Hiking With Small Dogs

man walking with dog on a leash

It's a common misconception that people can't hike with smaller dog breeds. But small dog owners know that hiking with small dogs can make for a great experience. Many small dogs love the smells and sights outdoor adventures offer. Hikers know that these trails can be exhausting, but that won't stop these small dogs from wanting to tag along. There are advantages and disadvantages to taking small dogs on hikes, but overall these dogs are excellent hiking companions.

Advantages of Hiking with a Small Dog

Small dogs are much easier to hike with than larger dogs. Little dogs can take surprisingly long hikes. Your small dog is great to take on a hike because they require less food and don't weigh much. Extra weight during hikes can turn into a burden, but hiking with lighter dogs makes it easier to carry them when they get tired. It's important to pick up feces on hikes, both for the environment and just because it's trail etiquette. A little pooch doesn't poop much, so you won't have to carry any large stink bombs with you throughout the trail.

man hiking with small dog

Less Food

To make sure your small dog is healthy and happy on hikes, you'll need to bring dog food. Smaller dogs don't need as much dog food as larger dogs, so you won't be weighed down with the excess amount of food. Dogs will also need water, so taking portable, collapsible food and water bowls will help too. It's important to plan for your dog's calorie needs. Base the dog's needs on the hike's mileage, climate, and terrain. It may take a few tries to get this calorie count right, which is why it's always best to start with smaller hikes before going on extensive hikes.

Thankfully, small dogs don't need much water at one time, so you could potentially just cup your hands to provide these pups water. Remember, your dog needs a pick-me-up on your hikes. Carry snacks and high-quality treats to provide your dog when they start to get tired out.

Less Poop

The smaller the dogs are, the less poop they'll leave. Poop bags are a necessity when taking a dog on a hike. It's trail etiquette to always pick up after your dog in local parks, and hiking trails are no different. Owners need to pick up dog poop to make sure they don't leave any trace of feces on hiking trails. This is an important way to care for the environment by not leaving any foreign residue. Owners of small dogs should do their best to leave no trace of their pups or themselves during their hikes.

Easy to Carry

Smaller dogs are ambitious. These dogs often try their best to keep up with their owners. They think they are big dogs stuck in small dogs bodies, but these dogs are actually not as energetic as they think they are. While small dogs have high energy levels, they have to work more to move their little legs at the same pace as their owners. This means these dogs exert more energy in every one of their little steps than we do during our hikes. Because of this, these dogs can become tired quite easily.

For proper hikes, owners will always need to take a backpack with food, water, and other supplies. A good idea is to get a backpack for dogs. Any backpacking trip could turn into a free ride for a small-sized pup. A bonus of this is that their body weight is usually under ten pounds, and if they get injured it is much easier to carry them than a thirty-pound dog.

If these dogs come across dangerous terrain that has flowing water, high rocks, or a lot of stairs, owners may need to carry their small pups through these situations as well. Owners should search for dangers on hikes before taking their dogs with them. Make sure you're prepared to carry any tired, injured, or sleepy dogs throughout the rest of your hike.

man and small dog on a hike

Disadvantages of Hiking with a Small Dog

While there are many advantages of hiking with small dogs, there are some disadvantages as well. For example, because small dog breeds have short legs, they can tire out a lot faster. These dogs need a lot more support from their people than bigger dogs, but small dogs can still be trained to enjoy five-mile hikes, or sometimes even longer ones. Keep in mind that some small dogs may have short noses that cause breathing problems. It can be hard for these pups to get around without the assistance of their owners.

Other issues can lie in obstacles or temperature differences. In some backcountry areas, there are predators lurking about that might find a small dog and see a snack. Taking care of small dogs during hikes can require a lot of careful observation and attention. As for the temperature, small dog breeds are less prepared for varying temperatures. They can get both cold and hot a lot faster than larger dog breeds. If you are walking on darker materials that attract heat, like slate or concrete, these dogs are closer to the ground and can get warmer faster. Small dogs are more vulnerable to a lot of environmental factors, making them have a few disadvantages that larger dogs do not necessarily struggle with.

Temperature Sensitive

Small dogs have less body heat to keep them warm. On some hikes, snow is out and this can cause a small dog to go into shock if they aren't properly dressed. Little dogs would benefit from raincoats or warm coats to protect themselves from the weather. In certain situations, these dogs can even benefit from booties. Dog owners should know that dogs release heat through their paws so they can hike in the snow without booties if you so choose. However, in areas where it is cold, these dogs need extra layers to ensure their body is extra warm. It is wise to not take a small dog on a hike anywhere that is below 25 degrees Fahrenheit.

Small dogs also move more than large dogs on hikes. They'll need more breaks to cool off and catch their breath. Dog owners need to be aware of the signs and symptoms of a dog overheating. If they start excessively panting or drastically slowing down, these dogs need a break. Hikers should know that these dogs need extra water in warm weather.


No matter a dog's size, predators can be a risk. Many trails have warning signs at the trailhead that list any predators in the area. Owners can take an extra step to be safe by doing research on their own time to see if any trails they want to hike have predatory risks. Dogs that go on hikes should have had obedience training and should respond right away to their owner's warnings.

In some national parks, animals like venomous snakes, mountain lions, and other dangerous wildlife might live around hiking trails. When on outdoor adventures, owners should try their best to avoid places that harbor these predatory animals. However, if you live in an area where these animals are common, it can be hard to avoid them.

Keep an eye on small dogs and always keep them on a static leash. It's very important for their safety to never let small dogs off-leash when hiking. Don't allow small dogs to stick their snouts in any holes. If rattlesnakes are likely to be on your hiking trail be sure to keep an eye out for them. Smaller dogs may seem like a quick snack, whereas large dogs could be seen as threats.

For animals like snakes, owners can try to make a lot of noise in an attempt to make the snakes wander off. If owners ever encounter a mountain lion on their hike, they need to know how to handle the situation. Never turn your back to a mountain lion because these animals are ambush predators. Try your best to look big and scary in an effort to scare the mountain lion away, but remember to never turn your back on them.

two dogs in the mountains


During hikes, it is best to try to avoid rough terrains. You should know what poisonous plants in the area look like and make sure your dog doesn't interact with it. Try to find dog-friendly hikes that have easy trails and not too many steps. Don't let small dogs jump off of anything that's taller than they are long. Also, make sure to always keep an eye on your dog so they don't fall or twist anything. If there are many staircases, it's best if you carry these dogs up and down them, as the steps aren't great for their little joints.

The Best Small Breeds for Hiking

There are many popular dog breeds that are small and make great hiking companions. Some of the best small dog breeds to accompany you on hiking trails are corgis, beagles, dachshunds. Many other small dog breeds are great for hiking as well, as long as dogs are energetic and love exploring they have the potential to be great hiking companions. Dog owners should know their dog's strengths and weaknesses before taking them on hikes.


Beagle dogs used to be hunting dogs so they have tons of stamina. These dogs have high energy levels so they are great for hikes. However, because of their little bodies, they might need a backpacking owner to carry them from time to time. These dogs should not climb on large rocks or boulders or highly uneven terrain. Don't let beagles leap off high surfaces. As long as you keep your hikes within their limits, these dogs are great companions.


Dachshund puppies are little dogs with tons of energy. Your small dog loves adventure and they are great hikers. Owners should be aware that because dachshund puppies are so small, their bellies are very close to the ground so they can get excessively hot. Dachshund puppies are very intelligent and stubborn. These dogs need obedience training before they begin hiking.

family and dog sitting on deck


Corgis are smaller dogs with short little legs. Even though they might not look it, corgis are great companions for hiking. Don't let smaller dogs leap off any high surfaces and avoid large rocks, boulders, and uneven terrain when walking corgis. These dogs might try to be trailheads, but don't let your little corgi go to far ahead. Owners need to be able to see these dogs to take care of them during hikes.

Extra Tips

Small dogs make great hiking companions. Sometimes these dogs will want to sniff everything or take extra breaks. In order to prepare yourself and your dog for the best hike possible, you need to be aware of training them. Training your dog to not stop every five seconds can save you time if you're on a mission. Also, training them helps keep these pups safe. Be sure to know the signs of fatigue in dogs, as small dogs tire out quicker. Lastly, be sure to carry a backpack. One of the huge benefits of little dogs is that if they get too tired to finish their hike, they can get in a backpack and be carried the rest of the way.

How to Train Your Dog

To prepare your small dog for hikes, build up their fitness by taking them on thirty-minute walks four to five days a week. Sixty-minute walks are more ideal and can better prepare them for longer hikes, but it's important to take small steps in prepping these pups.

Start with short easy walks in the woods. Be sure to leave no trace of your pups and pick up their poop. These trips in the woods are also great times to practice any obedience training or trail etiquette small dogs should have. While preparing these dogs for their hikes, you should start to notice signals as they tired out. Dogs will have varying signs of getting tired, but they usually have the same symptoms. Always keep small dogs on a leash and don't let these pups out of your sight. During your hikes or backpacking trips is the perfect time to test out how much food and how many snacks your dog needs to stay happy and healthy. Begin testing out these dietary needs early on, as the longer hikes will need much more food.

small dog on a hiking trail

Watch out for Tiredness and Take Regular Breaks

Little dogs need short hikes to prepare for longer ones. These dogs have high energy levels and they love outdoor adventure But their enthusiasm doesn't make up for their little bodies. These dogs might need breaks more often or to be carried the entire way back on hikes. A dog needs to be able to have the energy to carry themselves back to the start of the trails, so make sure you account for that. If dogs start lagging behind or laying down on the trails, these are signs they need a break.

Bring a Backpack

It's best to walk small dogs in harnesses to make sure they are safe. Bring a dog backpack to carry them in incase they get tired. In your dog backpack, you can put in any hiking gear you need like water, food, first aid kit, or spare leashes. Be careful with rough terrain and consider bringing extra materials in case your dog gets injured.


As we've covered, small dog breeds can be some of the best hiking companions. These dogs are very energetic and require less food for hikes. However, these dogs may also tire more easily and pose a larger risk for predators. But as long as small dog owners are aware of the risks of hiking with small dogs, they can have excellent backpacking expeditions with their small furry friends.

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