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Tips for Hiking with a Dachshund (Or any small dog!)

With National Camping with Dogs Day just around the corner (9.5.15), we thought it would be fun to ask some of our more avid hikers, there top tips for hiking. We’d like to introduce you to Marjorie Clark and her adorable dachshund Ellie. Hiking with smaller dogs can be a challenge. Here are Marjorie’s top 3 tips for hiking with a small dog: 

Ellie has been my constant outdoor companion for the past four years. She goes camping and hiking, rain or shine, and she’s only 10 inches tall. My little 6-year-old dachshund is my most constant companion.

I admit that it’s pretty fun to see the look on hikers’ faces when they realize there’s a short little dog with me. The idea of a dachshund making it to the end of a five-mile hike with incline and creek crossings is the ultimate underdog story. The real story is little dogs need exercise and adventure and an opportunity to explore (and chase squirrels) as much as big dogs.

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1. Be aware of distance and intensity. Ellie can easily go five miles, but if the trail has a significant vertical climb, she’s done at four. It took me a few adventures to discover her limit, two of which ended with her 13 pounds riding comfortably in my arms back to the car. If you’re unsure of your pup’s limit, start with shorter hikes and work up the miles and they become conditioned to the distance and terrain. Watch for signs of exhaustion, including panting and slow, low-energy steps, and be ready to pack your friend out.

2. Be aware of obstacles. My pup is surprisingly limber and spry; her 4-inch legs handle stairs, logs, and creek crossings like a champ. But she certainly can’t handle a five-foot leap up a slippery boulder. I let her navigate finding an alternate route, and she’s pretty good at it, but that time we came across an old-growth tree blocking the trail? She needed a lift. Better safe than sorry in giving your pup an extra hand navigating tricky terrain.

3. Be aware that your small pup is working really hard. Ellie works many times harder than long-legged dogs to travel the same distance. She’s also closer to the ground, so puddles and snow piles are within range of her chest and belly and can be shocking to her system. If the weather is particularly chilly or wet, I make sure to bring her jacket or a towel to keep her warm during the lunch break. I also pack extra snacks for her, and make sure we frequently pause to rehydrate.

It’s rewarding to take Ellie out and reach the top of the mountain or secluded lake where the big dogs play. It’s especially rewarding when she sees her harness and knows we’re in for an adventure. She loves it as much as I do.


Marjorie Clark is a writer and editor living near Seattle. When she's not working, she's reading, exploring the woods, and catching up on 30 Rock. On her bucket list is rafting through the Grand Canyon and a months-long road trip across the U.S. with her dachshund Ellie, who enjoys romping in the woods, exploring the beach, and sleeping in a tent as much as her human.

Twitter: @marjiebc  Instagram: @marjiebc