Hiking is a thoroughly enjoyable, relatively inexpensive hobby that is enjoyed by dogs and their humans across the UK. There are so many stunning places to explore by foot in this country too. Once you’ve caught the hiking bug, it’s tricky to stop! However, if you’re looking to start hiking with your dog, be sure to consider these important steps first!

How to Start Hiking with Your Dog

Wait Until They’re Old Enough

As with most canine sports, you’ll need to wait until your dog’s joints have fully grown before taking part. This could be anywhere between 12 to 18 months depending on the breed, or even longer if they’re a large breed.

It’s well worth booking in to see your veterinarian before starting any hiking training, especially if you plan to take your pup on more technical or long-distance routes. You’ll need to make sure they are in good health and don’t have any underlying conditions that could be aggravated by technical terrain, steep ascents or other elements of hiking with your dog in the UK.

Start Off Slow and Steady

You need to build their hiking endurance over time. Just like when your dog was a young puppy and you needed to take shorter walks. This means you won’t be able to conquer long distances or technical hikes from the get go, – even if you as humans are used to them! Of course, over time you’ll be able to build up your distances together but it will definitely take plenty of practise and patience to get there.

Even if your dog is already well into adulthood, you’ll need to take things slow initially. This is to ensure they have a positive experience when they’re out tackling hiking specific trails. You want to ensure that every training hike with your dog is an opportunity to build their confidence and endurance (both physical and mental.)

Choose Local Trails Initially

It’s a good idea to stick to local trails while you’re training to start hiking with your dog, as it’s likely to keep you motivated and help you to stick to a training plan. It will also work out cheaper, compared to driving miles and miles for shorter walks. Sticking to more local routes will also enable you to get out hiking whatever the weather. Variable weather is undoubtedly another important part of hiking. You need to get your dog acclimatised to.

This also provides the perfect opportunity to explore the outdoor spaces right on your doorstep. New routes that could well become your go-to’s year round and provide tonnes of happy memories and new experiences for both you and your dog to look back on in years to come!

Vary Your Terrain

Hiking with your dog is renowned for being a somewhat technical sport. Of course, there are plenty of more accessible trails and thoroughly maintained paths cross the UK. However, there are also plenty of routes that are famous for being tricky underfoot. When you start hiking with your dog, you’ll want to gradually introduce them to different surfaces and terrains over time. The same goes for different weather conditions too.

Whether that’s boulders and rocks often associated with the coast paths and moors of the south west, or steep ascents and narrow ridge lines of the munros and mountains. Not only does your dog need to get comfortable with walking over different types of path, they also need to learn how they need to behave and respond to you while you’re walking. It’s worth teaching your dog how to walk behind you safely, as this will help prevent them pulling you uncontrollably down steep hills

How to Start Hiking with Your Dog

Think About Gear

While there’s not much difference between a dog walk and hike (apart from the distance and type of trail you’re exploring) there are some gear considerations to make before taking your dog out with you. Many dogs hike in harnesses instead of collars. This helps you have more control of your dog when walking near livestock. Harnesses also help you lift your pup over obstacles that you come across en-route, such as stiles.

Access to water is also something you’ll need to factor in when planning your hike. Sometimes there will be natural water sources along the way, such as rivers and streams to help keep your dog cool. However often you’ll need to bring additional water for them to drink. Our collapsible travel bowl is great for both water and snacks on the go! Of course, there are plenty of additional extras you can also pack for your adventure depending on when and where you go. Let us know if you’d like a full Henry Wag Hiking Gear Guide as a future blog post!

We hope this guide gives you the confidence and motivation to start hiking with your dog! For more dog friendly outdoor activity inspiration, follow us on Instagram!