Many people don’t think that Dachshunds can hike.
That’s especially true for those that haven’t owned a Dachshund.
However, I’ve also heard many stories from other owners over the years about their Dachshund sitting at home.
They say they didn’t think theirs could hike but want to try it now that they saw us out on the trail.
I get excited when I hear that.
Obesity is one of the most common health problems in Dachshunds and hiking can help keep them at a healthy weight.
It usually makes them very happy dogs too.
Myths About Dachshunds and Hiking
“look at their size… they are not meant to hike”.
The most frequent comments I receive when I’m out hiking with my Dachshunds confirm that people are surprised to see a small, short dog hiking.
Many people have misconceptions about Dachshunds. It’s either based on what they think they know about them (which is usually little) or merely by judging their physical appearance.
These beliefs are not true.
Size Does to Equate to Ability
One myth is that large dogs are stronger and have more stamina than small dogs because they are larger.
In my experience, and from what I’ve learned over the years, that isn’t necessarily true.
Dachshunds, and many other small dog breeds, were bred for hunting, which is a very active endeavor, so they can have a lot of stamina and move fast.
Size doesn’t matter as much as the breed and characteristics and conditioning.
A small dog that has been physically prepared to hike can hike longer, and on more difficult trails, than a larger dog that lays around the house all of the time.
I know many breeds of dogs that aren’t “typical” hikers but they do fine because they are conditioned for it.
I know many small dog breeds that can hike, exceeding the speed and distance of, or least keeping up with, a larger breed any day.
Dachshunds Can’t Be Athletic
Someone once said to me that Dachshunds were not bred for prolonged physical exercise.
The Dachshund was developed to scent, chase, and flush out burrow-dwelling animals – the standard Dachshund badgers and the miniature Dachshund rabbits, although they both hunted other prey too.
In the Western United States, Dachshunds have also been used to track wounded deer (source).
To be such fierce, determined hunters, and to cover a lot of ground, they needed stamina and athleticism.
In general, Dachshunds don’t back down from physical challenges.
Short Legs Means It’s Difficult to Keep Up
Many people think that a dog with short legs either can’t take enough steps to keep up or gets exhausted trying to do so.
All I can do to bust this myth is to speak from experience with my own dogs and the hundreds that are members of my active Dachshund club.
Yes, a Dachshund has to take a lot of steps to keep up. No, it’s not hard for them.
My Dachshunds have been known to hike all day and then break out in a sprint on the way back to car.
Dachshunds do just fine hiking with the legs they were born with.
In fact, probably due to their low center of gravity and strength to weight ratio, mine literally act like they are climbing a molehill when I’m dying on the mountain.
Small Dogs Can’t Hike Very Far
I get questions all of the time about how far and how long my Dachshunds can hike.
The longest hike I did with my previous Dachshund Chester was 15 miles. I would say that was probably his limit, especially because it was a hot day.
Gretel has hiked 11 miles in one day. It was part of a backpacking trip where we covered 30-miles in 3 days.
She was definitely showing signs of getting tired after 11 miles but, truthfully, I couldn’t have gone on. That was definitely my limit that day.
Almost every time we go out, I feel like my Dachshunds can out-hike me.
Are Dachshunds Good Hiking Dogs?
In my opinion, the answer is wholeheartedly yes.
I’ve been hiking with Dachshunds for over 15 years. They can’t wait to hit the trail every single time we go out.
Even though I get asked all of the time, I rarely have to carry them.
They can do about anything I can, even a really steep trail with a lot of roots and rocks to climb over.
As I said, I run a large Dachshund club and some of our summer events include hikes.
Some people are unsure if their Dachshund will like it or do well because their dog has never hiked before.
Rarely have I encountered a Dachshund that didn’t want to, and couldn’t, hike at least a few miles their first time on the trail.
Interested in hiking with yours? Read my article How to Start Hiking with Your Dachshund
I often get emails and messages on social media because of this blog. I’ve heard from many people over the years that hike with their Dachshund and are happy to learn they are not alone.
Besides them being good hiking dogs because they love it and can keep up, they make good hiking companions because there are actually many benefits to hiking with small dogs.
Is it Safe for a Dachshund to Hike?
As with people, a Dachshund may have medical issues that prevent them from being active.
The issues may be known (depending on the issue, it doesn’t necessarily exclude hiking) or unknown so you should always discuss any new activity with your vet.
The other concern about safety I often hear is the Dachshund breed’s tendency to have back problems.
Any dog can get injured on the trail because they are performing physical exercise on an uneven surface.
However, Dachshunds are indeed prone to back problems at a higher rate than other breeds.
The majority of their back issues stem from a genetic disease called Intervertebral Disk Disease (IVDD).
Hiking can actually be GOOD for a Dachshund’s back though.
According to our veterinarians (yes my dogs have more than one to get the best care), hiking is an exercise that can help keep a dog’s core strong. A strong core more properly supports a dog’s spine.
Hiking also helps keep a Dachshund fit and trim.
In fact, when Gretel was diagnosed with an IVDD-related back injury, her rehab vet said her injury was perhaps more mild, and her recovery would likely be quicker, because she was already strong and at a healthy weight for a Dachshund.
I’m positive that was due to the hiking.
With that being said, there are some precautions that should be taken when hiking with a Dachshund.
- Don’t let them jump. Jumping down is harder on their joints than jumping up. My rule is can’t jump off a step that is taller than they are long.
- Watch them closely, and take precautions like carrying them if you have to, if your pup is in a situation that could cause a fall like crossing a skinny log bridge (can be done but start with low crossings first until your dog builds skill and confidence).
- Avoid weekend warrior syndrome – get your dog out almost daily for at least a 30 minute walk. Don’t let them sit around for a week or two then go for a 10 mile hike on the weekend.
- Always hike with a Dachshund on leash, at least if you are in areas where they could fall. Dachshunds are hunting hounds whose brain tends to turn off when they get on a scent.
- Do strength building exercises to keep their core muscles strong.
The bottom line is, based on my personal experience, and discussions with my vet, Dachshunds can indeed hike safely.
Like any dog though, they need to build up their physical fitness before doing long or hard hikes to do it safely.
What Do I Need to Go Hiking Safely with My Dachshund?
Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links. That means that I get a small commission on an item if you buy it, at no extra cost to you.
If you are new to hiking with a dog, or want a refresher, read my list of important things beginners should know.
The Right Leash and Harness
Get the right gear.
It’s best to use a harness so there is little or no strain on your Dachshund’s neck of they pull on the leash or jerk on the end going after something (or falling).
Our favorite for hiking with Dachshunds is the Casual Padded Y Harness from Hurtta.
The chest strap doesn’t fit tight in the armpit so it doesn’t chafe Summit or Gretel, even if we go for a long, muddy hike.
You also want a good, strong leash that is waterproof and easy to clean.
My favorite leashes for hiking are biothane dog leashes. Biothane is a coated nylon webbing that feels kind of like synthetic leather.
Make sure if you’re in an area where there are ticks, biting flies, fleas, or mosquitoes (pretty much everywhere in the country) that you use a good topical flea and tick preventative.
There are also several natural bug repellent sprays that are effective. Our favorite is from Wondercide.
Honestly, Gretel (and my previous Dachshund Chester) never needed anything to protect their feet while hiking.
Their food pads were tough enough from walking on pavement regularly that we rarely had any issues.
However, I will note that we don’t hike for hours on rough surfaces like sandstone (although we have definitely hiked for a mile or two).
We’ve had two foot issues in the 15 years we’ve been hiking.
Once it was due to fine shale getting stuck between Chester’s toes and rubbing the area between his does raw. Unfortunately, I had to carry him out.
The other time was when Chester was hiking over really warm rocks (not too hot but definitely heated) and the top layer of one of his foot pads got torn. I just clipped the extra skin and there were no issues.
We don’t use boots for hiking in the snow either. We don’t go when it’s too cold – much below 28F degrees.
My dogs also don’t have a lot of fur between their toes for snow to get stuck in (but I do check regularly for ice balls).
Each situation and dog is different.
I wrote an article about how to know if your small dog needs to wear boots in the snow if you want to know more.
If you’re worried about making sure your dog’s feet are tough enough for hiking, be sure to walk them frequently on pavement and/or try a product like Tuf-foot for dogs to help keep their pads strong.
What to Carry in Your Backpack
I always carry these 7 essentials with me when go anywhere with Summit and Gretel.
When we are hiking, the things that we aren’t actively using go inside my backpack.
I also put these things in my backpack before we head out:
- Small first aid kit for people and dogs
- Small emergency survival kit
- Small, thin backpack so I could carry one of the dogs out in an emergency
- Poop bags and a Smelly Proof heavy-duty sealable bag to carry the full dog poop bags in without smell or worry that poop will escape inside my backpack (note: I don’t throw them away after. I dump out the poo bags and reuse them)
Dachshunds can make great hiking buddies and, with a little preparation, it’s ok to take a them adventuring with you.