Hiking With Young Dogs and Puppies

Hiking is a great way to bond and exercise with your young German Shepherd Dog. Not only does it satisfy a growing puppy’s desire for physical activity, it also lets him see and smell new things – something every German Shepherd loves. Here are some common questions and concerns to look out for when hiking with your young German Shepherd.

When Can I Take my German Shepherd Puppy Hiking?

gsdpupOr, how young is too young? Well, that depends largely on your individual dog, and your lifestyle. If you live on a farm and your pup has been traveling long distances since the day he first came home, its likely he’ll be able to handle himself out on the trail. Whereas an apartment-bound dog going hiking for the first time may tire out very quickly and need lots of breaks.

German Shepherd’s don’t reach physical maturity until between 18-24 months old, with certain old lines of Eastern European bred dogs maturing even more slowly – not reaching physical maturity until well over 30 months old. While most German Shepherd pups will be ready for a short hike without much elevation gain by five or six months old, you should use your best judgement and pace yourself. Even if your pup looks like he’s having a great time, it’s very easy for young dogs to overexert themselves, so be prepared to think for them.

First Aide

Having a small first aid kit with you when you go hiking is always a good idea, especially if this is your dogs first hike. Some common problems on the trail – such as encounters with venomous reptiles, insects, and plants – can quickly turn dangerous if you’re not equipped to deal with them quickly, and safely. Some websites do sell specialty first aid kits for pets and compact kits for people, but it can be just as easy to make your own emergency first aid kit from items you may already have.

An essential hiking first aid kit for dogs should include at least most of the following:

  • Tweezers

    A good pair of high quality, stainless-steel, needle-nose tweezers are an invaluable tool to have on hand when you’re on the trail. They can be used to pull out thorns and stingers buried deep in a dogs fur.

  • Bandages, Gauze & Veterinary Tape

    Not all cuts and bruises your dog may receive on the trail will require immediate medical attention, but for those that do it’s better to come prepared and wonder what could have happened, rather than what did. Consider keeping a couple rolls of VetWrap handy, just in case.

  • Basic Medications

    Carrying medication on the trail with you may or may not be your prerogative, but if you’re in snake country or if your dog is prone to allergies it’s a good idea to at least carry painkillers, and allergy medicine. Further, replacing medicine after it’s expired and knowing the correct dosage for your dog out on the trail will be invaluable.

What type of hiking is best?

Generally speaking, any type of hiking is a great idea when it comes to your German Shepherd. However, the best type of hiking is a hike across easy to moderate terrain with very little elevation gain, in fair or cool weather for an hour or less if your pup is under six months old or has not hiked before. As your pup gets older, you can increase the distance and difficulty of your hikes until you feel confident that your dog can handle himself in any situation.

Hiking in cold weather? Check out some of our Cold Weather Care Tips for German Shepherds!

Food and Water when Hiking

Unless you’re taking a very strenuous hike that lasts for many hours (which you should not be if your German Shepherd is very young) you shouldn’t have to worry about feeding your dog while on the trail. You will want to feed him a high-protein meal as soon as he gets home to feed those sore muscles, though!

You’ll want to bring plenty of water for both of you when you’re on the trail, even if it’s just a short hike. You can bring a dog bowl and give your dog water that way, or train him to drink straight from a water bottle. Or, for the seriously prepared, you can consider getting him a collapsing dish which is lightweight and especially useful if you’re trying to go hiking without carrying a lot of weight.

Make sure you don’t give your dog ice-cold water, and try not to give him too much water if he’s panting heavily. Wait until he catches his breath and offer him small amounts of water slowly until he drinks his fill — this is a simple way to prevent conditions like bloat, and will also prevent your dog from accidentally vomiting, a symptom of drinking too much water too quickly.