The smile on Bella’s face when we’re hiking is different than her everyday smile.
She’s supercharged and ready to explore every sniff spot and jump in every creek. She’s a big part of my inspiration to get out and hike, and every dog lover knows a tired dog is a happy dog.
“It’s good for them,” said McKenna, who hikes with her American Staffordshire terriers Ethel and Wally. “They push me to look for new places to go and explore.”
“Maverick motivates me to be active in many ways,” he said. “A responsible pet owner does more than provide food and water. We should also provide our dogs with plenty of exercise and stimulation.
“Sometimes I spend too much time on my computer or phone, and Maverick will get in my lap or face almost like, ‘Come on, Dad, let’s get out of the house.’ ”
Daily walks and outings to the park are key to his dog’s exercise, but hiking is a special part of the bond they’ve built since Maverick’s “gotcha day” almost three years ago.
“To really get the blood flowing, a hike provides exercise and the stimulation they crave with something new around every corner or beyond that rock ridge,” Sasser said. “You will get a happy dog and a great night sleep when the hike is over.”
Mind your dog’s fitness level, too. Dr. Ginny Schulken, a veterinarian at Pet Vet Hospital and Wellness Center in Spokane Valley, gets her dogs out for long hikes. She takes Lady Bug and Maiya on regular excursions around Dishman Hills and Mirabeau Park.
“It’s such good stimulation for them,” she said. “Our dogs are so happy. I just know they’re thinking, ‘This is the coolest thing ever!’ ”
She noted brachycephalic dogs, the “smushy-nose” types like pugs and boxers, aren’t good candidates for hiking, especially in the high temperatures of Spokane’s climate.
“They don’t breathe well and they overheat too easily,” she said. “If you want to hike with a brachycephalic dog, keep your trails short and limit them to days around 70 degrees.”
Schulken reminds hikers to bring lots of water on the trail, enough for themselves and their dogs, and a first aid kit is not a bad idea. Up-to-date vaccinations, especially leptospirosis, are key, too.
Hikers should ensure their dogs are fit for certain trails, she said, first noting if the dog has reached full growth.
Strenuous exercise, she added, can prevent growth plates from developing completely and put a dog at risk for injury.
Small breed dogs are fully grown around 1 year old, while large breed dogs often don’t reach full growth until 2, she noted.
“It’s a good idea to start your dog off with short hikes, too, around a half-hour to an hour, and then gradually increase the distance,” Schulken said. “Take breaks along the way and watch how long it takes for his panting to go back to normal. That’s how you know you’re not overdoing it.”
So how is it that a corgi can keep up with a Maremma sheepdog, whose legs are longer than the tips of the corgi’s ears reach?
“Maybe it’s like short people keeping up with tall people,” Schulken said, laughing. “I’m 5-foot-2, so I take bigger and more steps to keep up with people who are taller than me.”