Hiking With Your Dog- Training Tips.

11 Best Training Tips For Hiking With Your Dog

If you plan on hiking with your dog then you’re in the right place. I have so many things I’d love to share with you including those that I wish I knew or had someone to show me when I first began hiking with my German Shepherd.

I may be biased but I have a feeling you’ll soon agree that hiking with dogs makes the overall experience much more enjoyable. That is if they behave and all goes well.

This post is geared towards the 11 best training tips for hiking with your dog. Whether you have a puppy, rescued an adult dog, or are just starting out hiking yourself, these tips are going to help prepare you both for a positive experience on the trails.

Don’t miss these other helpful posts for hiking with dogs:

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Training Tips For Hiking With Your Dog

Quick disclaimer here- I am no where near a professional dog trainer. I have, however, raised and trained my German Shepherd, Monty, on my own and learned so much from my experience. After raising him and training him on the trails myself I’ve compiled 11 helpful tips which consist of things I wish I knew beforehand, things I did right, and things I’d do differently next time.

I hope these tips will help you prepare and organize what to focus on when training your dog for the trails!

1. Start Them Young

First thing first- if at all possible it is ideal to start training your trail dog when they’re young. Of course this is difficult to do if you rescue an adult dog (nothing wrong with that!) or get into hiking with your dog later in their years. But, it is a no brainer that its typically easier to train a young pup to develop good habits than an adult dog to break old ones.

You don’t want to start hiking with your dog too soon, though. Speak with your veterinarian about when would be a good time to take them on longer walks and how quickly to increase mileage. The more experience they can gain in the outdoors- even if you carry them- is best!

What I truly believe helped shape Monty into a great trail dog was our solo trips. When he was 6 1/2 weeks old I began carrying him up little mountains within Phoenix and then when he was 5 months old we ran off to Utah for our first solo road trip which consisted of various hikes. Once we got back home he was a different dog and this stayed true for the year after and the year after that. During these trips he was able to gain experience, mature, and hone in on the training. Which never stops by the way!

2. Socialize Your Pup

There are countless benefits to properly socializing your dog with both people and other dogs. The truth is you won’t be alone on the trails so socializing your dog beforehand will help them react in a healthy way when passing others. The goal is to have them feel relaxed and not full of anxiety, fear, or aggression. This way hiking with your dog will be a more positive experience for everyone involved.

Typically when pups are young you don’t want them visiting public green spaces until they are done with their rounds of shots and past the age of contracting Parvo. Once your veterinarian deems it safe you can begin taking them to dog parks, over to friends or family’s homes to play with their dogs, and walking around in public places where they’ll meet other people.

3. Ease Your Dog Into It

Just like with us humans if something is pushed onto us too harshly we tend to dislike it. Be careful not to start your dog on super long or rigorous trails right away. Give them time to enjoy the outdoors and build up their endurance and strength. If you don’t have a ‘working type’ breed then you want to be sure you don’t make hiking feel like a job for them.

Your dog’s paws will most likely need time to build up to the different types of surfaces- rock, sand, sandstone, etc. also. If they get injured right away it might make them associate hiking with a negative experience and you don’t want that!

Remember if you ever have questions about your dog’s abilities or their breed you can always consult your veterinarian.

Training Tips For Hiking With Your Dog.

4. Get Them Car Trained

One of the most important training tips for hiking with your dog is to get them liking car rides. It will make your life much easier if you want to travel and hike to different places with them. The goal is to have them excited for a car ride, to be able to jump in and out of the car on their own (if they’re big enough), and not be scared or crying during the ride.

Lastly, I found it very helpful to train Monty to never enter or exit through my door. It took some time but after a while he grew patience and doesn’t jump out of the car until I say so, and when he does it is through his door. This is extremely important because you don’t want your dog bolting out of the car into traffic or after wildlife if they are around!

5. Use Training Treats + Positive Reinforcement

Training treats were my best friend at one point. They’re a great way to reward your pup for following commands. They are also a great distraction if your dog is food motivated! I used to distract Monty with training treats so he didn’t care about other’s passing along the trail because at the time he wanted to bark at everyone. It took time but we finally got him in a good place!

Likewise, positive reinforcement works as well. Give them love with a pat on the head and a ‘good job’. You can always start with training treats paired with positive reinforcement then gradually take training treats out of the equation. Monty’s favorite were the Buffalo Wilderness Chicken flavor. They are small so you don’t over feed and saves room in the pack.

6. Leash Train On And Off Trail

Next, a good trail dog does well on a leash. Training for this is beneficial when done both on and off the trails. When you’re walking your dog through the neighborhood it could be on flat pavement whereas on a hike it could be a steep grade with loose rocks that might make you slip and fall. The last thing you need is your dog pulling you down a mountain.

Using the same commands, leash, and training techniques in different applications will greatly benefit your time on the trail. Nothing is worse than your trail dog dragging you every which way causing your frustration to build and toes and quads to throb from trying to slow them down.

I highly suggest deciding how you’d like to hike with your dog before beginning training. That means getting your commands down and knowing whether you want them to hike right beside you, behind at your heels, or with a little slack in front.

When I began hiking with Monty I used a sturdy 6 foot rope leash that had an extra handle for good control. Eventually we graduated to this hands free bungee leash that I love because I like to have both my hands free and don’t mind giving him a little slack since his natural pace is faster than mine.

Training Tips For Hiking With Your Dog.

7. Work On Recall

It depends on the area and trails you are hiking with your dog, but they may be allowed to hike off leash. This should only be done if their recall is superb! If you’re not familiar with the word- recall is basically your dog’s ability to listen to your command and return to you at any time especially when distractions are ahead.

Whether you plan on hiking off leash with your dog or not it is never a bad idea to train on recall. Who knows- you could accidently drop the leash at one point and your trail dog could run off.

Training for recall should also be done both on and off the trails. Using a long lead rope anywhere from 12-15 feet long is ideal. I’d tend to stay away from extremely long ones because it can get caught on natural elements along the trail and cause more problems than needed.

8. Teach Them To Step Aside

An unwritten dog trail principle is for the hiker with a dog to step aside and let other hikers pass. This is because there are a lot of people who don’t like dogs and it is just the decent thing to do. Often times there isn’t room for both you and your dog to hike side by side past another person, and sometimes your dog doesn’t know better than to keep it’s snout off strangers for a sniff, lick, etc.

The sooner you train your dog to step aside when others are passing the easier it’ll get. Eventually it becomes second nature and they just do it without command. That is the hope, anyways!

9. Learn To Control Their Impulses

My goodness Monty sure had a handful of impulses I had to learn in the beginning. Every dog is different so they’ll all have different triggers, tendencies, and impulses. It just takes paying attention to them, gaining an understanding of them, and noticing the signs before they react.

Once you pin point the signs you can interject and put an end to it before anything even happens. For example- I know Monty does not like people with sunglasses or hats on because he can’t see their faces. He is an aggressive dog, so when passing he will dip his head ever so slightly, make a certain huffing noise before the bark comes out, and kind of jump and shake his entire body as if he’s using all of his force to let out the meanest bark. Now I know what triggers him and the signs of how he’s going to react so I can tell him ‘no’ so he doesn’t bark or lurch at people.

Why is this important? If your dog has aggressive tendencies or even loves to lick random people it can be frightening or annoying for others on the trail. You should have complete control while hiking with your dog, and this will help.

Hiking With Your Dog.

10. Introduce Your Dog To Booties

Every trail dog should have a pair of dog boots or booties! They don’t have to always wear them, but at least have them on hand incase of a paw injury or unforeseen elements on the trail. This could mean ice, sharp rocks, or even hot sand. Imagine walking barefoot through that for miles and miles. If you wouldn’t want to do it then that means your dog won’t want to either.

I always carry these waterproof dog boots with me on hikes and pair them with dog socks because their paws can blister just like our feet can. The socks also help the boots slip on easier and keeps them secure.

The earlier you get your trail dog familiarized with booties the easier and more comfortable for them it will be when you actually end up having to use them.

11. Build A Relationship With Them

Last but not least the most impactful training tip for hiking with your dog is to simply build a relationship with them. Do things with them, spend time together, express your love, etc. and it’ll only strengthen your bond.

Hiking With Your Dog Training Tips.

I truly believe having a strong bond with your dog will only help when it comes time to training. Naturally they look to you for guidance, they learn to trust you, and they adore you so they just want to please you. If you can gain an understanding of each other and build a deep relationship, it truly is one of the most special parts of life!

Recap On Training Tips For Hiking With Your Dog

We sure have covered a lot about hiking with your dog! Take all of this with a grain of salt as it is only meant to get you thinking ahead and prepare you for what is to come. Don’t let it deter you from getting out on the trails to experience and learn for yourself.

Training your trail dog takes time and if I’m being honest it never ends. Just focus on having the proper tools and building a forever bond with them as the rest will come naturally.

It took me about three years to get Monty in a place where I didn’t have to worry as much about how he’d react to strangers on the trails or if he’d run off. His recall is amazing even if there is a dog up ahead. I have him on a short verbal leash- he stops when I tell him to and he doesn’t go off trail or too far ahead. But he isn’t perfect, nor will any dog be. The work never ends!

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