Spring is in the air and for many outdoor enthusiasts, it is time to hit the trail. Whether you are a day hiker, backpacker, or long-haul hiker, Spring is like a siren’s call to get out in the wilderness. It is not just you that hears the call. If your Great Dane is also your hiking buddy, he or she hears the call as well.
We all remember when our Danes were puppies and a day on the trail was the adventure of a lifetime. Your Great Dane puppy likely covered twice as much ground as you did on the trail, running ahead to scout the trail and then running back to make sure you were still coming along. Their exuberance is nearly comical.
But as our Danes grow older they are likely to slow down a bit and it may make you wonder if long hikes in the wilderness are still a good idea for your aging Dane. They may seem a little stiff when getting up from a nap, a little less likely to want to play ball, or struggle to get in and out of the car.
So, the question is: How old is too old for your Great Dane to enjoy a day in the wilderness?
The answer to that question depends on you and your Great Dane. It is almost certain that Fido wants to go and it is equally as certain that you will feel guilty if you don’t bring them along. The good news is that many Danes are capable of extended walks even in their senior years, you just have to plan your hikes accordingly.
Consult Your Veterinarian
The first step in planning your hiking season with your Great Dane is a visit to your veterinarian. Make sure that you discuss any mobility issues that you have witnessed in your Dane and that you explain your desire to hike with them. Your veterinarian will be able to advise you as to your Dane’s fitness for the trail.
Most veterinarians will agree that mobility can be improved in older dogs with regular exercise. Even if, like many giant breeds, your Great Dane suffers from osteoarthritis, regular exercise can help. And, while arthritis is not reversible, there are many medical treatments to slow the progression and alleviate the pain.
This is good news for you and your hiking buddy!
Select Appropriate Terrain
While not every aging Dane will get the veterinarian green light to go hike the Appalachian Trail, your vet will likely encourage at least short outdoor excursions for both you and your Dane. The important thing to remember is to plan these excursions with your Dane’s safety and comfort in mind.
So, you may not be able to go on a challenging ten-mile hike with Fido, but you can almost certainly take him to a local state park for a two-mile stroll through the woods. Plan hikes with lots of freshwater sources, like lakes and streams, and consider hikes that have softer and less varied trail treads. Shorter loop trails are often a better choice than long out and backs and more gradual slopes and grades are best.
Follow Fido’s Lead
Your older Dane will likely not exhibit the same level of exuberance as his younger self and it is important that you follow his lead. If he wants to meander down the trail, stopping to smell the roses now and then, slow down and let him have his time in the sun. Let Fido set the pace.
Avoid Ther Heat Of The Day
Time your hikes for cooler temperatures. Like people, older dogs may have more difficulty regulating their body temperature and are more likely to be impacted by extreme temperatures. Early morning and early evening are great times to get out on the trail and will help to keep your Dane from overheating.
Allowing and encouraging your Great Dane to move is a critical component to keeping him happy and healthy as he ages. So, if your veterinarian gives you the green light, by all means, get out there and hit the trail. Just be sure to monitor your Dane and accommodate him when necessary.