Are Golden Retrievers Good Hiking Dogs?

Nearly every mountain climber or hiker dreams of having a K-9 sidekick to join them on their hikes. According to PetMD, a few of the most common hiking dogs are Labrador Retrievers, Vizslas, and Bernese Mountain Dogs. But what about Golden Retrievers?

Are Golden Retrievers good hiking dogs? In short, yes, Golden Retrievers make excellent hiking dogs. Because of their athleticism, spunk, and energy, they can keep up with you on your hikes.  

If you’re considering taking your Golden Retriever out on their first hike with you or deciding if this breed is a good match for you, here is a complete guide to hiking with a Golden.

Are Golden Retrievers Good Hiking Dogs?

Out of all of the dog breeds, Golden Retrievers are known to be one of the most energetic and playful ones, which makes them the perfect hiking companion.

Goldens can keep up whether you’re taking your time through a trail or jogging through a park. However, Golden Retrievers are also incredibly playful, so they can run off without you to jump in a river or say hi to a fellow hiker, so just make sure that you have them on a leash or stay close to them at all times.

Golden Retrievers are also known to be an incredibly loyal breed, so when most owners and their Goldens go for hikes, they feel comfortable taking them off of a leash. However, just be sure you are using the leash and keeping them by your side during the rough terrains to make sure they don’t get hurt.

Preparing Your Dog for a Hike

Whether you’re trying to train a new puppy for a hike or trying to get an older dog ready for an adventure, there are a few things that you need to consider while prepping them:

Start off Small

Starting your dog off with shorter walks is a great way to get them ready for a bigger hike. This can help get them more comfortable with walking on a leash, help prepare them for walking longer distances, and help with obedience.

You can start by just walking around your neighborhood with your dog for a few minutes every day. You can eventually work up to longer walks, but you want to build their endurance for walking long distances.

Golden Retrievers are actually typically easy to walk with. Despite their energy, they love being with their family, so naturally, they will want to stay by you. However, they also love other people and animals, so remember to keep a tight grip on them whenever you walk by another person or dog.

Brush Up on the Obedience Training

Despite what kind of trail you are hiking on, there is always a risk of injury for your pup, so you want to make sure that they will listen to you to keep them safe.

You should make sure that they know the basic commands: sit, stay, lay down, and come. In case you come across another dog or even a wild animal, you want to make sure that they won’t try to chase after it. You can also buy a dog whistle to make sure that they always listen.

According to HealthyPets, Golden Retrievers can be easily trained. They have a great “work ethic” and are “eager to please,” which makes them one of the easiest dog breeds to train. In fact, that’s why they are often the go-to breed for service dogs.

Get Them Comfortable With the Gear

There’s a lot of gear that you have to bring with you on a hike, from boots for your dog to a harness to the things that you may want to clip onto the harness. Try walking them with a harness and boots for a week or so before your hike so they can get used to them in time.

Get a Check-up

Before you go out on your hike, you’ll need to prepare a few things to make sure that your dog is safe, healthy, and comfortable to have just as much fun as you will. According to Web MD Pets, you will want to have a checkup with your vet before setting off on your big adventure to make sure your pet is in top shape for hiking. You will want to make sure that they have all of their necessary shots to prevent any diseases that they could get while hiking.

During your vet visit, you should also have your vet give your dog flea, worm, and tick repellent medicines. These will make sure that your dog doesn’t pick up any unwanted pests while you’re on your hike.

Golden Retrievers are known to develop hip issues as they get older, so if you’re hiking with an older dog, make sure that your vet checks up on them and ensures that hiking won’t cause any further damage.

Gear to Bring:

Even if you are hiking on your own, you should always be prepped with everything that you could need on a hike. Because dogs are more prone to heatstroke, getting hurt, and getting sick, you need to make sure that you have everything so they’re as comfortable as possible.

Boots

In order to protect your dog’s paws from any scrapes or cuts, you can purchase hiking boots for your dog. Just like how you want the best support for your feet while hiking up a mountain, you’ll want the same for your dog.

You can purchase ones like these Ruffwear GripTex. You will want to look for boots that are durable, fit tightly, and are anti-slip. You want boots that will last a while and can hold up. This isn’t just because you don’t want to waste money on a product that’s just going to rip after a few trips, but because you don’t want your pet accidentally getting scraped or a splinter because the boots didn’t hold up.

Your dog’s hiking boots should also be non-slip because sometimes rocks and can get slippery after it rains or around waterbeds. Your dog also probably isn’t used to walking with boots on, so having a little extra support will help them walk comfortably.

Water Bottles (for both you and your pup)

As you probably know, it’s incredibly important for both you and your dog to stay hydrated on your hikes. So, make sure that you bring plenty of water bottles for both of you.

It’s essential that you only let your dog drink fresh water while you’re hiking. Even though you may be hiking and your dog is tempted to jump in a creek and drink, you shouldn’t let them drink too much. Dogs are actually very prone to waterborne illnesses, such as parasites. So, keeping them out of rivers and creeks and drinking freshwater is the safest option for them.

According to the American Hiking Society, you should pack at least 8 ounces of water per hour that you’re planning on hiking. The AHS also suggests that you fill a bottle ¾ of the way full and keep it in the freezer the night before, so that way it will melt while you hike and still be cool.

Collapsible Bowl

Again, to prevent your pup from getting illnesses from drinking water, having a collapsible bowl with you is a great idea. When they’re hiking with their dogs, most people just pour the water in front of their dog’s mouth and expect them to drink all of it up. However, this just wastes the water, and dogs will often just end up trying to lick up the water from the ground, which can cause illnesses.

Using a collapsible bowl will help make sure that your pup drinks all of their water and stays hydrated as well as keep them safe. Because they can fold up, these bowls are easy to carry around in your backpack. There are also bowls, like this one, that can clip onto your dog’s harness so they can carry it for you.

Treats and Snacks

Just as you would get hungry on your hikes, your dog is bound to get just as hungry. Keeping treats and snacks on-hand is a great way to keep your pup nourished on your hikes.

If you’re still training your dog while you’re hiking, bringing treats and snacks with you is a great way to encourage them and reward them. Hiking with your dog is actually a great way to train them. Whether it’s teaching them to interact with other people and other dogs or walking on a leash, hiking allows your dog to be trained but still have a great time with you.

For hikes, you’ll want to pack snacks with protein for your dog. Here are a few snacks that are perfect to bring with you on your hikes:

Jerky

Jerky sticks are great snacks to bring on your hike. You can find jerky sticks in pork, beef, or even chicken. Jerky sticks are packed with protein, and your dog will love them.

Bars

Just like there are protein bars for people, there are some for dogs too! These bars are typically packed with protein and are meat-flavored, so they’re both tasty and good for your dog. There are ones like these, which are made with pork or beef and fruits and veggies to give you the perfect amount of protein.

Snacks for Joint and Bone Health

Golden Retrievers are especially susceptible to developing joint problems, specifically in their hips. There are specific snacks, like VetriScience Laboratories GlycoFlex PLUS, that are great for supporting your pet’s joints and make your hikes more comfortable for them.

Having snacks that support joint or bone health is extremely important for active dogs, so if you are planning on going on frequent hikes with your dog, you should be carrying snacks like these. There are also a ton of other snacks that help support different parts of your pet’s health, such as digestion.

Calming Snacks

There are also snacks like Zesty Paws Calming Bites for Dogs, which keep your pet calm. If you have a hyper or anxious pup, you can try these treats to keep them calm. If you’re planning on taking a long car ride to your favorite hike spot, it might be a good idea for you to feed your dog some of these to keep them relaxed throughout the ride.

These calming snacks are made with all-natural ingredients, such as chamomile and melatonin, in doses that are safe for dogs. These snacks won’t put your pet to sleep, either, so they’ll still have enough energy for your hikes!

Poop Bag

Probably the most essential things to make sure that you bring with you on any trip with your pet are poop bags. Because they are out in the woods, most people think that they can just leave their pet’s droppings everywhere. However, this is just rude to other hikers and shouldn’t be done. Some parks will actually charge you a fine if they catch you not picking up your after your dog, so make sure that you are.

On the other hand, who wants to carry bags of dog poop with them while they’re hiking? Most trails, especially those in national or public parks, will have trash cans set up around the paths so you can dispose of them there. Alternatively, there are stink-free cases that can hold these cases in your bag to risk making a mess. You can also purchase clips to clip onto your dog’s vest or harness so that they carry their own poop throughout the hike.

Safety and First Aid for Your Pup While Hiking

The most important part of hiking with your dog is knowing all of the safety and first aid tips and having all of the equipment. Too often, dogs get hurt while on hikes with their owners who are unprepared to deal with a wound, and the injury ends up getting worse, causing the dog even more distress. Here are a few things to keep in mind when hiking with your dog to have their safety in your best interest:

Monitor Their Health

It’s important to pay attention to how your dog is acting while on your hike to make sure that they’re feeling alright, especially in extreme temperatures. If you notice your dog panting, take a break and give them some water and maybe a snack until they start breathing normally.

It is also a good idea to carry an ice pack with you on your hikes so you can cool your pet down if it gets too hot. Remember that your pet has a thick coat of fur, so they experience heat differently and more extreme, so they’re very prone to heatstroke. So make sure that you are taking plenty of breaks and cooling them down.

The Right Kind of Harness

The right kind of harness can make a world of difference for hiking or even your daily walks.

The right kind of harness should have the following features:

  • A snug fit to make sure your dog is comfortable
  • Clips to help carry some of the load, such as your dog’s water bottle
  • Light-weight so it’s not too heavy and doesn’t hurt your dog’s hips or legs
  • Water-resistant, just in case it rains during your hike your dog decides to venture out into a river

There are a bunch of different kinds of harnesses that you can choose from, from tactical to front-range to just a standard harness. The type of harness that you pick just depends on the kinds of hikes that you’re planning on taking. Follow this link for a helpful list of some of the best kinds of harnesses that you can buy for your dog.

For more accessible trails and hikes, it’s okay to take your dog off of its leash for a bit. However, with more difficult terrains or in more dangerous spots, like alongside a mountain or a cliff, you should always have them on a leash. Even though dogs are pretty good at navigating trails on their own, on more challenging paths, you should just always make sure that you have them secure.

Microchip

Every dog owner’s worst nightmare is losing their dog. If, by some unfortunate chance that you lose track of your pup while on your hike together, you will want to make sure that you have had them microchipped so that you can be reunited with them.

Most people think that microchips actually act as a GPS tracking device. So, unfortunately, you won’t be able to see where their exact location is. However, microchips do have your contact information on them so that someone who finds your dog knows who the owner is.

These come in handy if someone comes across your dog because they can bring them to a shelter or a vet office and have them contact you through scanning the microchip. These are so common nowadays that when you adopt a new pet or even just bring them in for a check-up at the vet, they always recommend getting one implanted.

If you’re looking for something that can track your pet’s exact location, luckily, technology has advanced enough to bring us collars like Whistle Go/Health & Location Tracker for Pets that are GPS trackers accessible on your smartphone. Collars like these give you on-demand access to the real-time locations of your pets and even can track their health and fitness.

Having things like a microchip implant or even a GPS collar can really give you some piece of mind when taking your dog hiking with you. If you’re planning on hiking through a big national forest or a mountain, it’s good to know that if they ever do get lost, they have a way back to you.

Dog Medical Kit

Sadly, there are lots of ways that your dog can get injured on a hike, and you have to be prepared to treat them. With the number of twigs, sharp rocks, or—in the winter–ice on the ground, your dog can get seriously injured walking around.

There are medical kits like the Adventure Medical Kits Adventure Dog Series that you can buy to bring with you on your hikes. However, these can be a little bulky and add a lot of weight to your load. So if you can, only pack the true essentials with you, such as bandages in case of cuts or scrapes, alcohol swabs, and a tick remover. But if you can carry the whole kit, it wouldn’t hurt to have extra precautions on you.

Even if you don’t have a prepackaged kit, it’s always a good idea to keep some of the essentials on you while you’re hiking.

Tick Repellant

Tick repellant is incredibly important to prevent your pet from getting Lyme disease. You can get tick repellant is a couple of different forms: a medication prescribed by your vet or an over-the-counter medication like Frontline. Either way, it is easily accessible and should be on your check-list before hiking.

Where to Bring Your Dog Hiking

Some hiking trails are better for dogs than others. When you’re going hiking, there are a few things that you need to consider:

If the Place Allows Dogs

Some parks or trails don’t allow dogs because the terrain could be too dangerous or because they are located in a private park. Do some research before heading out on your hike so you don’t get turned away. BringFido.com is an excellent source to check out. This site lets you look up places from hotels to parks to restaurants that allow dogs.

Most national and state parks allow dogs. However, they all have individual leash policies. Check on their websites or even call to see what their restrictions are. Some parks will let you take your dog off the leash, while some may require you to keep them on a leash the whole time.

Hikewithyourdog.com is another fantastic source to utilize. Hike With Your Dog gives you a list of alternatives to hiking at national or state parks that don’t allow dogs. The site also has guidebooks that list handfuls of dog-friendly parks for over 20 different areas in the United States, from Baltimore to the Poconos.

Can Your Dog Handle the Hike

Another important thing you have to consider when picking a place to hike with your dog is the kind of terrain you will be hiking on. Some trails and paths are more difficult than others because of the weather and climate, other animals, such as bears or wolves, that may live there, or the kind of terrain.

Make sure that you’re not planning on going hiking when it’s either too hot or too cold. Remember that your dog has a coat of fur, so heat can be really dangerous for them. According to Vetsnow, temperatures as low as 70 degrees Fahrenheit can still be too hot for some dogs.

A simple trick that you can do to make sure it’s not too hot is to put your hand on the ground- if it’s too hot for you to touch, then it’s too hot for your dog. Aside from the humidity being dangerous, your dog can also burn its paws on the ground.

On the other hand, even though they may have a coat of fur doesn’t mean that they won’t get cold. Extremely low temperatures can be just as harmful as high temperatures. On that note, you should take into consideration the weather.

If it has recently snowed or rained, it may not be a good idea to bring your dog hiking. The ground and rocks can be too slippery for your dog to walk in, and it could put them at risk for injury. Even though boots can help with this, there is still the risk that you would rather not take.

Is Your Dog Good with Other People and Dogs

If your dog tends to be a little aggressive or anxious around other people and other dogs, then it would be a good idea to visit places with fewer people and fewer dogs. If your dog is aggressive around others, then it could cause some problems for other hikers or potentially put your dog at risk.

Lisa Densmore Ballard, a dog hiking expert and author of two guidebooks, suggests that your dog should be well-behaved if you’re going to take them out on a hike. Ballard suggests that

“[h]iking may take place in the wild, but that does not mean you will be alone. Before you take your dog into the backcountry, be sure it can heel, sit, stay, and come at your verbal command.”

Conclusion

Well, there you have it. Hopefully, this guide has helped you feel more confident and comfortable with taking your dog hiking with you. Golden Retrievers are especially good hiking dogs because of their loyalty and playfulness, so they can keep up without straying far from you.

Before you go hiking, create a checklist of all of the things we have mentioned above to make sure you and your pup are completely prepared for your hike. Remember to keep your dog safe, comfortable, and to have fun!

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