Adventure Dogs, Small Dogs

Tips for Hiking with Small Dogs in the Summer

August 31, 2023

Has this summer been crazy where you live?  We got an insane amount of rain.  It felt like we lived in a rainforest!  It rained almost daily, which caused a lot of issues with flooding.  Then, once the rain totals finally started to somewhat return to normal, we got about a week of super hot and humid weather.  Immediately after that, it started to feel like fall!  As you can imagine, all the rain, and then the super hot weather put a damper on summer hiking.  Luckily for us, summer isn’t quite over yet!  Now that Mother Nature has seemingly decided to give us a bit of a break in the crazy weather, we’ve been trying to get in as much summer hiking as possible!

Can You Hike with Dogs in the Summer?

The key to a fun, safe hike with your pooch, no matter the time of the year, is vigilance and preparation.  I know, I know, boring, right?  But each season can present different dangers to your dog that you should be aware of.  An enjoyable hike is one where everyone comes home safely, albeit probably exhausted.  You can hike safely with dogs in the summertime, as long as you prepare and follow safety precautions.

Honestly Assess Your Dogs’ Hiking Abilities

If you haven’t taken your dog hiking for a while, don’t just jump into summer hikes head first.  Hey, I get it.  The warm sunny weather makes most people want to spend more time outdoors.  But, like people, dogs who have not exercised much in a while may not physically be up to embarking on a long hike right off the bat.  Hiking with dogs who are not (yet!) physically up to the challenge is a good way for your dog to get injured.  Start small and work your way up to more rigorous/longer hikes.  Over time your dog will build up stamina and be able to take on more intense hikes.

Be realistic about your dog’s physical condition.  Keep in mind that some dogs, for numerous reasons, just may not be able to tolerate really intense or long hikes.  Be especially careful with older/senior dogs, and young dogs who are inexperienced with hiking.  Older dogs can be especially sensitive to high heat and humidity.  Dogs with long hair or double coats, or those with short muzzles can also overheat easily.  Dogs with very short coats, however, are more prone to sunburn.  Be honest when assessing your dog’s physical condition and hiking abilities, so that you don’t push them too hard during hikes.

hiking small dogs summerKeep a Close Eye on the Weather

This seems like common sense, but how hot is too hot for a dog?  It can depend on a lot of factors, some of which I’ve already mentioned.  Different dogs respond to different temperatures…well…differently!  You have to keep an eye on other factors too, such as the humidity.  This chart shows a general recommendation for what temperatures/humidity levels are too high for dogs.  But, again, think about your individual dog!  My double coated Alaskan Klee Kai, Fenrir, for example, has a pretty low heat tolerance.  He starts getting uncomfortably hot in temperatures that other dogs seem to tolerate well.

Keep an eye on other types of weather as well, such as whether it’s  going to rain or be excessively windy.  We live in an area where a lot of the hiking trails are quite rocky.  I personally avoid hiking on days when I know it’s going to rain because the wet rocks often become slippery.

Hike During Cooler Times of the Day

In the summer the mornings and evenings are usually the coolest parts of the day.  On days that are supposed to get hot, but I really want to hike, I’ll opt for a nice early morning hike.  Just before sunrise seems to be the coolest time of the day.  As an added benefit, not many other people are up that early so you don’t have to worry as much about traffic on the roads or hiking trails!

Choose Terrain Carefully

We live in an area with lots of mountains, which I love!  But when the temperatures are raising I generally try to stick to easy, low elevation hikes.  High altitude hikes are usually more strenuous, and the heat can feel more intense at higher elevations.  Lower elevation hikes have the added benefit of often being closer to bodies of water!  Just be careful to avoid blue-green algae if you allow your dog to play in, or drink from, bodies of water during hikes.

On warmer days, try to select trails with more tree cover.  Temperatures are usually cooler in the shade, and avoiding being out in intense sun can help prevent sunburn (for you and your dog!).

Pack Appropriately

I don’t usually love bringing a ton of things with me when I hike, but when it comes to summer hiking with dogs there are for sure some essentials.

  • Water: And plenty of it!  This is, in my opinion, the most important thing to bring on a summer hike.  Make sure you have enough water for yourself as well as your dog.  Water can be used to help cool your dog down if s/he overheats, so bring extra if you can.
  • Food:  Especially during longer hikes, I always pack at least a snack for my dogs.  Hiking in the heat can deplete energy faster.  My dogs always seem thankful for their hike snacks.
  • Pet First Aid Kit: In the summer I always make sure to include bandanas in my dog first aid kits.  The bandanas can be soaked in water and tied around your dog’s neck to help them cool down.
Protect Your Dog’s Paws!

Affiliate Disclosure

Did you know that dogs can burn their paw pads if they’re exposed to hot surfaces?  In the summer certain surfaces can heat up enough to burn dog’s paws.  Pay special attention to dark surfaces such as pavement and rocks, especially if they are located under direct sun.  You can use products such as Musher’s Secret or dog booties to help protect your dog’s paws from burns.

I don’t normally but boots on my dogs while we’re hiking, but I keep a few pairs of Pawz disposable dog boots in my dog first aid kit.  They are small and easy to carry, fit my small dogs well, and are waterproof.  They work great if you’re on the trail and your dog gets a paw injury that you need to protect from the elements.

Know What Dangers to Look Out For in Your Area

Depending on where you live, you may have location dependent dangers to look out for while hiking.  It’s always a good idea to learn about potentially dangerous animals in your location, such as venomous snakes or large predators.  Some plants, such as poison ivy, oak, and sumac are potential threats too.  If you haven’t already, do your research to learn about potential threats to you and your dog that are relevant to your location.

hiking small dogs summer

Know the Signs of Heat Related Illness

Keep a close eye on your dog while spending time outdoors in the heat.  If your dog is acting slow or tired, that’s usually a good sign that they, in the very least, need a bit  of a break.

Heatstroke can be deadly, so it’s important to know the signs.  If your dog experiences any of the following symptoms it’s important to get them inside in a cool location and contact your vet ASAP:

  • Excessive,  hard panting
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Excessive drooling and/or thicker than normal saliva
  • Disorientation or confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Red or pale mucous membranes such as gums, lips, or tongue
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • High temperature (over 104*F)
  • Collapse, seizure, or coma
Check Out Some of My Other Hiking & Summer Safety Posts:

Comment Below!

Do you hike during the summertime with your dog(s)?  What are some safety tips you follow to keep your own hikes safe and fun?

Kit, Fen, and I hope that everyone enjoys what’s left of the summer.  Happy hiking! 🙂

hiking small dogs summer

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