I love all dogs and do not discriminate based on size. However, it is a fact that there are differences between small dogs and big dogs.
Some of these differences become apparent when you are hiking or backpacking with your Dachshund, Chihuahua, or other small hiking dogs.
Advantages of Hiking with Small Dogs
1) You can use your hand as a water dish because they usually only drink a few ounces at a time.
2) If they do manage to go off trail, they don’t damage the vegetation as much because they “leave a smaller pawprint”.
3) They don’t usually like to get their belly wet so they often won’t cross streams. Some bigger dogs don’t like water either. The ADVANTAGE is that small dogs are light enough that you can scoop them up, carry them over, and be on your way.
4) If they get hurt or tired you can easily carry them out of the woods. Case in point.
5) You have to carry less food with you on overnight backpacking trips.
6) They can fit inside your sleeping bag with you and help keep you warm at night.
7) They are a great conversation piece on the trail because people who see you are so amazed that your little doggy made it. I think we’ve only ever passed one or two people who didn’t comment about Chester and Gretel’s size or cuteness… and they were probably looking the other direction :).
Disadvantages of Hiking with a Small Dog
There are also disadvantages to hiking with a small dog.
If you want to hike with your small dog, here are some things you should consider:
1) They typically get tired sooner and can’t go as far, especially in deep, powdery snow. Although Gretel can hike 10 miles in a day and I know many other small dogs that have hiked longer distances.
2) They think they are big dogs but they are trapped in a small body. That means they have a tendency to push themselves more than they can physically handle so you have to watch them closer and be more alert for signs of fatigue and dehydration.
3) 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.
4) 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.
5) You need a list of come-backs for responding to the comments you’ll get about your dog’s ability to hike.
You’ll have to listen to many people you pass on the trail say things like “Look at that poor little guy. He/she must be tired” and “Can he/she make it all of the way to the top?”. You’ll have to get used to just smiling and walking by or have some quick come-backs handy.
To get you started, here are a few of my favorite comebacks when people comment about my small hiking dog: “Yes, those short legs can carry him/her a long way”; “Oh, he/she can out-hike me any day”; and “He/she helps pull ME up the trail”.
Looking For Small Dog Hiking Partner?
Some people think, if they want a dog as a hiking and adventure companion, they need to look at large dog breeds.
I thought that at first too. I didn’t choose a small dog for a hiking companion, he chose me. Fate brought us together.
My Dachshund loved hiking. 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.
Check out my big list of small dog breeds capable of hiking. You might be surprised which breeds made the list.
Do you hike with a small dog? Leave a comment if you see any advantages or disadvantages that I missed!