How do you start hiking with your Dachshund?
To quote Nike, “Just Do It!”
Well, not so fast. It is recommended that you get your Dachshund cleared for exercise first by your vet to make sure they are healthy enough.
But after that, yes, just do it.
I’ve rarely met a Dachshund that didn’t decide they like to hike.
Is it Safe for a Dachshund to Hike?
The short answer is yes.
The little bit longer answer is:
- It’s recommended that you check with your vet before starting your dog on a new exercise routine
- Make sure your dog is used to walking most days for at least 30 minutes before attempting to hike
- Use a harness for security and so there is less pressure on your dog’s neck
- Don’t let your Dachshund jump down too much
- Don’t let your Dachshund try to do things that might make them fall like jump up on something too high
I’m currently working on an article specific to hiking safely with a Dachshund and I’ll link to it here when I’m done.
In the meantime, feel free to ask me a question in the comments.
When Can My Dachshund Start Hiking?
If your Dachshund is over 2 years of age, you can start hiking with them right away.
If your dog is a baby, check with your vet to see how old your puppy needs to be before they hike.
Small dogs are still growing so it’s important to make sure their bone growth plates and muscles are fully developed before doing any “strenuous” exercise.
Strenuous exercise for a puppy can include walking too far (even if the surface is flat), jumping, playing too rough, etc.
If you want to expose your puppy to trails early on, and they’ve already had all of their shots, you can carry them in a small-dog backpack carrier so they can get used to the sights and smells of the woods.
You can set them down to sniff in one spot when you take breaks.
How Do I Teach My Dachshund to Hike?
You don’t really have to teach a Dachshund to hike. It’s in their blood.
Dachshunds were raised for hunting and tracking vermin.
They naturally love following their nose through the woods.
However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t prepare them for hiking before heading out.
Start by Increasing Their Fitness
I bet you wouldn’t like hiking if you were used to sleeping on the couch all day and your friend took you for a 8-mile hike straight up a mountain.
Your dog would feel the same way.
As with any dog, the key is to start with shorter, easier trails and work their way up to harder trails.
Recently, people asked me some questions about hiking with small dogs on Instagram. Two were related to how to get started.
My responses sum up my advice.
Summit and Gretel can easily hike 5-6 miles, even on a rough and steep trail.
They didn’t get off the couch one day and start climbing big mountains though.
The basic steps I take for a Dachshund new to hiking, or to get in shape for hiking season, are:
- Start walking regularly around our home for a minimum of 30 minutes (many are 45-60 min), 4-6 days a week
- Start hiking on an easy trail – one that is relatively flat and smooth and is 1-2 miles long 1-3 times a week
- Start increasing the difficulty of one of the hikes generally following a pattern of same difficulty but longer, shorter but more difficult, previous distance but harder, etc.
- Keep increasing the distance and difficulty, stopping our progress, or scaling back, if they act like it was too hard for them.
What do you if your Dachshund refuses to walk?
I most commonly hear this in regard to walking in a harness (we recommend a harness for hiking safely).
Some Dachshunds don’t like a harness if they aren’t used to one they refuse to walk. They’ll lay down, or pull backwards against the leash, and refuse to budge.
Dachshunds can be really stubborn.
There are some tricks you can use to get them comfortable walking with a harness on though.
I trained my Dachshund puppy Summit how to walk in a harness by:
- Making sure she wasn’t afraid of the harness by laying it on the ground and giving her treats when she sniffed it
- Progressing to feeding her treats while I put in on (in the house) so she continued to associate good things with it
- Coaxing her to walk around the house with the harness on with treats or food
- Leaving the harness on her for 30-60 minutes in the house, supervised, so she got used to having it on while she went around her normal business
You can also just try putting the harness on and taking your dog to a trail for a walk.
Many Dachshunds won’t walk on concrete with a harness on but in the woods, where the drive to follow their nose outweighs not liking a harness, they will often walk.
How to Keep Your Dachshund from Stopping Every Few Feet
Once your Dachshund will walk with a harness on, the trick can be to keep them going.
Some Dachshunds love to sniff so much that they stop at every leaf and stick. You won’t get far that way.
You may need to teach your Dachshund not stop every 3 feet on the trail.
There are several different ways that can work.
Sometimes all a dog needs so they won’t stop, at least not for too long, is to give a slight tug on the leash and say “come on”, “leave it”, or “this way” (whichever command you want to use).
You can also help keep them moving along if you hold a treat in your hand, let your dog see it, and occasionally reward them for keeping pace with you.
Summit and Gretel have just naturally picked up my vibe that we are on a mission and they follow my lead.
When we are walking around the neighborhood with the intention of getting exercise, I simply don’t allow them to stop. I keep walking.
If they do stop to sniff, I give them a few seconds to check out the spot and then say “let’s go”.
This “training” translates to the trail, which is important if you want to actually get where you are going.
Note: there are times we walk just so they can sniff things. It’s not that they don’t get to enjoy that. They just know when we are in “hiking mode”.
How Far Can My Dachshund Hike?
How do you know when the hike is too much for your dog and they are too tired to go on?
During my Q & A about hiking with small dogs in our Instagram stories, his was a common question I received.
How far your Dachshund can hike will depend on many things.
The primary factor is their fitness level. Dogs do have a personal preference too though.
Some will start hiking and never stop wanting more. Some can learn to love it with slow introduction and training. Some will let you know that they don’t enjoy it ever.
The most important thing is to make sure that you know the signs that your dog has had enough and don’t push them too far.
Reading my article How Far Can a Small Dog Hike? will give you a good idea of what your dog could be capable of though.
While you should make sure your dog is in shape first, and that they like hiking, Dachshunds can make excellent hiking buddies.