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I have a small dog…a Chihuahua Jack Russell mix or as some might call him….a Jack Chi or Jackuahua. I just call him Pedro and he is my wonderful and loyal dog whom I rescued, 9 years ago from a high kill shelter in the United States.

Although hiking with Pedro is pretty uneventful with the biggest thing to worry about being his ability to keep up on long hikes, at times he will either wander off if he finds a smell that is of interest to him or he will go just a bit crazy and chase anything that makes a sound that interests him.

Given that when hiking in the Rocky Mountains there are so many dangers we have to be aware of such as bears, cougars and who knows what else, it worries me just a bit when taking a small and sometimes aggressive little dog on my hiking journeys.

So before endeavouring that hike with your small dog make sure you start out by asking yourself if your dog actually has the physical ability for longer hikes.

Does My Dog Have the Physical Ability for Long Hikes?

Although I do take my small dog on some pretty long hikes, it is still really important to think about the abilities of your dog to walk long distances and sometimes in some pretty rough terrain.

Think about how small their legs are and then be prepared to carry your little dog for what could be a huge majority of the treks. Personally, I have a canine backpack and this allows me to take my Pedro hiking long distances as well as cycling.

Another thing you need to consider with taking any dog on a long hike and that is their ability to cool themselves down.

Dogs don’t have the same ability to cool their bodies down as humans do because they do not perspire and on top of that they are covered in a fur coat. Dogs will try to cool themselves down by panting but it is important to understand that dogs are extremely prone to heat stroke.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Heatstroke in My Dog?

There are certain symptoms of heatstroke in a dog, some that might be obvious and others that may be hard to detect because of the fur coat. Symptoms of heatstroke are:

  • Temperature of over 40 degrees C or 104 degrees F
  • Thirst
  • An increase in your dog’s heart rate
  • Your dog may be panting and the saliva will be very thick
  • Their gums may be very red
  • Your dog may exhibit signs of weakness and dizziness.
  • Your dog may even throw up or have diarrhea

Preventing Heatstroke During Hiking.

Heatstroke while hiking can be prevented by:

  • Making sure your dog takes breaks often and if your dog is small, have a way of carrying him or her so they are not against your body, absorbing your own body heat.
  • Making sure you take frequent water breaks but if you suspect your dog has heatstroke; please do not give ice water as it may cause further shock. Bring along separate room temperature water for your dog.
  • Take frequent breaks in your hike to not only offer water but to keep them cool by pouring water on them or by wetting a towel and putting it on them. Consider a “dog scarf” which can be put in cool water a
  • With a long hair dog, consider a “hair cut”. …they will be cooler on the hike and will ultimately thank you for it.
  • Try scheduling your hike either early in the day or later in the evening when it is cooler.

Basic Obedience Training 

Although physical conditioning is critical for hiking long distances with small dogs, it is also very important that they are leash trained and understand basic commands like “stay”, “sit” or “come”. This will certainly help to prevent those random “take offs” whenever an interesting sound or smell is detected.

Keeping your small dog on the leash can be difficult at times but if your dog is easily distracted it is still the safest option.

Be Safe and Have Fun Hiking with Your Dog!

There are really a lot of things to consider when planning to hike with your small dog so that you both can enjoy some wonderful trips that are sure to be a great way to both bond and experience the outdoors together.

So remember to plan carefully and prepare so that both you and your small dog have fun, stay safe and enjoy exploring together.

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