Attention all hikers and paw lovers!
Are you tired of lugging around a heavy backpack on your outdoor adventures? Do you have a German Shepherd at home? Think no further, because your GSD may just be the hiking partner of your dreams!
With their strong legs and boundless energy, these pups are sure to keep up with your every step (and carry your trail mix too). With their curious temperaments and quick-witted mentality, these smart pooches may even outsmart you on your hiking journeys!
Are German Shepherds good hiking dogs, for real?
Find out if you two are a match made in trail-blazing heaven…or hell!
Are German Shepherds Good Hiking Dogs?
Short answer — yes! German Shepherds are good hiking dogs because of their pawesome personalities, incredible intelligence, and high endurance.
All these traits combined truly make this large dog a perfect hiking buddy.
However, whether a German Shepherd would truly be a good hiking companion for you would depend on the individual dog’s personality and training.
To answer this question in detail, we chose three top characteristics that make the GSD a great hiking dog!
1. They Have A Lot Of Stamina
German Shepherds make good hiking buddies primarily because of their high energy levels and endurance. They will follow you everywhere, no matter if you are going on short or long hikes.
The terrain won’t cause them any problems because these dogs are adapted to climbing up steep inclines, swimming in lakes and rivers, as well as casually walking on rocks and other uneven spots.
I mean, the fact that these working dogs were bred to do all kinds of things (search and rescue, police and military work) shows how highly active they are and that they can handle long and strenuous activities, such as hiking.
It is also important to remember that these canines were originally bred for herding and guarding livestock, which requires a great deal of physical activity and mental focus.
2. They Are Natural Protectors
GSDs are big guard dogs that take their job of protecting their owner very seriously.
Their natural instincts and training may make them good at alerting their owners to potential dangers on a hiking trip, such as bobcats, snakes, or other wild animals.
So, you don’t have to feel afraid of close encounters with wildlife because your dog will stand by your side to protect you.
However, some German Shepherds are not that brave and may not be protective in the same way as they would be in their home environment.
3. They Endure Different Weather Conditions
This hardy breed of dog is known to endure different weather conditions such as heavy rain, snow, and even heat. But, there are a few very important things to keep in mind.
Even though their coat is not as thick as that of the Siberian Husky, German Shepherds tolerate cold weather better than other breeds such as Rottweilers and Labrador Retrievers. You can never be too ready for the sudden weather change on your hiking trip, so it is best to prepare a warm dog jacket or sweater for your pup.
They can also be susceptible to heat stroke and other health issues if they are not properly acclimatized to the conditions of the hike.
Therefore, it is very important to be mindful of the weather forecast and plan your hike accordingly!
7 Tips For Hiking With Your German Shepherd
Here are some tips for hiking with your German Shepherd that will make your next hike a walk in the park (literally!)
1. Train Your Dog
Training your German Shepherd puppy for hiking is perhaps the single, most important step in ensuring that your hike trips are safe and enjoyable for both of you.
Before you head off on a hike, make sure your dog has a very good understanding of basic commands such as sit, stay, come, and heel. This will make it easier for you to control your dog on the trail and keep them safe.
Other than that, make sure your GSD is comfortable being in a good collar and well-fitting walking harness, and that it knows to stay close when off-leash. That said, you need to socialize your furry friend with other people and animals.
2. Start With Shorter Hikes
You don’t want to bring your German Shepherd puppy to walk long distances for his first hike. I bet he would have a hard time and won’t be so happy the next time you decide to take him on a hiking trip.
The best thing you can do is start with short and easy hikes, to help your dog get accustomed to this sort of adventure. It is not the same as running in the dog park. Hiking requires a lot more effort and your dog will get the hang of it after a few shorter hikes.
You can gradually increase the duration of each upcoming hike to allow your pup to build up their endurance which will help to prevent injury.
3. Be Mindful Of Weather Conditions
GSDs tolerate cold weather better than warm weather. So, if the weather is hot, make sure to hike during the cooler parts of the day and that your dog has plenty of water, treats, and shade.
If you happen to notice that your German Shepherd is breathing fast, take a long break and provide him with a lot of water, as well as proper shade, like underneath a tree.
Also, keep an eye out for hot rocks that can make your dog’s paws red and sore.
Cold weather can also be an issue. Make sure your dog is well-insulated (jackets and sweaters) and be mindful of ice and snow on the trail.
4. Bring Along A First Aid Kit
You never know what could go wrong on a hiking trip, so it is a good idea to carry a first aid kit for both you and your German Shepherd.
Before you decide to take your dog hiking, visit your veterinarian to familiarize yourself with basic doggie first aid procedures such as how to clean and dress a wound, how to comfort a dog with a fever, how to check for signs of shock, and how to safely remove a tick.
Your vet may recommend that you carry these important things in your GSD first aid kit:
- Bandages and antiseptic wipes
- Sterile saline solution
- Pain reliever
Make sure that your dog has had a preventive spot-on or antiparasitic collar to chase away those pesky fleas and ticks!
5. Know Your Hiking Trail
It doesn’t matter if you are an experienced or first-time dog owner, before you go on your hiking adventure, you have to do a lot of research on the hiking trail.
Familiarize yourself with the trail map and check the trail conditions such as weather conditions, terrain type, leash laws, camping rules, and wildlife.
Keep in mind that German Shepherds are prone to hip and elbow dysplasia. So, do not force your dog to go on steep and rocky terrain that may pose a threat to his overall health.
It is necessary to always be prepared for the unexpected and carry a fully charged phone or another way of communication to get help in case of an emergency.
6. Bring Food And Water
This one goes for both of you! Bring your trail mix, but don’t forget that yummy dog food your German Shepherd is very fond of. Bring water bottles for both of you, especially if you plan to hike for long periods of time.
Additionally, bring high-quality dog snacks to treat your pooch during food and water breaks. Also, do not forget a compact dog bowl for food and a water bowl too.
Your GSD may be so big that it could carry his own water bottle too!
7. Bring German Shepherd Hiking Gear
When hiking with a German Shepherd dog, it’s important to have the proper canine hiking gear to keep them safe and comfortable. This does not only include a comfy, well-fitting harness, jacket, raincoat, and leash, but it also involves paw protectors and I.D. tags.
Not to mention the poop bags! It may not sound like proper hiking gear, but poop bags are necessary on the majority of hiking trails.
When Can German Shepherds Start Hiking?
When it comes to age, German Shepherds can start hiking when they are at around six months old. However, this does not apply to untrained and unsocialized dogs.
It’s best to wait until your German Shepherd has completed their vaccinations and has reached full maturity before taking them on a hike, usually by the age of 18 to 24 months. This will prevent them from acquiring dangerous diseases during hiking or interactions with other dogs and wildlife.
No matter the age, if a dog is not properly trained and does not have hiking etiquette, then it is not a good idea to take him hiking.
The GSD is one of those dog breeds that make pawfect companions wherever they are, and it includes hiking trails, deep forests, and rocky terrains! So, are German Shepherds good hiking dogs? Hell yes!
Hiking is a great bonding activity in which both of you have health benefits! Trust me, with so much healthy physical exercise, you won’t have a fat German Shepherd!
Bring enough food and water, and always bring a first aid kit. And don’t forget to pack a sense of humor, because let’s face it, with a German Shepherd by your side, there’s bound to be some comical moments on the trail.
So, hike away, fellow paw parents!
Read Next: Do German Shepherds Have A High Prey Drive?