Are Golden Retrievers Good Hiking Dogs? Training & Pro Tips


If you are tired of the usual walks or runs with your golden and want to try a new form of exercise, you may be thinking of hiking. In this case, good choice! Hiking is actually a great exercise to do with your best friend, but is your dog up for it?

Are golden retrievers good hiking dogs? Yes, golden retrievers are good hiking dogs. Golden Retrievers make for excellent hiking companions because they are smart, obedient, easy to train, have plenty of energy, and can even carry loads. However, goldens are prone to overheat, so they can’t hike for long in warm weather.

But don’t go packing just yet, there are still some training and preparations that you need to do, and some safety tips you need to know to keep your dog safe while hiking.

In this article, I’ll explain everything you possible need to know before you go hiking with your golden retriever, so keep reading…

Why are Golden Retrievers Good Hiking Dogs?

golden retriever on hiking train to explain why are golden retrievers good hiking dogs

There are many reasons that make golden retrievers such excellent hiking dogs, here are a few of them:

  1. They are very energetic
  2. They are easy to train
  3. Strong and can carry load
  4. Have a natural stamina
  5. Enjoy long walks

Let me quickly explain how these reasons make golden retrievers excellent hiking companions:

They are very energetic

Golden Retrievers have a seemingly infinite amount of energy. This is a natural result of their breeding.

They were meant to have so much energy to expend through the day as they needed to retrieve game for their hunters all-day-long. This also means that they won’t have problems going on hikes for miles with you.

If you think your golden isn’t energetic enough, you should first read my post on are golden retrievers lazy and learn if something is really up with your dog before deciding.

They are easy to train

Golden Retrievers are amongst the easiest dog breeds to train because they are the perfect combination of intelligence and willingness to please their owners.

A rare mix that exists in only a handful of dogs with goldens being the top of this list.

Goldens need, on average, just three repetitions to learn a command, which means you will have no problem training them on hiking etiquettes – which we will also get to later in this post.

Strong and can carry a load

Golden Retrievers may look all fluffy, but under their gorgeous golden coats is a strong muscular build.

People sometimes mistake goldens are weak because of their gentle behavior, but goldens are actually quite strong and carry loads during hiking with no problem.

Have a natural stamina

Goldens have a natural stamina which means they can keep a stable level of energy for hours. The trick is in helping them build up their stamina slowly and over the time.

This natural stamina and the capacity to build up stamina over time is why goldens make for such good companions to athletes. We’ll discuss later how to build your dog’s stamina for hiking, and you can learn how to build your dog’s stamina for running in my post on running with your golden retriever here.

Enjoy long walks

Golden Retrievers naturally love spending time with their owners, so they will really like hiking with you for hours.

They naturally like long walks as they get to spend more time with their humans on the outside, and hikes are just another form of exercise for them, so you should expect your golden retriever to like it just as much.

There is something important that we must note here; Goldens don’t like walking when it’s hot, so long hikes in the hot weather are not recommended for golden retrievers.

If it’s just warm, you can take some precautions so your dog doesn’t overheat. You can learn more about helping golden retrievers adapt to hot weather here.

How to Go Hiking with your Golden Retriever?

Before you pack up and take your pooch for a hike, there are some things you need to know. These are:

  • Getting Ready for Hiking:
    • Checking their physical health
    • Revise obedience Commands
    • Learn Trail Etiquette
    • Picking the trail
    • Building up your dog’s stamina
  • Packing for the trail:
    • The backpack
    • The First Aid Kit
    • The tent
    • Other essentials
  • Nutrition and Hydration planning
  • How to keep them safe while hiking (safety tips)

Let’s discuss each of these points in a bit more detail:

Getting Read for Hiking

The first step is to make ready your dog is even ready to go hiking:

Physical Health

Recommended Age: No younger than 16 weeks of age, no older than 8 years.

Your dog should be old enough to go hiking. Young puppies that are less than 16 weeks old can’t go hiking because their bodies are not fully mature yet and the hike can put too much stress on their bones and muscles.

Goldens are also known to develop hip and joint problems after the age of 8 years, so you need to keep this in consideration if your dog is getting near this age or is already older than 8 years old. It’s worth noting here that some golden retrievers have no problem staying active until they are 13 or even 14 years old.

Your dog should also be in a good physical condition and doesn’t suffer from any health issues that makes activities such as running, jogging, or hiking t0o stressful for them.

They should also have had their vaccinations by this age, and they may need other vaccinations that are not mandatory. That’s because out in the nature, your dog is going to be exposed to elements that they are not usually exposed to in the city.

For example, they will need vaccinations against diseases like Leptospirosis and giardia because they may need to drink from ponds on the way which could be contaminated.

Check in with your vet and ask them about the recommended vaccinations before taking the dog for a hike in the area.

Revise Obedience Commands

Take a few days to go over the basic obedience commands like “sit”, “stay”, “settle down”, “stop” and “leave it”. You should also take some time to train them to walk by the side you ask them to walk in.

Learn Trail Etiquette

Humans, dogs, and all other animals on hiking trails need to follow the “leave no trace” rule. Grab some poop bags for your dog and double bag their waste to avoid breaches.

On backpacking trips that last for more than one day, you should bury your dog’s waste in 6-to8- inch holes at least 200 away from any water sources, camps, or trails.

You should also try to enforce the same rule with peeing, but this could be harder, but you should at least be able to prevent them from peeing in or very near any water sources.

Build up your dog’s stamina

Start a routine of day hikes with your dog. Take a one-hour hike with them and see what their energy levels are like after. If your dog is still active after, increase the hiking time to 90 minutes the next time.

Keep doing that until your dog can go hiking for the amount of trail time you are planning with. This can take weeks, but it’s important to take it one step at a time and to never push your dog too hard at once.

Setbacks are also fine, some days your dog will just not have the same energy levels as other days. Give them a day or two to rest and they will be ready to go again.

If they are not, they could still be tired. You can learn why some golden retrievers seem to be always tired here and find out if one of those causes is what’s causing your dog’s low energy.

Packing for the trail

The backpack

For hiking, you really do need to get a dog backpack. The most important thing is to get the right fit for your dog. It should also have a top handle so you can keep your dog close during encounters and creek crossings.

Another important consideration is for the pack itself to be lightweight enough to not add any extra weight.

Recommendation: I’ve tried many backpacks with my dogs, but the one I’ve finally settled on is the one from Outward Hound. It’s lightweight, durable, and it’s easily adjustable. It’s also super affordable for the quality it offers, much better than anything else in this price range.

You ca check the Outward Hound Dog backpack on Amazon here.

How to choose the right fit:

I got the large for my 75-lb pooch and it fits perfectly, but this may not work as well for you. Here is how you choose the right fit for your dog:

  • Measure the circumference of their chest around the widest part of the rib cage
  • Follow the following rules to choose the right size for your dog:
Source: Outward hound

After getting the pack, start training your dog using it. Have your dog wear it around the house without things any it, then start adding some weights to train them on the real thing.

Tips for using the dog backpack:
  • Adjust the straps to snug the pack’s fit
  • Never pull too tight and give your dog room to breath
  • When loading weights, distribute them evenly on both sides otherwise the pack may slip to either side
  • The maximum weight you can add to the pack is 25% of their body weight
  • Take your time training your dog on gradually increasing weights and hiking durations and never go too much at once
  • The straps will eventually go loose while hiking, stop every once in a while to check on them and readjust as necessary.

The First Aid Kit

Accidents can happen on the trail, and when they do, you won’t be able to hop into your car and drive to the vet right away, so you need to have a doggie first aid kit at hand at all times.

You can make your own doggie first aid kit as instructed by the AKC here or just do what I did and get the excellent doggie first aid kit from Tactical freedom. It has everything you have and it’s affordable and ready to use out of the box. You can check this dog first aid kit on Amazon here.

The Tent

You need to make sure the tent is spacious enough to accommodate your pet as well.

You should train your dog to sleep in the tent with you in your backyard before doing the actual hikes if you have space, or you can even do it in the living room if you don’t have an outdoor space.

Other essentials

You will also need to consider additional items depending on the duration of the hikes and the conditions of the trail itself:

  • Dog Boots – Sharp rocks, thorns, and snow can be hurt your dog’s paws. It’s also recommended to pack spares as it’s not uncommon for dogs to lose boots while on the trail. I use the waterproof dog booties from QUMY (Amazon link) and they have been great.
  • Dog Coat – Depending on the weather, your dog may need a coat. Learn more about golden retrievers and cold weather here.
  • Cooling Collar – Golden Retrievers really don’t like the hot weather, so a cooling collar can help them dissipate heat. Something so simple like this dog bandana from Amazon can be enough.

Nutrition and Hydration

Golden Retrievers, and large dogs in general, will need about 0.5 to 1.0 ounces of water per pound (of their weight) per day while hiking.

It’s recommended to keep a separate water container or bottle for your dog while hiking. I use this water container for dogs from Amazon because I really like its smart design that saves water from spilling everywhere, and I recommend you check it out as well.

Keep in mind that these are just guidelines, and your dog may need more water than those recommendations especially if the trail is tough or if the weather has been getting warmer.

For nutrition, your dog will need more food than the usual per day as they need more energy while hiking – just like humans. I recommend discussing with your vet how much food your individual dog will need for a certain hiking trail.

Rule of Thumb while hiking
If you are getting hungry, tired, or thirsty while hiking, it means your dog is, too. Take a break to eat something, hydrate, and catch your breath together when needed.

Important Safety Tips for hiking with dogs

Here are some safety tips that you need to really keep in mind while hiking with your dog:

  • Watch out for heat strokes: IF your dog is panting excessively or sweating through their pads, it’s time for a break. Give them water and some time to catch their breath.
  • Don’t push too hard: Don’t walk too fast or walk for too long without breaks. Watch out for your dog’s breathing and heart rate. If your dog starts limping, that’s it for the day and you will need to stop and continue the next day.
  • Keep them leashed: Keeping them leashed is the best defense against wildlife threats like coyotes, wolves, and so on.
  • Stop them from eating wild plants: Whenever you notice your dog eating, licking, or sniffing wild plants, stop them immediately and ask them to spit what’s in their mouth if you can. Many wild plants can be toxic for your dog.
  • Watch out for Foxtails: Avoid areas with grasses with foxtails and if they get to your dog, remove them right away using tweezers. If you notice excessive head shaking, eye discharge, sneezing, or an abscess, it could mean that foxtails have gotten into the dog’s body and it’s time to head back home right away and get them to a vet as foxtails can be fatal if they get to a vital organ.

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Related Questions

How long can a golden retriever hike?

A fit adult retriever in good health can hike for 5-10 miles per day relatively easily. They will also log more miles while off-leash. However, you should work on building up your golden retriever’s stamina first before you can push them to hike many miles per day.

How many times a day should you walk a golden retriever?

You should walk your golden retrievers at least twice a day for a minimum of 30 minutes at a moderate walking pace. You can reduce the time but increase the intensity of the exercise. You should also give your dog enough time to rest between these sessions.

Is Hiking Good for Golden Retrievers?

Hiking is a good exercise for golden retrievers that they will love. It’s a nice break from the walks and jogs and it gives them a chance to spend some time in the wild to spend nature and the fresh air, which dogs need as much as we do.

Helpful Resources

Hiking With Dogs: 10 Breeds That Make Great Trail Partners

Hiking or Backpacking with Your Dog

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