When you think of different breeds of dogs that make good hiking companions, one breed that is probably not on your radar is that of the humble Yorkshire Terrier. And you may be totally right in thinking so depending on the size and temperament of the Yorkie you have in mind.
But as someone who has a 10-year-old Yorkie who’s been my companion for the last 5 years, I can attest that Yorkies are in fact hiking buddy material.
Why would I even want to bring a small dog hiking with me, you might ask.
Well, why not?
My Yorkie is my companion and my best friend, so I take him wherever I can. Bringing your Yorkie with you on a hike can be a very rewarding experience, as it is for me. But there are, of course, a few things you should keep in mind when bringing a Yorkie along with you on a hike.
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A fast and dirty list of things to be sure to have on your hike and be mindful of are:
- Walking Harness- because Yorkies are prone to collapsing trachea clipping a leash to their collar is not recommended.
- Leash (never use a retractable leash!)
- Collapsible Silicone Bowl or Portable Dog Water Bottle- giardia is no joke.
- Water- plenty for you and your pet.
- Snacks- in case you’re on a longer trek.
- Protective Wear as needed- be mindful of the temperature and possible sun exposure.
- Old Towel or Backseat Dog Hammock- for your tired, happy, dirty Yorkie to snooze on the ride home.
Hiking Expectations With a Yorkie
Like with most dogs, you have to be realistic about their capabilities. Do they get hot or cold easily? Can they handle longer walks or are they done after about 30 minutes? Are they good with other dogs? Do they have any physical limitations?
More specifically, do they have any of the common Yorkie traits of a sensitive GI system, an urge to run away the second your back is turned, predisposition to collapsing trachea, luxating patellas, and an insatiable need to hunt vermin? And how big are they?
My Yorkie, Tate, is roughly 13 pounds, long-legged, and thin with two luxating patellas (one more severe than the other but both managed well). He can manage 2 miles easy enough but taking him on a 5-mile hike would probably be a no-go.
Weather permitting, we usually walk for at least 30 minutes every day. He’s a friendly guy who loves meeting other dogs and people on walks and hikes. But he does fall under some of the common Yorkie traits, such as he has a sensitive GI system, is a general flight risk, and has no issues pulling a snake out of a bush.
He also has some typical small dog aging issues like early signs of collapsing trachea.
If you’re unfamiliar, collapsing trachea is a common issue for smaller dogs as they age where their tracheas begin to lose their strength and rigidity making their trachea weak and flatten when they inhale. This is not to be confused with the common reverse sneeze you’ll often hear smaller dogs make.
Collapsing trachea will cause a dog to have a loud, honking cough or a general persistent dry cough when they’re excited, when pressure is made to their throat, or after eating and drinking. It is for this reason that small dogs, like Yorkies, may have special issues that need to be considered before going on a hike for the first time.
Use a Harness
If you don’t already have your Yorkie walking on a harness, it is time to make that switch. Besides helping to keep your dog from pulling excessively, a harness will also decrease the likelihood of pressure being put on a dog’s trachea.
No matter where you are walking or hiking with your dog, you should always keep them on a leash and harness.
For Yorkies, this is doubly important. If your Yorkie has the impulse to run off into the wild in search of every smell and critter that moves, then keeping them leashed should be an obvious no-brainer.
But even if you are lucky enough to have a loyal Yorkie who will stay by your side no matter what, it’s still encouraged to keep them leashed. This helps you, the owner, keep them close and therefore in arms reach in case you need to pick them up quickly out of harm’s way. It also helps if you are traipsing on more difficult terrain.
When I recently hiked a canyon that is part of the southern point of the Appalachian mountains, we had to make our way through tight rock formations, over a few creeks, and up and down slick stone paths.
Tate was a champ at climbing rocks and going through every tight little space, but having him on a leash meant he couldn’t wander off into a tight area I couldn’t get him out of.
Yorkies and Wildlife
However, it should be noted to avoid using retractable leashes. Retractable leashes can be a hazard to you, your pet, and the people around you. They are not as secure as a traditional leash and not worth the extra cost.
Also, ever gotten a rope burn from one of those? It’s not fun.
If you didn’t already need all those reasons to keep your Yorkie on a leash, you may also want to consider the fact that Yorkies are, after all, terriers. And terriers in general were bred to hunt vermin.
My Yorkie, Tate, has no problems pulling a baby rat out of the ground or going after a poor vole that ventured above ground. He’ll go after anything- squirrels, snakes, birds- you name it, he’ll hunt it.
And depending on where you hike, these are factors to keep in mind. You’re better off keeping your little friend close by on a short leash so you can better watch out for any of the plethora of vermin who may interest them. A leash is also a great way to keep any dog-related items you may need close by.
I always keep a few items clipped to Tate’s leash including poop bags, pepper spray (to protect us both), and a silicone collapsible water bowl.
Bring Plenty of Water
And on the topic of water, bring your own! Even though stagnant water is generally what you have to be wary about when it comes to your four-legged friend taking a refreshing sip, when you have a Yorkie that is prone to intestinal issues you should always err on the side of caution.
This is why I love keeping a collapsible silicone bowl that has a carabiner attached to it that easily clips to a leash. There are an abundance of both collapsible dog bowls and portable dog water bottles for walking and hiking with your dog to choose from at pet stores or online.
I prefer the bowl as it gives me more freedom to just bring a single large bottle for myself and my dog. Be sure to keep both you and your four-legged friend hydrated on any hike. And for that matter, for longer hikes be sure to bring snacks!
Can Yorkies Hike In Any Weather?
While you may not have to worry about a Yorkie overheating as fast as say, a black Labrador Retriever, it is still smart to consider the temperature before making a trek with your Yorkie.
Yorkies come in a variety of colors, some lighter and some darker, and depending on the length of their coat certain factors need to be considered. If your Yorkie has thinner hair, it may be a good idea to use a little SPF.
And before you go grab the Banana Boat, it’s a no for human SPF lotions. You can often find SPF wipes made for dogs at your local pet store or online. Be mindful of whether or not you’re hiking in an area where you’re mostly exposed, or if you’re under canopy cover.
If you will be hiking in an area with little shade on a warmer day, be sure that you’re not on concrete or pavement that could scorch your Yorkies paws.
However, if heat is that much of a concern or even a question, it’s often best to leave your friend at home or plan to hike during a time of day where the heat won’t be an issue. Heatstroke is no laughing matter and can easily occur in dogs.
The same goes for cold: if tolerable, a sweater or a jacket would likely keep your friend warm but if the ground has snow or ice it’s likely to cause snow or ice to pack around your dog’s paws if they don’t have footwear. Any extreme, hot or cold, should be avoided for a Yorkie hiking buddy.
The Ride Home
Another item that should already be in your vehicle if you’re an active dog parent is either a backseat dog hammock or an old towel or sheet. Just because your dog might be a small and cutesy Yorkie doesn’t mean they won’t get absolutely filthy after a hike.
If anything, being lower to the ground means they pick up even more dirt and grime. But isn’t that just proof of a good time?