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Why small breeds can still make the best hiking buddies

Plus tips to keep smaller pups happy and safe on the trails.

You may not look at those little legs and think that small breeds would make great hiking buddies, but many smaller dogs love taking on outdoor adventures and are very at home on the trails. Dachshunds, Pomeranians, Yorkies and even Chihuahuas appear on many lists as the best small breeds to take hiking, with Jack Russell Terriers and Corgis often featuring as some of the best hiking breeds overall.

It's not uncommon to see any of these active little dogs on the trails around Vancouver and there are many benefits that comes with hiking with smaller pups - one being that it's a great conversation starter!

Vancouver dog owner Portia Zaffaroni knows this first hand, as her 5-year-old Pomeranian Roxy can often be found exploring the local trails - especially if they are long and steep as, according to her owner, she loves a challenge.

"She's a bold and fearless little thing, and doesn't believe she's small at all!," Zaffaroni tells OhMyDog!. "She's always leading the pack and 'yelling' at us when we stop for a water break. My friends and I call her mountain goat; she's incredibly adept at scaling mountains."

As well as being easier to pick up and carry should they become tired or you meet some tougher obstacles along a hike, smaller breeds also take up very little space on the trail, which is great for other hikers.

Although many smaller breeds do make fantastic outdoor companions, there are some important things to keep in mind before setting off on hikes to ensure they stay safe and happy.

Start small and build up their endurance

"Make sure to start with easier, shorter hikes and build up their stamina," Zaffaroni advises fellow owners of small breeds. Every dog is different so by starting off slowly, you can build up your pup's endurance and work out their own daily/weekly limits when it comes to hiking, so as not to push them beyond their capabilities.

Plan ahead and choose suitable hikes

We are blessed with a huge variety of great hikes around Vancouver, with many that are great for smaller dogs with minimum elevation gain or shorter trails. You can check out 11 of our top recommendations here.

Not sure if a hike is suitable for your smaller pup? With the Premium version of popular Vancouver-based pet app PawSwap, not only will you see every dog-friendly hike in your area, but also details like if it's fully or partially off-leash, if there's a swimming area along the trail and whether it's suitable for smaller breeds.

PawSwap app is free to download, and all members can access a free 7-day trial of PawSwap Premium - so make sure to activate it before heading on your next hike with your pup!

Researching your dog's breed is also important as some smaller breeds are not suited to hikes with rocky or uneven terrain.

Watch out for weariness

In all their excitement, smaller breeds may seem like they have boundless energy and could keep going for hours, but it's important to watch out for weariness as they will push themselves to the limit. "Your little one might run herself into trouble, exhausting herself or overheating if you don’t help her take it easy," Michelle Fredette tells The Bark. "If your dog is new to hiking, it’s best to check with your vet and then start small, with short hikes on easy trails. Watch to see that she’s not excessively panting, wobbly on her legs or plain pooped out."

Bring a backpack

No matter how much energy your pup seems to have, it takes a lot of stamina for those little legs to keep up, so if you notice your pup getting tired, having a backpack a great idea.

You can carry your pup around on your back for the remainder of the hike so they can still take in the views and enjoy the fresh air with you!

Take plenty of breaks

Even if your pup isn't showing signs of tiredness, it's important to take regular breaks to avoid putting too much strain on them. Smaller dogs can overheat faster as it takes so much energy for their little legs to keep up - especially on hotter days - so they will need more frequent breaks to cool-off than larger pups.

Take regular water and food breaks and remember that, if you're thirsty, chances are your dog probably is too so be sure to offer them a drink every 15-30 minutes to ensure they don't get dehydrated, and look out for rapid panting or dry noses.

Join PawSwap's Hikes & Trails: Summer Scavenger Hunt Edition Today

Ready to explore with your pup? Join the Hikes & Trails: Summer Scavenger Hunt today, and you could win items essential for every human and pup hiking team worth over $1300, Check out the full list of prizes here.

Learn more about the challenge here, and check out the clues to find your first dog-friendly location here.


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