Hike With Your Dog to Keep Him Fit

In some places, autumn brings gorgeous arrays of colors in nature that are a joy to experience up close. In most places, the cooler weather is great incentive to spend time exercising outdoors without being overwhelmed by the heat. If your dog is a bit out of shape, why not take advantage of this time of year start a different exercise program. Take a hike!

Physical Challenge

Hiking With DogsA proper hike should be more than just a stroll in the park. Yes, you are in outside, but in some natural, unmanicured environment.  Even if you walk at the same pace that you do on pavement, hiking typically entices your dog to burn more calories.

Traveling on non-paved terrain—mountainous trails, woodlands, desert, meadowland, snow-covered fields, etc.—forces your dog to step higher, step over, go around, and so on,  making the legs and hips to do more work.  Even small-twitch muscles are working more, keeping the body balanced while on uneven ground, inclines, or navigating obstacles. Over time, hiking will help improve your dog’s cardio-respiratory system, strengthen muscles (good for joint health), and help burn calories to maintain a good weight.

Keeping an even, but steady pace makes a hike a workout, but one that is still easy on the joints and won’t over exert a dog whose muscles, heart and lungs are ready for jogging or catching a flying disk. With good feeding habits, regular hikes could help your dog shed pounds!

Mental Wonder

Most dogs love to have something to do. A walk in the wild is a burst for their senses, the ultimate in brain games!

Especially for city dogs, the open air and natural world present a brand-new realm of smells, sounds and sights for them to discover. Dog enjoying using their senses, this gives their brain something to do. Further, dogs that have been bred to hunt or flush out game tend to really enjoy the hiking experience.

Dogs are constantly processing those sights, smells, and sounds. It gives their brain something to do and this is fun! This kind of brainwork exerts the dog mind, and he or she will likely be tired and satisfied. How do you feel after an intense day at the office? Ready to relax, and dogs feel the same.

Your Exercise Plan

Hiking With Dogs

Consider your dog’s physical fitness before hitting the trail, and consult with your vet if you have any questions. Pick trails that make sense for your dog’s fitness level. For dogs that are overweight or largely sedentary, start out at a local park with flat trails, but try to find unpaved trails for a better challenge. Start with 15 – 20 minutes brisk, but not fast, walks on relatively even ground (this may end up being a mile or two).

If your dog is in good shape, try more challenging half-day or all-day hikes.  For a high energy dog, too short of a walk could give you the same results as no walk – a restless dog.  So, if you don’t think you’ll be out on the trail very long, pick challenging trails – if you are up to it. Trails that go up and down or walking off-trail (where allowed) and navigating the bramble, rocks and other obstacles can add more to the hike. Also, hiking on sand or snow will make the body do more work.

Rules of the Road

Not every park or location allows dogs on its hiking trails, so you need to check it out first.  Find canine friendly trails, and just like the park, follow the rules they lay out. An Internet search can reveal dog-friendly trails near you but also, check with your state and county park systems.

And while it may not be hot, don’t forget to bring water! Don’t let your dog drink water from open sources like streams or puddles.

A hike is also a great slow, easy workout for you, too. And they are fun, think of it more like an adventure than exercise.  Don’t make the hike a one-time thing. The more your do it, the more you and your dog will develop stamina and strength.