Golden retrievers are one of the most popular dog breeds in a number of countries, particularly Western countries, and the breed has been officially recognized by kennel clubs for more than one hundred years.
Although the name and history imply that the dog would be used for hunting or other similar sports, the modern idea of a golden retriever is much different. They are seen as gentle giants, goofy and fun-loving dogs with beautiful golden hair, floppy ears, and an impressive degree of popularity on social media.
This isn’t to say that people don’t consider goldens to be working dogs anymore; they are a popular breed for guide dogs, other service dogs, and therapy dogs. It’s also not uncommon for golden retrievers to participate in “dog sports”, like agility courses and obedience trials.
But none of these things necessarily harken back to their history as outdoor athletes; they could easily have turned into silly and playful companion dogs over the decades and lost their previous drive to work or be outdoors.
In fact, the golden retriever has retained many of the traits for which it was originally bred, including its love of outdoor activities. It’s also an excellent companion, and its patient and friendly nature makes it a popular dog for families with children.
As a result, a golden will always be happy to join its family in any adventure they want to go on, whether it be swimming, running, playing at the park, or (as we’re about to discuss) hiking.
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Are Golden Retrievers Good Hiking Companions?
Golden retrievers are so popular, in part, because of their versatility as a pet. They are affectionate enough to enjoy every moment they spend with you at home, but they are also athletic enough to accompany you on any sort of physical outdoor excursion.
This makes them perfect hiking companions, for a number of reasons.
Most people think of golden retrievers as happy, energetic dogs, and this is almost always true. From puppyhood straight through to senior age, golden retrievers are excited to do things and be with you, and that energy is easily spent on a nice long hike.
Because they are strong and medium-large in size, they will easily keep up with you and can tolerate at least as long a hike as you can, if not longer. This strength also allows them to carry some weight, which can be useful on a trek; they can even wear a backpack and carry their own water on hikes.
Golden retrievers are also fairly easy to train, because they have enough intelligence to learn well while also being motivated by their strong drive to please their owner. This means that the potential behavioral issues which can interfere with a hike, such as pulling, prey drive, reactivity to other dogs, and so on, can easily be eliminated with a golden retriever.
And finally, golden retrievers have the stamina and endurance to take just about any length of hike, at any pace, and have energy to spare when you get home. They love long outings, both because they enjoy the exercise and the adventure and because they love spending time with you.
Even a golden who is new to hiking should be able to take a pretty decent hike with you, and after some endurance training and practice, they will happily accompany you on the trails for hours.
How Far Can Golden Retrievers Hike?
Due to the size and energy level of a golden retriever, they are usually able to hike for a long distance. However, there are a few important things to note before we discuss the appropriate length for a hike.
The first thing to note is that golden retriever puppies should not be hiked until they reach their full adult size. This is because young dogs can cause damage to their joints if they overexert themselves while they are still growing, and this can lead to improper development or to more serious issues down the line.
It’s tempting to let a golden retriever puppy tire itself out with serious exercise, since they’re so full of energy, but it’s best to wait to keep them as healthy as possible.
It’s also important to remember that, due to their coat, goldens can have a hard time with physical activity in certain types of weather. They love being active and are desperate to please you, so if your golden doesn’t seem to feel like hiking, they probably have a good reason and it’s best not to push them.
As strong and relatively large dogs, golden retrievers are able to hike for long periods of time and far distances, and it’s not unreasonable to expect a ten mile hike or even more to be achievable for them.
However, if you’re a serious hiking enthusiast who wants a companion for really taxing journeys, it’s important to help your dog build up their stamina first.
In the beginning, you should try your dog on a one-hour hike, at most, and see how they do. If their energy is good and they don’t seem too tired after you get home, you can add thirty minutes the next time you go for a hike.
Continue increasing the length of the hike until your dog appears tired afterwards, and then maintain that length until they adjust to it and are able to increase the hike again. By helping them build up to it slowly, you’ll end up with a healthy and happy little athlete who is well-conditioned to hike with you for hours.
What Weather Can Golden Retrievers Hike In?
Golden retrievers are well known for their striking golden hair, which has been part of their name through its various iterations, beginning in the 1910’s. The man who first bred golden retrievers from flat-coated retrievers and tweed water spaniels listed them as a variant of the flat-coat: “flat-coated retriever, golden”.
Later, they were considered to be too far removed from the flat-coated retriever, and they were renamed as “yellow or golden” retrievers.
Eventually, the beginning qualifier was dropped, and they were left with the name “golden retriever”, which they still hold with all official kennel clubs today.
Their famous look comes from their double coat, which consists of a dense undercoat and a long, feathered outer coat. The outer coat has the golden color for which they are named, while the undercoat adds volume and, more importantly, weather resistance.
Thanks to their undercoat, golden retrievers are able to hike in cold, wet, or windy weather without feeling uncomfortable at all. In fact, on snowy winter days, many golden retrievers have fun rolling around and burying themselves in the snow.
The tradeoff here is that, while golden retrievers are able to hike in cold winter weather, rain, snow, and other extreme situations, they do not do very well with heat. In summer months, or any time it is hot, dry, and sunny outside, your golden retriever can overheat quickly and become unwilling to hike.
You can still spend time outdoors with them as long as you make sure they have access to shade and fresh water, as needed, but don’t expect them to be able to tolerate a very long trek if the temperature is high.
Preparing for A Hike with Your Golden Retriever
There are a few things you can do to prepare for hiking with your golden retriever, in order to make it more efficient and more enjoyable for everyone.
The first thing to do is make sure that your dog is physically ready for hiking.
This means taking them when they are old enough – fully grown or close to fully grown and at least a few months old, if not a year – but not too old.
Many golden retrievers begin to develop joint issues as they get older, and although there is no set age at which they cannot hike anymore, it’s important to keep an eye on their physical health to make sure they’re still up to the task.
You can also help them to build up their hiking stamina, as mentioned earlier, so that they are ready not just for a hike, but for a long hike.
The other thing is to make sure that your dog is mentally ready for hiking. This mainly involves training, so that they can respond to basic obedience commands from you as necessary on the trail.
For example, making sure that your dog knows how to “sit” and “stay”, how to “leave it”, and how to “settle down” will come in very handy if you find yourself needing to deter them from picking things up on the hike or getting too excited about the other animals you might see.
Finally, you’ll want to be sure to pack water, for yourself as well as the dog, and some basic first aid supplies, especially if the hike will be a long one. Once you’re all packed, you and your golden will be set for a great day on the trails together.