly (and their limits are respected)
I wondered that at first too. I didn’t choose a small dog for a hiking companion, he chose me. I hadn’t done any research on which small breed dog I might be able to get to take along on adventures with me.
I’ve learned a lot since that first hike with my Dachshund though.
Probably the most common other small dog breed I see out hiking is the Chihuahua. I’ve also seen several tiny Yorkies out there rocking the adventure lifestyle.
Check out my big list of small dog breeds capable of hiking. You might be surprised which breeds made the list.
Now that I know there are several other breeds that do too, I wouldn’t hesitate to choose a small dog to hike with again. In fact, I would prefer it because of the convenience.
Do you hike with a small dog? Leave a comment if you see any advantages or disadvantages that I missed!
You Might Also Like:
Is It OK to Take My Small Dog for a Long Hike?
Backpacks for Carrying Dachshunds
About the Author
Hi, I’m Jessica. I’ve been studying the Dachshund breed since 2007, owned 3 of my own, and shared in the lives of thousands of others through their owner’s stories. When I’m not sharing what I know on this blog, you can find me hiking, camping, and traveling with my adventurous wiener dogs.
Little dogs mistaken as food…say it isn’t so!
Sure a little dog can fit in your sleeping bag and keep you warm, but with a big dog generating big dog body heat, you might not need that sleeping bag at all. 🙂
I like the idea of having to carry less food and water!
Hmmm…never camped with abig dog. Gretel’s metabolism is so high that her skin is hot to the touch so she always sweats me out and night. The problem is she is small enough that she only covers my feet 🙂
My Chihuahua goes nuts to hike if he sees me touch my backpack. Crosses streams and climbs big rocks. BUT
So short to snakes…
I know what you mean. Gretel goes nuts in the car when she senses we are getting close to the trailhead 🙂
We hike with a German Shepherd and a petite Greyhound. People are always amazed by that, too. They both carry their own Wolf Packs that hold food, water, bowls, poop bags, first aid kits and some other odds and ends. Actually, Morgan carries our GPS tracker in her backpack, too. We have great fun hiking with them and they seem to make a great impression on everyone we meet on the trail!
I imagine you get comments about the petite Greyhound’s “thin, weak little legs”.
2 of ours are 26 lbs, one is 10 lbs. kismet, at 26 lbs, is 14 and can only go about 3-4 miles w/o getting a bit limpy. we are in the process of creating a backpack to put him in when he tires out.
the other 26 lb. dog is a healer mix and runs twice the distance we do by “hearding” us! and chance, the baby, is a tireless, fearless little man!
Carrying at 26 lb dog? Now THAT is dedication 🙂
ps– the “poop bag” post appears to be broken…
Thanks for the heads up. It accidentally slipped out and wasn’t supposed to be posted this morning. I retracted it. I haven’t looked at that thing for months. What was broken?
Here’s an advantage to hiking with a bigger Dog – they can drag you up the hill too!! 🙂 Mum says she likes this one…….:)
Have a fun day,
I agree but don’t think that is reserved to just big dogs. Believe me, Gretel is 9 lbs of muscle. That girl pulls hard and always assists me up the hills!
After finding your blog I was finally able to convince my husband that a little doxie would fit into our active lifestyle. Our 6 month old pup named Camo is up to a 2 mile daily walk with us and when we get home it is like he just warmed up! Yesterday he zoomed around our house just full of energy after our walk. Another bonus of a little dog is not getting pulled down the trail and they fit in the car nicely when you have kids!
Oh joy! Victory for us 🙂 Thanks for reading. We want other poople to see that dachsunds can make great outdoor companions.
Gretel has so much energy. I can take her for a 3 mile run and when we get home she looks at me like “when do we get to go do something?” I know what you mean!
We have two dachshunds and they are wonderful travel companions. Re those short legs: because they are low to the ground, neither enjoys going to a local dog beach because the sand is so hot and there is quite a distance to go before reaching cooler sand and water. Also, on very hot days, it is better not to walk on blacktop, A friend’s doxie got burned footpads traveling in the city.
It’s very true that heads affects dogs lower to the ground more than “taller” dogs because heat radiates off the ground. A lot of people don’t realize that. NO dog should we walked on hot pavement or blacktop though because a dog’s pads can burn no matter what size or height they are. I am sorry that happened to your friend’s pup.
Oooohh…I’ve got an advantage! Small dog = small (er) poop!
We always talk about adding another dogger to our mix and go back and forth on size. It’d be nice to have a medium-sized dog, but I always say to Mitch, “the bigger the dog, the bigger the poop!”
Happy Friday and weekend to you!
I dunno…Chester has some amazingly big turds for his size. Ha, ha. I am sure it is still smaller than that of an 80 lb. dog.
It’s wonderful that your doxies love going on hikes and I often wish our little four-legger, Maple, were just as adventurous… but she’s not very outdoorsy and would prefer an urban (human-made) park over nature! 😐
This afternoon we took Maple for a walk in a relatively forested park. No more than 10 minutes into our expedition, Maple stepped on a trail of ants. She went frantic after that! *sigh* The forest ants in Singapore can be quite ferocious.
Well, hmmm. JF and Dewi have characteristics of both small and large dogs. I don’t know how that makes them good or bad trail dogs, but if we met a cow or buffalo on a hike, they’d have less of a chance of getting kicked. (The corgi structure is just so odd and so meant for one thing.) They love a good long hike though. 🙂
Well I hike with smallish-medium dogs. Bailey is our biggest at 32 pounds and Kylie is our tallest at around 20″. I have to agree that hiking with Evee is the easiest – at 10-pounds, if she gets tired (she is 11.5-years-old after all), I can easily carry her or stick her in my backpack.
Love this post! 🙂 My boy is medium-sized, which works pretty well, too. Happy hiking!
You are singing to the choir on this post. Obviously we love to hike with our small dog Roxy. Torrey is a little bigger at about 20 pounds. Thankfully we can still carry her if we have to. And we hear all the time, “That little dog hiked all the way here?”
I never hiked with a small dog, but I can tell you that my big dogs are into the water and MAN is it a pain! But Grady has some “small dog” characteristics, like he doesn’t enjoy going for too long (way too much work) and we get stopped a lot to answer questions about him when we go out.
Oh, and I really love that last photo!
Very cute blog! We have a 5 lb chihuahua who loves to hike and backpack! We WOULD carry her if she got tired…but it hasn’t happened yet – she’s gone over 8 miles in a day and still had energy to spare. Small dogs are better because even really steep hills are nothing for them because they don’t have any weight to carry! (And they don’t understand what’s slowing their owners down…uh 40 lb backpacks??)
I am so excited you found our blog! I think you are right on with the “steep hills being nothing for them”. Chester and Gretel just motor up about anything with no problem while my creaky knees and sore back slow me down. If I stop to rest they always turn around and give me the “c’mon man, lets go!” look. Chester will even start to bark and whine 🙂
You know r little dog. We have simalur experiences hiking with her and she hates hiking in the snow. She 9 pounds and has hiked up to 9 miles
Mine love hiking in the snow but if it is not packed they can’t go very far. It takes a lot of energy for a 12-inch dog to leap and bound through the snow 🙂
Great to find this posting. We have been backpacking and mountaineering for years and years but we recently rescued a little 29 lb pup. We were planning on doing a short 28 mile two day but we haven’t taken the pup backpacking or even on a super long hike. I’m still a little cautious, may opt for something shorter but I am glad to see other people are taking their smaller dogs successfully.
Another advantage is that their light weight is better for hiking on a ridged and rocky summit. Their paws are much less likely to get cut up. Makes them easier to control if/ when they need to be put on leash.
Yes, you are very right. Thanks for the additions and thanks for stopping by.
I just discovered your blog and I love it! I have two 10 lb dogs – a Chiweenie, and some kind of chihuahua / corgi mix (actually, both came from shelters in Seattle) and we take them on all kinds of adventures – hiking, kayaking, etc. The other day we did a 23 km hike, and I frequently take them to a lake that has a bike trail around it. 13 km around… I bike, and they sprint the entire way! It doesn’t even phase them; they hardly even break a pant. Every single time, people are like “Oh wow!! Did they go the whole way around!?”…I kind of like it though. I like it that my little babies are impressing people and breaking stereotypes.
Anyway, in relation to this post – I live up in the boonies in Canada (on the coast north of Vancouver) and there are hiking trails everywhere, but they aren’t busy like they are in Seattle. Like we hardly ever run into anyone, and it’s pretty normal to let your dogs go off leash up here. So I like to let the dogs off the leash as we hike through the woods. Except I have fights with my husband over it, because he is afraid of cougars eating them (or big dogs we might run into, if we happened to run into a mean one) and insists I keep them on a leash. I know it’s definitely a possibility but I feel like it’s a slim one, and I love letting them have some freedom. Any thoughts? I don’t know if I’m being too reckless and underestimating the dangers, or if he’s being too paranoid. I don’t know anyone who hikes with their small dogs so I don’t have anyone to discuss this with!
Hi Tracy. Thanks for reading our blog.
While I find the doubtful comments from onlookers when I hike with Chester and Gretel annoying, I also take a bit of pride in knowing they are doing what they love and that we changed someone’s perspective that day because of it too 🙂
I think we are close to your boonies today. We’ve been in Squamish all weekend. We came up so my hubby could ride in the Test of Metal bike race but I did a little hiking with Chester and Gretel yesterday. Except on the trails where it was required, it didn’t seem like many people had their dogs on a leash. Maybe it is not law or not enforced around here. A German Shepherd mix kind of “attacked” Chester and Gretel yesterday. It wasn’t on leash and ran right up to us. Honestly, it was more like an intense skirmish and no one got hurt but it was scary and I had to try to hold two leashes while trying to pull a 90-lb dog off of Chester.
Where we live, leashing your dogs on hiking trails is more about protecting wildlife and the environment than doing it to protect your own pup. Off-leash dogs often (but not always…the really trained ones don’t) wander off trail and root around in the plants. They can also get out of your control, discover a squirrel (or something bigger) and chase/scare/eat it. Then there is also the issue of dogs going off in the bushes to poop where owners can’t see it or pick it up.
I can’t let Chester and Gretel off leash because they would get on a scent and run. However, I do know people in our Dachshund club who hike with theirs off leash. Short dogs are more likely to stick to the trail because they can’t see over the bushes to what is out there 🙂 Leashing your dog on a trail is a law in most places in Washington State so I require it when we are out hiking with our club. I don’t have a strong opinion of what people do on their own as long as it’s not causing problems like what I described above. If the dog is sticking pretty close to you, I am not sure there is any more danger of getting eaten than there is if your dog is at the end of a 6-foot leash. If they are running up ahead (or lagging behind) 10 or 20 feet, that could be another issue. Bigger wildlife can see them as just another meal and not be afraid to act because a human is not close to them (which they are likely afraid of). I would think the chance of getting eaten IS slim, depending on how prevalent cougars and such are where you are hiking. I know that is not really an answer but hopefully it helps.
keep them on leash. Small dogs can be considered “prey” by larger animals. Coyotes are fast and dangerous to little dogs.
Thanks we just got our chiweenie and glad to see that someone else has hiked with this breed of dog. My boys are getting older and looking forward to seeing how she does
I hike with my hubby and 4 fur-kids ranging from 12-50lbs. My 12lb JRT can outhike us all! While she is still running the trail, hopping on and off, climbing logs, my larger dogs are panting and walking calmly at our sides. Terriers are a lot of fun!
They are “fun” for sure 🙂 Terriers definitely have an abundance of energy but I swear that small dogs often take longer to tire. I swear it’s because they are light so it takes less energy for them to move themselves 🙂
I’m (unfortunately) always prepared with a list of comebacks when I hike with Wynston. I get angry although I try not to. I hate the stereotypes people have!
It annoys me too. I am almost “numb” to it now though because I get comments so much. Half of the time I use one my comebacks and half of the time I just ignore it. I wish there was a real opportunity to open a discussion with people about it though.
I’ve given my dog water out of my hand, too! It’s so nice to be able to pick them up. I like to put Matilda in my jacket when it’s cold, so easy!
I never pictured myself as a small dog owner until I was. Now I see SO MANY ways they are more convenient than bigger dogs (not that I dislike bigger dogs mind you).
“If they get hurt or tired you can easily carry them out of the woods. Case in point.”
This resonates with us greatly. Our friend who has a Klee Kai injured their paw and he was quickly able to carry him out of the forest to get help immediately!
That part is SO NICE. So many people that hike with bigger dogs don’t have a plan for what would happen if they had to evacuate their dog due to an injury. It’s very hard, and near impossible, to carry some big dogs out. When people think of injury they think broken leg or huge cut but it’s VERY common for a dog to damage their foot pads on hikes. They might not be able to walk out on their own in that case. That’s also why I advocate for knowing dog first aid and carrying a pet first aid kid…. for all size dogs.
I am glad your friend was able to get help for their pup quickly.
Great article! And I love the name of your blog!
Thanks for stopping by!
My small dog is great motivation for me on hikes – if a 17 lb dog can do it, so can I! He also reminds me to take breaks and stop and enjoy the scenery – it’s not just about getting to the top. 🙂 My favorite comeback is just the truth – most of the time he kicks my butt!
Ok, you convinced me to get a small dog. Your family is just too cute! ????
What a great blog post, your photos are stunning! I have three Goldens so there are probably more disadvantages than advantages but that doesn’t mean we don’t have just as much fun! 🙂
Great site. Thanks!
A Chihuahua mix showed up on our front porch about a month ago (possibly mixed with dachshund or terrier or both). We can’t find the owner so we’ve adopted him. I used to have a Golden Retriever and I would backpack with her. Never intended to have a small dog, but he’s great. He loves to hike with me and he’ll follow “rabbit trails” up to 50 feet or so away from me. I’m torn between letting him do what he loves to do and being worried that someday a coyote, cougar, bobcat, or a rattler will get him. I’ll probably have him trained for rattlers but that still may not keep him from being bitten. He “boldly goes where no dog has gone before”, scampering through the brush, probably thinking that he is on top of the food chain. I don’t know of any way to protect him from the bigger predators except for keeping him on a leash and I hate to do that. Any suggestions on how I might be able to solve my dilemma? I live in San Diego, CA and hike there but typically go to Anza Borrego, Joshua Tree National Park, San Jacinto, or San Gorgonio to do multi-day backpack trips.
That’s great that you hike with your little “rescued” pup. I have no doubt he thinks he is at the top of the food chain. Ha, ha.
As far as protecting him from bigger predators, it depends on what kind you are talking about. Bear or cougar might think a dog of any size looks tasty. While the assumption is that a larger dog has a better chance of scaring or fighting them off, I’ve read stories where a Dachshund scared off a large predator. A lot of people around where we live put a bear bell on their dog. The jangling is supposed to alert the bear that someone is coming and signal them to move off. The theory is that the bear will move away if it knows something is coming. It’s when the bear is startled that things can go bad… or if it is really hungry, in which case nothing might help a dog :/ I would also carry bear spray that you can squirt on a predator to deter them from your dog. Other than that, my suggestion, unfortunately, is to keep him on leash. Would be predators tend to keep away from people so they would naturally stay away from dogs if they were near you. One thing to be aware of in open areas, if you are not already, is a large hawk, owl, or eagle picking up your dog and carrying them away. It’s not something I worry about regularly – I feel like we have a better chance of getting hit by a car on our walks – but it CAN happen.
Thanks very much Jessica. Your site is really good. I appreciate the expertise and effort that you put into it. Not to mention the quick reply.
Sometimes I’m in bear country (although almost always it’s black bear rather than Grizzly country). I’ve had encounters with bears (and a close encounter with a cougar once). I have carried bear spray but once I had the canister in my pocket (and I’m pretty sure the safety was on). When I lifted my leg up on a boulder to tie my boot apparently the safety clip was dislodged and the spray went off. Since then I’ve had second thoughts. Apparently there were no bears around at the time because there was no audible bear laughter :). Ended up with poison oak in the same area. Can laugh at it now but at the time it was REALLY painful – almost brought me to tears. Not sure I’d want to put a bear through that :). Yes, I’ve thought about hawks, eagles, and owls also. He’s 12 pounds so he might be a little heavy for most owls or normal sized hawks, but some large birds of prey could carry him off. I’m afraid you are right about the leash. Maybe I’ll get a leash that stretches so at least he’s a little less restricted.
Have fun with your dogs also!
Again, thanks very much!
Hi Bruce –
We only have black bears here in Washington. I know that they are for sure bears that would rather be left alone. They like to graze on berries without interruptions. I did think about Grizzlies when I way replying to you. I hear they can be way more confrontational. Yikes!
The bears were probably laughing at you from the bushes 🙂 Sorry to hear about your accident. It can happen for sure. Also, in my case, I don’t carry bear spray because I am not likely to carry it in a place that would be easily accessible if a bear was eating my face. I would just rather know how to best avoid bears, how to deter them if they do take interest, and hope for the best. That’s only going to protect me for the most part though. It can be trickier with a dog. I don’t hike with Chester and Gretel off leash because I am sure they would not hesitate to chase after a bear, goat, squirrel or errant leaf floating off the edge of a cliff.
I use a fixed-length leash and am just used to it. I absolutely do not “approve” of the use of Flexi leashes on trails or paths where other people are present if the dogs are allowed to wander to and fro on the extended leash. However, a Flexi leash can be a good option for hiking if you lock it short when around others. That allows you to give them a bit more freedom when you are alone but still lets you keep an eye on them at all times. There are also hands-free leashes that connect to your pack or around your waist if you don’t want to hold something in your hand. I’m always afraid I will trip on those though or the dogs will pull me over (they are surprisingly strong!)
Anyway, good luck and I hope you find something that works.
Thanks again very much. Good insights. Much appreciated.
Great post! I am a new dog owner. My pup is around 7lbs right now. She does seem to tire easily (will just lay down on concrete or grass depending where we are) after about 30 minutes. I’m hoping she builds up to longer, but not sure. She is 9 months now. A maltese/poodle mix. I decided to buy the K9 sport sack (www.k9sportsack.com)so that when we camp she can hike as far as she wants and then I can put her in the pack if/when she tires. I’m hoping she likes it!! I will also work for biking, which I love to do. And Olive wants to be with me 24/7????
Glad you liked the post and you found a way to get your little pups out. Nine months is still young and, yes, she may very well build up more stamina. Just a note – walking on concrete is harder on the joints than a dirt trail and also doesn’t have as many exhilarating smells. I have found many dogs who won’t walk far on concrete be willing to walk farther when out in the woods. That means that 1) she may be willing to walk farther if you try a wooded trail or gentle hike but 2) also that YOU may be the one that needs to limit how far she goes on trails at first (always start out with shorter distances and work up). Good luck with your adventures!
We have a big dog and a small dog and there are definitely pros and cons with hiking with each of them! Love this post 🙂
There are enough differences that I think I would feel a tad awkward, at first, hiking with a big dog since I never have 🙂
I have 2 giant chi mix’s (13 pounds and 17 pounds) and the smaller one is getting to be a strong hiker the largest one insists on being carried (we get a lot of comments about his head dangling from the backpack as he sleeps while we hike). The only thing I worry about are predators. We have a lot of coyotes where I live so even with the strongest recall I can never let them off leash or out of my sight!
I didn’t even think about them getting hotter faster because they are close to the ground.. that’s a good point!
I’ve encountered black bears from a couple of hundred feet away, and a mountain goad from about 100 feet away, while hiking with Chester and Gretel. The bear was no issue – he didn’t even notice us and the dogs didn’t start barking at him – but they don’t tend to be aggressive anyway. I was a little concerned about the goat when the dogs started barking because they can be but he was only interested in getting out of there. I can never let my dogs off leash anyway because they would run off after a scent but I’n not very concerned about predators.
Personality definitely makes a difference in whether a dog turns out to be a good hiker or not. Glad to see your getting out with your little pups and you found my article helpful.
Living in Appalachia my poor great pyr and chihuahua never got the chance to be pampered pooches. They’ve always been bad ass nature dogs. Of course having one of the largest dogs hiking with the smallest dog always gets some attention.
I bet that does draw a lot of attention! My friend has Newfies and it sounds like they create just as much of a spectacle as we do when out and about.
Been training my 15 pound bichon frise/poodle cross on trails to go hiking this spring and summer. Most of my friends think I’m crazy so this post made my day 🙂 thanks!
Do you have any tips for increasing stamina? Or is it just slow increase of distance?
I absolutely love hiking with my small dog so much more than my big dog. My big dog always stays near us and is more focused on protecting us rather than having fun. My little guy runs around like a maniac, smelling and chasing everything. It’s great!
I never thought about that – the potential tendency for larger dogs so see their role as protector and guardian. I can just picture your little guy running around having a blast in the woods 🙂
Don’t hike anymore but used to and found that I really had a hard time controlling my Great Dane. hewas just too big and became overly excited.
I hike 3 times a week with my Border Terrier. I think she could outlast me by a factor of 3. You generally need a longer legged small dog for endurance.
I guess you could say that generally. I don’t agree though. I know many Dachshunds, mine included, that can outlast their owners on hikes 🙂 The lower center of gravity is a help, not a hindrance. I’m envious that you can get out with your pup so often. I would love to hike 3 days a week if I could. The nearest trails are almost an hour drive away and can be more if traffic is bad (which it often is in Seattle). Feel free to share a picture on our Facebook page so we can live vicariously through you. Ha, ha. I also started a “Little Dogs Hike Too” Facebook group. You can find it here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/560031320803939/
I have seen advantage #4 play out, first paw, although not in a hiking situation as I, Seville the Cat, do not hike. But many a time I’ve been sitting here at my computer, gazing out my office window, and witnessed someone carrying their small doggy in their arms on account of said doggy being too tired to walk. Can’t do that with a big dog, for sure. Purrs, Seville.
Those dogs are absolutely adorable, and your responses to people’s comments are perfect. Hiking with a little dog might be worth it just for that, but I love how easy it is to just pick them up and get going.
Our chihuahua cross Yorkshire terrier made it up and down Snowdon easily the other day – was ahead of us nearly the whole way. People underestimate little dogs!
That’s great. I know more hiking Chihuahua’s than Yorkshire Terriers but all of my research says they’re great hikers. I wish more people took their little dogs hiking.
I have done hiking/backpacking with a small 15lb. mix of all sorts, and our now dog who is a 75lb hunk of labrador. Definitely would choose our lab anyday.
The con is definitely lugging around her food. Especially on backpacking trips, she burns so many extra calories and you’ve got to account for that (foraging is a wonderful thing though). I actually don’t have a problem moving her around if she gets hurt. I leave my backpack behind and sling her over my shoulders (like a backpack) using a jacket or sweater as a brace. It works surprisingly well when you are in a panic for your dogs life. You dont really notice the weoght and you just go back for your pack later (or have someone else carry it). The pro is those snuggles during winter camping. She has her own bag, but when it gets below freezing, she’ll cozy up with me in mine and stick the tip of her little snoot out. Melt my heart. She is also just so much more relaxed. I get to leave her off leash because she will stay right next to me the entire time (or behind if the trail is narrow), she doesn’t bark ever, and she understands trail boundaries exceedingly well. She is just a fantastic dog.
That being said, my little dog was a rebellious teenager her whole life through. She was a stray when I found her, and she had zero recall if another animal was nearby. And god forbid they were large animals (not limited to dogs) because she had to try to attack it. She could, however, hike for days without getting tired and had no problem conquering mountain scrambles. She had absolutely zero fear and was a beast through and through. A great companion for the trail, albeit a bit unruly and loud at times. I definitely miss having her around (: Great memories though.
One tip for dealing with comments about small dogs: shoes. Put your dog in some shoes with great traction. Instead of commenting on how sad they feel for the dog, they just focus solely on the “adorable little shoes”. Totally ridiculous, but it worked! Lol!
Happy hiking, to dogs big and small!
Thanks Beth. That’s a great idea for carrying a larger dog in an emergency and a funny antecdote about the shoes. I love to see any dogs out hiking so, although I own small dogs, I’m not sizeist 🙂
i never even take a walk with my dog anymore… but he loves them 🙂 i will tae more walks with him
I love dachsunds! They have so much personality in a little package!
I used to hike all over Western Washington with my mini-pinscher, he was a great hiking and camping dog. Now I have a bigger dog, and it’s fun, too, but there’s always a soft spot in my heart for those feisty little dogs!
After reading the title the first thing that came to my mind was #4. If they get hurt or tired you can easily carry them out of the woods.
When I was in college a friend of mine had a Husky. We went to school in AZ so it was as little hot for a Husky. Anyhow we went out on a hike and the Husky was overheating so I had to carry him out on my shoulders. I don’t recommend carrying a 60 lb dog for a couple miles. Good things I was young back then or I probably would have started over heating.
Ugh. I carried Chester out of the woods for several miles once. He’s 15 lbs. Even that gets super heavy after a while. I can’t even imagine carrying a 60 lb dog.
I want to hike with my Cocker spaniel Wille this summer☺
Our little dachshund Schnitzel gets lots of funny comments when he’s hiking with us. The favourite one we’ve recently gotten was “he was Doberman back in the car park!” It’s also great how people say that if he can do the hike, surely they can too, as he’s got even shorter legs than them!
Ha, ha. I’ve heard that one before too! I forgot it on my list of the sayings we hear most though.
I have a mix doggy, part Shiatsu, and Chihuahua. She is always super hyper, I hike a lot but I never take her with me. It is time to start doing so! This helped convince me that my little nugget will love being outdoors lol
Glad you want to try it with her! Just be sure to start slow – maybe a mile or two – to see how she likes it and handles it physically.
They don’t usually like to get their belly wet… Hmm so maybe that’s why my wife’s dog, a cockapoo, isn’t too fond of the water. He’ll get in it for her, though!
I have a 15 lb patt terrier mix. Get comments all the time about how small he is and what is he doing out here. I tell them he has four wheel drive where I only have 2. But he sleeps in my hammock, if he’s wet I can use a handkerchief to dry him off (no wet dog or odors). He can hike longer than I can he never gets tired. And he can come with me on the kayak trips.
I love those things about adventuring with a small dog too!
Those reasons are very true. I cannot disagree with them. My girl is 60 pounds so she would be a significant amount of weight to carry out of the woods if need be. I would do it though! I do not yet know her max distance. The furthest we have gone in one hike this year has been 4-5 miles, but she has conquered many a trail, and pushes through like a champ.
Do you do dog parks with your small dogs? I haven’t had any major issues, but it seems like dogs can pick up “bad” habits from other dogs, and or cause problems in numbers. I recently heard about a tragic incident that took place between a large dog and small dog. My girl loves playing with smaller dogs, but it can be very risky.
Hi David. We occasionally go to dog parks but only ones with a designated small dog area. As you eluded to, a small dog playing with a bunch of big dogs can be a high injury risk. Especially Dachshunds with their fragile spines.
Just stumbled across your blog. I love wieners, so it was fun reading your adventure tips.
However, I caught a typo you might want to fix: above, you said “small dogs usually think they are small dogs trapped in a small body.” What I’m sure you meant is, *big* dogs trapped in a small body! My adventure pal is a Parson Russell terrier, and we can certainly vouch for that! 😉
Kudos to you for giving your pooches very fulfilling activity in their lives!
Ah, yes, thank you! I don’t know how no one, including me, caught that until now.