Looking to take your German Shepherd hiking in the woods or mountains? They make wonderful hiking companions given there highly motivated and energetic nature! These hard working dogs will have no problem keeping up with your pace. They were breed as herding and guard dogs so the intensive nature of a good hike will be right up their alley.
It is recommended that a German Shepherd who is three years of age receives at least two hours of exercise daily. A nice hike is a great way to accomplish this while at the same time getting some exercise yourself. However it is smart to prepare for a long hike and it is important that your German Shepherd has some training before hitting the trails.
Here are 5 tips to help prepare you!
1. Make sure your German Shepherd isn’t too young or too old for hiking
Obviously we don’t advise taking a young puppy on a two hour hike because a young dog will need to work it’s way up to longer hikes. We recommend waiting until your dog is close to a year old before you begin smaller hikes.
Putting too much stress on their joints when they are still growing can cause problems later on. German Shepherds are prone to Hip Dysplasia, a deformity in the hip, that usually occurs during their growth.
Start out with small one mile hikes when they are at least a year old. You can slowly increase the distance until they are comfortable with it. It is very important to recognize any signs of fatigue on your hike. You do not want your German Shepherd to get a heat stroke but if he does you definitely want to be on top of it.
Some signs of a Heat Stroke:
- An elevated heart rate
- Dry, dark red or sticky tongue and/or gums
- Excessive drooling and panting.
- Falling down or losing consciousness
- Frothing at the mouth
- Hard for them to stand up
- Having trouble walking
- Temperature that is over 104 degrees
- Thick saliva
- Throwing up or diarrhea
Important: If your dog is displaying any of these symptoms, get him help immediately preferably at an emergency veterinarian. Get them out of the heat ASAP and into some air conditioning. A cool cloth works well. You can give them small amounts of water or an ice cube to lick but never give them ice water because it can cause the blood vessels to constrict causing other health problems.
We also don’t advise taking older German Shepherds on walks especially when they have Hip Displaysia or any other health conditions that might hinder them on a hike. Use your best judgment and assess whether your dog is too old or fragile for hikes.
2. Make sure your German Shepherd has at least some training and knows basic commands
This is a must especially if you plan on taking your dog for a hike off-leash. German Shepherds are extremely smart dogs but they need to know some basic commands before taking that journey into the forest or mountains.
You can encounter several different species of wildlife on a hike in the woods such as bobcats, bears, coyotes or mountain lions. Your dog needs to know some commands to avoid any quarrels that might leave your precious pet injured or even worse God forbid.
Backpacker.com came up with a neat little slogan for remembering three important pointers for your German Shepherd Hiking.
The ABC’s of Hiking with your dog:
Appropriate behavior when your dog encounters other people on the trail.
Basic Repertoire of commands, verbal or hand signals, which include come, down, sit and stay.
Controls his impulses and will respond to basic commands even though there might be sights, sounds or smells that distract him on the trail.
3. Bring the right supplies for your German Shepherd Hiking
Bringing the right supplies on your hiking trip is essential for a safe and prosperous adventure into the wild. These are some of the essential items you should bring on your journey.
1. Collapsible Water Bowl
Bring this instead of a regular water dish which can take up a lot of valuable space. A collapsible bowl can fold up and fit right into your pocket. We like this Collapsable Travel Bowl made by Prima Pets because of the smooth design and quality material.
2. Dog Food, Treats & Water
This is a given. You want to make sure your dog has enough energy and is properly feed. He will be expending a lot of energy on the hike so you want to make sure you have some food or treats to give him. You also want to make sure you have water. We recommend Blue Buffalo Wilderness Trail Treats which are high in protein.
3. Dog Paw Wax
You will want to protect your German Shepherds feet while on the trails. You can use either Paw Protector Boots or Dog Paw Wax which we recommend. It is an all season beeswax that protects your dogs paws from heat, sand and snow. You can order Musher’s Secret Dog Paw Wax here.
4. Dog Poop Bags
This is another obvious supply you will definitely need on your hike. PET N PET makes a high quality compostable dog poop bag that is perfect for hiking. It is biodegradable and less harmful on the environment.
5. First Aid Kit
A first aid kit should always be on hand for any small or large injuries you encounter during your hikes. You never know when you or your dog might need it. It is better to be prepared when you are deep into the woods. They make combination dog first aid kits for your adventure which includes a kit for you and your furry friend. We like the Adventure Dog Series Me & My Dog First Aid Kit.
6. I.D. Tags
These are a must for any hike into the wilderness. God forbid you lose your dog or your dog runs off after an animal. An I.D. tag will allow another hiker to contact you in the event that you lose your dog. You can grab a nice I.D. tag for your German Shepherd here.
7. Hands Free Leash
A good hands free leash is a must for your German Shepherd Hike because it will allow you the freedom to run or walk without holding a regular leash. You will want a high quality material leash to do the job. We really like this one from KURGO called Reflect & Protect Quantum.
8. Pet GPS Tracker
For added security you can purchase a pet GPS tracking device. This real time tracking device connects to your dogs collar and will give you confidence that if something happens, you can find your dog. CUBE makes a high quality tracker that we recommend. Although it is pricey it provides anti-lost radar searching technology.
9. No-Pull Harness
A good walking harness is a must and will make your trip a lot easier. German Shepherds have tons of energy. The last thing you want is your dog pulling you all over the trails. JULIUS K9 makes a very nice IDC Powerharness.
4. Make sure you know the area and wildlife
Be sure to plan out your hike and know the area you plan on visiting. You don’t want any unexpected surprises on your hike. Certain animals such as bears, bobcats or mountain lions can pose a significant threat to you and your German Shepherd.
Research the area to determine what types of wildlife you may encounter and try to avoid surprising any animals by making some noise on your hike that will alert them. They make bear bells for your dog’s collar that will let them know that you are coming.
Avoid wearing headphones which can hinder your ability to hear animals on the trail and don’t jog or run on a trail that is known for animal encounters. It can stimulate an animals instinct to chase or run after you and worse case attack you or your German Shepherd.
Bears are usually more active at dusk and dawn so plan your hikes around these times and bring some bear spray if you plan on hiking where bears are prevalent.
You will need to learn what to do in the case of different animals. We have a list of dog hiking tips to protect your dog from predators.
5. Have fun with your German Shepherd Hike
Hiking with your German Shepherd is a wonderful way to connect and spend time with your dog. The world is full of amazing places to explore and a German Shepherd gives you protection and confidence to go where you otherwise might not go.
Bring Fido has a great list of dog friendly locations you and your dog can travel to and hike.
They have a wide variety of locations to take your dog. You can find anything from one hour walks to overnight trips. They rate each location to make sure that you and your dog have the best experience possible.
We hope that you learned something new about taking your German Shepherd on a hike. We have several other articles about German Shepherds and we would love to hear from you!
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