Spending time outdoors has been proven to improve mental health and overall wellbeing and adding a canine companion to your travels is a great way to make hiking even more fun.
Just like people, dogs enjoy a variety of different activities and for hikers considering bringing a canine companion along for the adventure, it’s important to understand the breed and the best conditions for each individual dog.
Siberian Huskies, often simply referred to as Huskies, are the ideal hiking companion due to their outstanding physical prowess, friendly and outgoing demeanor, and unyielding loyalty. Understanding the breed, their health considerations, and what types of activities they excel at will create an ideal lifelong hiking buddy.
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Health Considerations in Siberian Huskies
Siberian Huskies are relatively healthy dogs with an average lifespan of 12-14 years. However, pet owners considering bringing a Husky home should be aware that this breed is prone to a genetic condition of the bones and joints known as elbow or hip dysplasia.
Dogs diagnosed with this condition have irregular growth of the ball and socket joint, causing the femur and the adjoining socket of the pelvis to grow at disproportionate rates. This irregular growth pattern results in laxity of the joint which can lead to degenerative joint disease or osteoarthritis.
Dogs diagnosed with the condition may have diminished hiking abilities, but owners can provide a variety of supportive care options to their pet in the form of feeding a balanced diet for each stage of life, adding joint support supplements, or taking advantage of veterinary rehabilitation services.
Slow, controlled hikes on level terrain may actually be beneficial to dogs diagnosed with hip dysplasia as movement helps reduce stiffness and swelling of the joints.
Siberian Husky owners should schedule their dog for a thorough veterinary exam before hiking to ensure they are physically fit for the activity and always be mindful to monitor their pets along the trail. Affected dogs may display symptoms of pain such as limping, lethargy, or being slow or unable to rise after periods of activity.
Huskies Love Physical Activity
Hiking is one of the best physical activities owners can do with their Siberian Husky to keep them physically active, fit, and healthy. Originally bred as working dogs that pulled large sleds of supplies through the snow, Huskies can enjoy hiking for many miles making them the ideal companion for long distance hikers.
Owners setting out on lengthy hikes or multi-day excursions should schedule a veterinary appointment for their Husky before setting out to ensure they are healthy for hiking.
Additionally, owners should pack enough supplies for the hike including plenty of fresh drinking water, snacks and meals, collapsible bowls, a leash and collar with identification tags, pet first aid kit, and canine hiking gear such as booties for rough terrain.
Consider a Canine Hiking Pack
Hikers looking to lighten their own load may want to consider trying out a canine hiking pack for their Husky to carry some of their own gear. Like most working dogs, Huskies have a strong, muscular physique and can be easily trained to wear a hiking pack to carry their own supplies without overexerting themselves.
Canine hiking packs should be appropriately fitted following manufacturers guidelines and should never be used to carry more weight than recommended as this may cause back pain or other physical injuries to Siberian Huskies.
Additionally, using a canine hiking pack requires a bit of training and owners should familiarize their dog with the pack before hitting the trail to make sure this is the right option for hikers and their dogs.
Mental Stimulation for Siberian Huskies
In addition to getting plenty of physical exercise, Huskies are a highly intelligent breed that require daily mental stimulation to keep them happy and healthy.
Notoriously known for their mischievous nature and headstrong personality, Huskies require at least 1-2 hours of mentally stimulating activities each day and incorporating these into hiking can be a great way to keep dogs out of trouble.
Hiking in and of itself is a great mentally stimulating activity for dogs as it introduces them to new sights, sounds, and smells that keep their brains focused and functioning. For hikers looking to incorporate even more mentally stimulating activities to their hike, working on tasks that require concentration like obedience and recall training can be a great way to keep dogs mentally active.
Off Leash Hiking with Huskies
While Huskies can make great off leash hiking companions, owners should be aware that this will likely require a great deal of training as this breed possesses a high prey drive that may pose a threat without proper recall training.
On the other hand, a Husky’s outgoing personality and friendly temperament help them easily make friends along the trail with other dogs as well as hikers. Each trail has different guidelines when it comes to off leash hiking with dogs and owners should ensure they have researched the rules and requirements prior to their hike.
Siberian Huskies Love Cold Weather
Originally hailing from the frigid region of Siberia, these dogs don’t only enjoy cold weather, they thrive in it!
As one of the many dog breeds possessing a dense double coat, Huskies are able to withstand freezing temperatures easily and are often found rolling and frolicking around in the snow. Winter offers these dogs their ideal weather condition and owners have often reported these headstrong dogs as refusing to come inside when the weather is “nice.”
Conversely, Siberian Huskies are not great candidates for warm weather activities due to their unique haircoat. While owners may think shaving a double coated dog will help keep them cool in the summer, this can actually disrupt the function of the haircoat, making it more difficult for dogs to regulate their body temperature and should be avoided.
Owners are encouraged to follow proper grooming techniques to preserve the function of the coat by routinely brushing their Husky to keep the coat free of moisture, debris, and mats.
Camping with Siberian Huskies
For owners taking part in multi-day hikes or camping excursions, Huskies can make the ideal camping partner. In addition to providing companionship for their owners, Huskies are very adaptable to new surroundings and make friends with almost anyone they meet.
However, owners should be aware that this breed often expresses themself through vocalization and may often howl or bark excessively, making for some not so happy campers should anybody be nearby.
Owners wanting to incorporate camping into their hikes should ensure their Siberian Husky is never left unattended, especially during nightfall as Huskies have a high prey drive which may put them at risk for chasing wildlife and getting lost in the woods.
Anyone considering camping with a dog should ensure they follow proper socialization techniques from a young age to provide the best camping experience for both dogs and their owners.
High Elevation Hiking with Huskies
Siberian Huskies are one of the best dog breeds around when it comes to high elevation hiking, but just like humans they will require proper training before participating in these types of hikes. As with humans, Huskies can be prone to altitude sickness and serious health complications can occur if they are not properly conditioned to high elevation hiking.
Owners training their Siberian Husky for high elevation hiking should always keep their dog on a leash to control speed when first starting out and increase altitude very gradually. High elevation hiking can quickly cause dehydration in hikers and their pets and Huskies should be encouraged to take plenty of water breaks.
A good rule of thumb is that every time a hiker takes a drink of water, they should also offer water to their dog.
Elevation hikers should consult with their veterinarian before attempting high elevation hikes with their Siberian Husky and ensure they know the risks of high altitude hiking for themselves and their pets before hitting the trail. Symptoms of altitude sickness in pets include labored breathing, nausea/vomiting, excessive panting, pale gums, increased heart rate, and collapse.
Siberian Huskies can make the ideal trail companion for avid hikers that have time to dedicate to training and enrichment for their canine companion. This friendly, loyal, and active breed possess unyielding endurance and stamina that help them excel at hiking and keeping their owners safe and happy while building memories on the trail that will last a lifetime.