Hiking with your dog is a great way to enjoy the outdoors and get some exercise. But for senior dogs, it can be challenging.
They might tire out faster as they won’t have the stamina and endurance that a young pup has, and climbing up the mountain they were once able to might be too much for them now. Plus, their joints can be sensitive to the elements. Not to mention, they may have arthritis, a common culprit that slows down older dogs and makes walking more difficult and painful for them.
Does that mean your senior dog can’t tag along with you on your next hiking adventure anymore?
With some proper preparation, they can still have a great time with you on the trail.
Here are some do’s and don’ts for hiking with an older pup.
Do Speak to Your Vet First!
Your vet will know your dog’s health better than anyone else, so ensure to check with them first to make sure your senior dog is up for the adventure. And if they suggest otherwise, listen to their advice.
Don't Forget to Discuss the Options for Your Dog's Arthritis Pain Control With Your Vet!
For older dogs with arthritis and other joint problems, their joints may be more sensitive to the elements. So make sure to discuss the options for pain management with your vet. This way, your pooch can handle hiking without too much discomfort, plus you can give them the best care possible while on the trail.
Do Check the Weather Forecast.
You’ll want to make sure the weather is suitable for your hike. So you’ll both have comfortable walks on the trail without worrying about getting drenched in sudden downpours of rain.
Don't Go Hiking When it's Too Hot!
While dogs might seem like they can walk forever, they can be just as susceptible to heatstroke as humans are! So make sure the weather is cool and breezy before heading out, or choose a shaded trail with less exposure to the sun.
Do Take Breaks to Give Your Dog a Chance to Rest.
Remember that they are not as strong as they used to be, so you’ll want to make sure you take frequent breaks on the trail for them to rest up. This will also help give their joints some relief.
Don't Hike When it's Too Cold.
Do Go on Easy Trails With Flatter Terrain.
Rocky and uneven trails are challenging for any senior dog, but even worse if they have arthritis or other issues in their joints. And keep in mind that the steeper the trail is, the more effort your dog will have to put in and the worse their arthritis might get. So stick with trails with flatter terrain. They’ll have an easier time walking on the trail if it’s more level.
Don't Expect Your Senior Dog to Hike Long Distances.
Don’t hike the same distance or altitude with a senior dog as you would with a healthy young pup. Your old pooch will tire out faster as they don’t have the same stamina and endurance anymore. So stick to trails that are shorter and more manageable.
Do Tackle the Trail at Your Dog's Pace!
You can’t expect a senior dog to keep up with the same energy they once had when they were young. And remember, you’re not out there to race, but rather to enjoy the outdoors and nature with your senior dog. So make sure to match their pace and go at a speed that is comfortable for them.
Don't Forget to Reward Your Senior Dog's Efforts on the Trail.
Just because your furry hiking partner isn’t as active and fast doesn’t mean they don’t deserve to be rewarded for working hard on the trail. Make sure to give them an extra pat on the head, praises, and special treats to keep their spirits up. This is a great way to show them they’re doing a good job and that you appreciate their effort and companionship!
Do Keep Your Senior Dog Hydrated!
Don't Let Your Old Pup Drink Unfiltered Water!
If you’re hiking near streams or lakes, make sure your senior dog doesn’t drink the water as it may contain harmful bacteria, parasites, and viruses. Instead, let your furkid drink from a dog travel water bottle filled with clean filtered water.
Do Make Sure Your Dog Has Everything They Need Before Hitting the Trail.
Before you head out on a hike with your senior pup, make sure to pack everything they need. That means bringing a hands-free hiking leash, medications, harness or collar, ID tags, dog first aid kit for emergencies, poops bags, etc., as you don’t want to leave anything up to chance if something happens.
Read More: Gear Your Trail Dog Needs for Hiking
Don't Forget the GPS Pet Tracker!
For hikes on unfamiliar trails, it’s always a good idea to strap a GPS pet tracker on your canine. With the tracker, you’ll be able to locate and retrieve your furry hiking pal faster should they ever get lost on the trail, which can be a lifesaver. Most trackers are also waterproof, so you can rest easy knowing that no matter what, you’ll be able to find your pup!
Do Keep an Eye Out for Your Senior Dog's Behavior.
When you’re hiking with a senior dog, it’s imperative to keep an eye out for any changes in their behavior. If they’re walking slower than usual, not as enthusiastic, or less responsive and alert, that may be a sign that they are in pain or feel uncomfortable. If that’s the case, then maybe it’s best to head back home.
Don't Forget to Have fun!
Don’t forget to have fun and enjoy what mother nature has to offer! Again, don’t hike the trail in a hurry and follow your dog’s pace instead. They are outdoors to enjoy nature’s beauty, so make sure you take the time to really enjoy it for all it has to offer.
Just because your pup is old doesn’t mean you have to keep them cooped up at home all the time. They do miss going out exploring the wilderness still.
So put on those hiking boots, leash up your senior dog, and head out for a day of exploring. It’s always fun spending time with your canine buddy and appreciating the great outdoors together.
Just make sure that you don’t overdo it, and keep in mind the tips mentioned above, so your senior dog has a safe and enjoyable hike!