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How far can my dog walk?

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How far can my dog walk?

 

Robert Donkers

Dog owners often wonder how far their dog can walk. It depends on a few things: breed, age, condition and health. Many dogs don’t take long daily walks and so aren’t fit enough to undertake challenging exercise.  However, if you train your dog properly, it will be able to take on serious challenges.

I have small dogs: Chihuahuas and Shih Tzus.  Most people would never think of these little dogs as distance walkers.  In fact, Chihuahuas are seen more as a fashion accessory and are often carried in bags. Mine are as fit as you can imagine.

All my dogs can easily walk 15 miles a day.  They are little energetic dogs who naturally love walking. If I put more training in I am sure they could do 18 to 20 miles per day – in fact they did just that on the final day of a walking holiday last year.

What to consider when you would like to take your dogs on long walks or go trekking:

 

  • Breed of dog

  • Age and health

  • Time of the year and weather

  • Physical preparations

  • What route to pick

 

 

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The Breed

Some dogs are bred as working dogs and can walk long distances like Alaskan Malemutes and Huskies. Other breeds like Pugs, American Bulldogs, French Bulldogs or Pekinese are probably never the right choice to take on 20-mile hike.

For the most part, dogs like German Shepherds, Labradors, Golden Retrievers and hounds like Weimaraners love outdoor pursuits and long walks.  A lurcher on the other hand is much happier to go for short sprints and then home.

Age and Health

Like humans, dogs age.  They need to be in optimum health if they are to walk long distances.  Also like humans, two dogs of the same breed may differ greatly. One may be fit and healthy and full of adventure, whereas another may be overweight, with joint issues, and not interested in physical exercise.

Unfortunately, dog obesity and diabetes are on the increase mainly due to owners being inactive, sharing their unhealthy foods with their dogs or feeding the dogs on low nutrition cheap dog food for sale in most supermarkets. 

Age is also a determining factor at both ends of the scale; a dog can be too young to be taken on long walks.  A dog’s muscles and bones must be fully formed, something that will take longer in large dogs.

If you are a responsible and sensible dog owner, disasters are easy to avoid.  Below is a list of what to look out for to make long distant walking/hiking a fun activity for both.

Time of the Year

Contrary to common belief, dogs, like us, like nice weather.  This means average temperature.  Anything below 22 celsius degrees is best.  Burning sun and soaring temperatures are something to avoid.  Some breeds cope with hot temperatures better than others. The only way dogs can sweat is through their pads. Overheating during a hot day can be very dangerous.  The best weather is therefore dry and cool, especially if you’re covering some distance.

Avoid the midge season in Scotland too as you are not the only one who gets bitten.

Rain and cold weather are also no fun for a dog.  To walk in the rain for 8 hours with high winds is depressing for both you and your dog. 

Physical Preparations

If you are thinking about hiking 100 miles in 6 or 7 days, you need to train your dog as wells as yourself.  Start off with shorter walks and work your way up to longer distances gradually.  Always remember that a dog will carry to keep up with you even when it is tired.  Look out for signs of exhaustion:

  • Panting.

  • Dehydration.

  • Excessive drooling (ptyalism)

  • Overheating and increased body temperature - above 103° F (39° C)

  • Reddened gums and moist tissues of the body.

  • Production of only small amounts of urine or no urine.

  • Sudden (acute) kidney failure.

  • Rapid heart rate.

 

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What Route to Pick

It is important to pick the right walk.  Terrain is vital.  A flat walk or mountains? If the terrain is too rocky and the gravel too sharp, it will hurt the dog’s pads.  Many routes go through farm fields where live-stock is kept.  Some dogs are very happy on the lead for miles on end others get bored easily.

Access to and exit from fields is often via a stile.  It is great when your dog is athletic enough to climb over by itself.  Depending on the size, carrying it over many stiles can be tiring. 

The best walk is a combination of all that our landscape can offer us.  This gives our dogs stimulation and challenges so that they don’t get bored.  The walk becomes a fun and learning experience for them too.

What to take with you:  Dog Kit List

If you have larger dogs they can carry their own water supply and food

A dog can safely carry up to 20% of its body weight, which for a Labrador means around 5-6kg. 

Food and Water - for as many days as you plan to be away or knowing that you can re-supply on the way.  The countryside is not like the city.  Many shops close on specific days of the week.  They are also open for shorter hours than you might expect. 

Water/food bowl – lightweight and collapsible 

Small bag of dog treats.  High protein snack, like dried chicken.

Any medication your dog takes regularly

Lead

Poo bags

Wipes

First aid Kit – vet bandage

Towel, cheap, quick drying & lightweight

Bed/blanket

Shampoo

Tick remover

Panniers

 


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