When Can You Start Hiking With a Dog: How Old Should Your Puppy Be?

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Caption: A hiker is hiking with her puppy.

Hiking is a great way to get some fresh air and spend time outdoors. And it’s a perfect opportunity for your pup to get plenty of exercise, too! But you may wonder what age your puppy should be before you can take them out on their first hike.

And why does your dog’s age matter, anyway?

Read More: The Ultimate Guide to Hiking With Your Canine [Infographic]

The Importance of Hiking With a Dog at the Right Age

Young dogs are always full of energy and eager to explore the great outdoors, and most dog owners can’t wait to take them on hikes. After all, getting out and about is great fun for both the owner and their pup!

But the problem with that is that young dogs are still growing. And they need to be protected from the impact of a strenuous hike. So if you have an active young dog, that doesn’t mean they are ready for an extended trek just yet.

You’ll want to wait until your pup is mature enough to handle the challenge of hiking. Typically, that’s around 12 months old for small dogs and 18 months for large dog breeds.

The reason?

Hiking in the mountains or through rough terrain can be hard work, even for adult dogs! So imagine how much effort it will take from your little furball.

Plus, they may not be ready for the physical demands of the hike. And in the excitement of exploring new surroundings, your puppy may pull ahead or wander off the main trail, which can be scary for a small dog who doesn’t know its way home.

Most importantly, a young pup has delicate bones and joints that are still developing and hardening. The stress or pressure from long, steep hikes put on your dog’s fragile frame can injure their growth plates and lead to deformities and permanent joint damage. Some symptoms include:

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Lameness
  • Limping
  • Abnormal bone growth (angle or length)
  • Depression
  • Lack of appetite

What Can You Do Before it is Safe for Your Puppy to Hike?

Hiking with Puppy
Caption: A family is hiking with their puppy

Of course, you’ve been waiting for that magical day when your furry friend is ready to go out on the trail. But what can you do while waiting for them to grow and mature into adulthood? Plenty!

You can start training your puppy for hiking. That includes teaching your canine leash manners so that they don’t pull, come when called (recall), provide them with impulse control training, and other basic commands like “sit,” “leave it,” “wait,” and “off.”

You can also build up your puppy’s stamina in the meantime by taking them on short walks or jogs around the house so that they will be ready for hikes when the time comes. But be sure to apply the 5 minutes per month of age rule to ensure your puppy doesn’t overdo it.

For instance, if your pup is three months old, that means they can only go on a maximum of 15 minutes walk twice a day. Similarly, if your furkid is six months old, that’s a maximum 30 minutes walk, up to 2 times a day.

Apart from that, you can also get your pup familiar with the gear they’ll be using on the trail, for instance, a dog hiking harness or a dog pack, leash, and hiking boots, so that they’re comfortable with wearing them when out on the trail.

Lastly, you can socialize your puppy to get them accustomed to being around other people and dogs. And you can also get your pup involved in lots of brain games and activities in the house to give them a chance to burn off excess energy. Don’t forget, busy pups are happy pups!

What if You Really Want to Hit the Hiking Trails With Your Puppy?

Okay, so what if you really want to take your pup with you on a hike, but they are under the age of 12-18 months?

You can invest in a doggie carrier backpack, whether it’s a front-facing or back-facing model, to carry your pup. This way, they can stay off their feet but still be out in the fresh air with you.

Other than that, you can also use a pet stroller, which will allow your puppy to enjoy the view as you trek on. And don’t forget about their safety when using any equipment like that! You’ll want to make sure that they are fastened securely and that they can’t escape by unlatching things or pulling out of their harness. 


The safety and well-being of your puppy is always the most important thing. And that’s why you need to make sure they’re at the appropriate age to go for a hike, in which your dog has to be at least 12-18 months old, depending on the size of the breed.

Doing otherwise may put undue stress on their body and risk developing complications like bone and joint injuries and deformities. So, just be patient and wait until they’ve reached adulthood, and in the meantime, you can prepare them for the many great adventures that await you both!