Photo of Golden Retriever dog playing in the creek.

Are you going too far?

by Kris Phillips

Taking it too far?

We’re in the peak of hiking season and the 14ers are calling. Not to mention 5ks & marathons a plenty. And who’s a better training partner than your four-legged buddy? But is your furry friend up to the challenge or are you risking his health in the pursuit of outdoor adventures?

The short answer is, there really is no short answer. There are a LOT of factors to consider and every dog is different. After all, Ididerod Huskies cover 100 miles at a stretch, while some bulldogs struggle to make it to the end of the driveway. The first place you should check in is with your vet. Make sure you’re pup is in good condition with no underlying issues that could sneak up during a long excursion.




Things to consider:

Age: Puppies and seniors may lack the muscle tone & fat reserves to go for long distances. Re-evaluate your dogs capabilities every season since dogs age faster than we do, even a few months could make a difference. If your dog is older you might have to leave them home for more strenuous adventures and then go for a nice walk when you get back.

Breed: Some dogs are just born to run! Before bringing a new pup into the house do some serious research to find one that will fit in with your lifestyle. If you want to cover great distances look for a working breed like a Cattle Dog, Labrador, or Husky. Standard Poodles also make pretty good runners. Because of their high energy personalities these guys tend to be in abundance at the shelter too. It’s best to avoid giant breeds, tiny breeds, and smooshy-faced breeds (think Bulldogs & Frenchies). As adorable and awesome as these guys all are, they are going to have trouble going the distance.

Fitness: If your dog was lounging on the couch all winter while you were in the gym, take it easy the first few times you venture out. Dogs left to their own excitement tend to overdo it. You can gauge how your dog is doing by how they do after a good hike or run. Does she limp? Does she sleep for the rest of the day…or two days? You might have to dial it back. Is she ready to play again a couple hours afterward? Still full of energy? Step it up on the next round.

Terrain: Know the terrain you’re going to be on. And make sure your dog is comfortable with it. Fortunately, most of Colorado is pretty soft footing. But if you’re venturing into more rugged territory make sure you’re pups paws are up to the task. Also, it’s generally a good idea to carry booties. Even if your dog hates them, they can come in handy to protect sore paws. Don’t want to spring for actual booties? Baby socks are great for medium to large dogs, they wont last more than a few uses but if you need them more than that you should probably invest in some actual booties.

Temperature: Heat exhaustion is probably the biggest threat to your dog when it comes to long excursions. They don’t sweat like we do so they’re less able to cope with high temperatures. Pay attention to the forecast. Know where you’re going to be and if it’s shaded or in full sun. Learn the warning signs of heat stress. And don’t be afraid to sit down and wait out the heat of the day under a shady tree.

Other stuff to keep in mind:

Carry lots and lots of water. At only 75 lbs, my dogs will each drink twice what I do on the trail.

Practice picking up your dog, let them get comfortable being carried. You can also invest in an emergency carrying harness. If you get into a situation where you must help your dog out, it will be so much easier if he’s not flailing like a beached fish.

And if your dog is too big to be carried? Search & rescue will save your dog if you can’t. Don’t leave them behind, just get help.

Looking for some easier trails to get started on? Check out some of my favs!

Have fun, stay safe, happy trails & happy tails!

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