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How to Hike With Your Small Dog

hiking with small dogs - tips & gear

Hiking with your small dog is so much fun...
and the right small dog hiking gear makes it a pawsitive experience for both of you!

Getting a little bored of the same old walk around your neighborhood? Well, chances are your dog is, too!

Going hiking with your small dog is a great way to shake up the monotony of your daily routine - the change of scenery will do you both good, and one of you will really appreciate all the new smells!

Small dogs love adventure just as much as larger ones, so here are our best tips for having a great time in the great outdoors - together.

 Table of Contents

  1. Hiking gear for small dogs
  2. Choose the right trail
  3. Start small
  4. Food & water
  5. Take breaks
  6. Recover, relax & prepare
  7. Best small dog hiking breeds


Hiking Gear For Small Dogs

You really don’t need anything fancy for hiking with pets- but having the basics will ensure a more comfortable day for both of you:

  1. Small Dog Carriers for Hiking
    Those little legs can get tired - fast. And in case of emergency, you'll need to get your pup back to safety.

    We love the idea of small dog hiking backpacks - but they're SO big, bulky and heavy! You can't carry those around just in case you need it, so here's the better solution for a dog sling carrier for hiking:

    The best small dog carrier for hiking fits in a small pouch (it's as compact as the size of a deck of cards), and is light as a lime! Clip it to your leash or toss in your pack & hit the trail. With the PocoPet dog carrier sling bag, you're ready for everything - no schlepping required!

  2. Small Dog Hiking Bowls

    We'll talk more below about food & water on hikes - and you need something to serve it in. These collapsable travel dog bowls fold flat & weigh just 2 ounces each. Keep two in your pack - one for food & one for water - and your dog will thank you.

  3. Small Dog Hiking Boots
    If the terrain is extremely rocky, snowy or icy, booties will protect your dog's paws while crossing challenging terrain.

    There are number of different kinds of dog hiking shoes, so we recommend you purchase a few and see which your dog reacts to best.

    Tip: Be sure to start practicing at home long before your first hike, as some dogs require an adjustment period.

  4. Dog Goggles
    Think of them as sunglasses - that actually stay on your dog's head!

    If you're hiking in high altitude, or even just on a very sunny day - you need to protect their eyes the same as you protect yours.

    As with dog hiking boots, we recommend you purchase few styles of dog hiking sunglasses, to see which fit your dog best. And practice, practice, practice!


How to Choose a Trail for Hiking With Your Dog

You want to make sure you both have fun - so it's critical you choose the right hike.

Honestly assess the physical condition you're both in, and search for hikes near you at that level. 

Remember: the only trophy waiting at the end of the day is a satisfied & tired pup - so there's no need to be a superhero! 

Enjoying a flat walk along a river is equal to a strenuous hike up a craggy peak. The only goal is to enjoy nature together.

Tip: Before heading out, check to be sure dogs are allowed on the trail you choose.


Start With a Short Hike

Small dogs are just as brave as large dogs, but do have physical limitations...

While some little pups can leap and jump over boulders and downed trees, most others will need your help getting past these types of obstacles. 

Similarly, most dogs can swim, but crossing a stream deeper than their little legs can pose a serious threat.

Starting with a shorter trail while hiking with pets helps you can assess what your dog can confidently handle.

After that first hike, increase the mileage and difficulty as desired - always keeping both your fitness level and theirs in mind.


Food & Water

It's important you both stay hydrated and fueled up, so while you're packing your lunch don't forget about your furry BFF, too.

Make sure you bring enough water for your both (and pack extra on hot days), and pack their regular food for a trail lunch.

Super-delicious treats are a great way to keep them motivated when the going gets hard, so be sure to pack their favs.

And if the trail you choose is extra difficult, bring along extra calories to keep them fueled up & moving. 


Take Frequent Breaks

Small dogs tend to overheat quicker than big dogs, due to less fat reserves and a higher metabolic rate.

In addition, their shorter legs have to take more steps than bigger breeds, which can cause their bodies to heat up faster.

So keep your hike shorter with plenty of cool-down breaks for these little guys!


Recover & Relax... and Prepare for your Next Adventure

When you're back home at the end of the day, make sure you give your little buddy lots of time to recover. You may notice them sleeping longer and deeper than usual - that's a good thing! 

A gentle massage as they snoozle by your side will go a long way to relax their tired muscles, and get them ready for the next adventure ahead.

After you've unloaded your pack, make sure to give their dog hiking gear a good cleaning - then immediately put it all back into your pack.

Next time you want to head out, you'll be ready to go!


Best Small Dog Breeds for Hiking

Are you wondering what the best small dog hiking breeds are?

Here's the truth: ALL small dogs are good hiking dogs!

Just like with humans, though, some dogs will enjoy hiking more, and others... not so much. 

So if you have a Chihuahua, a Yorkie, a Pomeranian, a Maltese, a Bichon Frise - or a little-bit-of-everything rescue mutt - here's our advice:

Take your dog for a walk on the grass. Do they seem to like it?

Take your dog for a walk on a dirt trail. Do they like it? 

Go for a longer walk on a dirt trail. Think they like that?

Pay attention to their body language, facial expressions and vocalizations - you know your dog best.

Are they saying, "Yay, let's keep going!" or "OMG this sucks, please take me back to the car"?

This is the best way to learn what the best small dog breed for hiking is!


Remember to always make decisions with your dog's capabilities in mind - and be extra supportive of them along the way. 

By making sure your dog is happy and comfortable, you're creating a positive experience for a lifetime of happy hikes and doggy smiles!

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