Rottweilers are in the top 10 most popular companion canines in America today. Rottweilers are also high energy working dogs who love to play and exercise.
So it nearly goes without saying that there are lots of people out there who want to go hiking with their Rottweilers.
But are Rottweilers good hiking dogs? Is there anything specific you should know before you go hiking with your Rottie for the first time?
Find out in this article.
Are Rottweilers Good Hiking Dogs?
As this amazing article in the Orlando Sentinel highlights, Rottweilers in general can make amazing hiking companions.
But whether your particular Rottie is a wonderful hiking companion will be up to you.
In other words, you will have to socialize and train your Rottweiler to behave properly and safely while on the trail. And it will be important to wait until your Rottweiler is done growing before going on long hikes, as we will talk about more here.
Learn About Trail Etiquette When Hiking With Your Rottweiler
This helpful YouTube video is packed with information about how to prepare your Rottweiler for their first hiking adventure with you.
The tips you will learn in this video are especially important for a large and powerful dog like the Rottweiler. The owner also discusses the right type of leash and how to handle situations where your Rottie may get distracted or overly excited.
Is It Safe to Go Hiking With a Rottweiler?
As this dog owner forum thread in Yahoo Answers highlights, lots of people get worried that their dogs won’t behave well on the trail.
Experienced dog owners state that owner preparation is the key to success when taking your Rottweiler hiking with you. Basically, you have to approach hiking as if you were your Rottweiler, with all the anticipation and excitement your dog will feel.
An overly excited Rottweiler may turn aggressive, run away if let off-leash, and even growl or bark at other hikers or their pets. So it will be up to you to train your Rottweiler in advance to respond appropriately in these situations.
If you are hiking together in the state or national parks, it is even more important to ensure your Rottweiler is well-behaved, because parks that receive state or federal funding have specific guidelines that dogs must follow to be allowed into a park.
For example, this notice on the Texas State Parks website specifically states that dogs entering the park must be leashed and must not be dangerous or noisy.
Since restrictions and requirements can vary from park to park, it is also smart to research any specific requirements for the hiking area you and your dog plan to visit together.
What to Do Before You Go Hiking With Your Rottweiler
Before you go hiking with your Rottweiler for the first time, you will want to make sure to check all of these to-do list items off your preparation list!
1. Make sure your Rottweiler is done growing.
As the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals’ Canine Health Information Center explains, Rottweilers as a breed have known joint issues.
Some of these issues are genetic and some can be caused by trauma to the joints too early in life. For the latter, large breed dogs are particularly vulnerable because of their size and the weight the joints must bear.
The only way to know for sure that your Rottweiler is completely finished growing is to ask your veterinarian to X-ray the long leg bones to check and see if the growth plates have hardened and closed.
Once this occurs, your dog can safely go on longer hikes and do more vigorous exercise without the risk of permanently damaging the joints.
2. Get a current rabies vaccination and make sure all others are up to date.
In addition to the always-present risks of tick bites, snake bites, and encounters with poisonous or irritating plant life, whenever you are out around other animals, there is also a risk of rabies.
You want to be sure your Rottweiler is up to date with the rabies vaccination and all other required or recommended shots and pest control treatments.
3. Learn all the basic commands.
Your Rottweiler should know all the basic obedience commands and perform them flawlessly before you can safely venture out together on the trail.
This is for your safety as well as for your Rottweiler’s safety. And it is also to protect other people, their pets, and wild animals.
Rottweilers are very strong and unless you are also very strong, it can be hard to control a Rottweiler if anything provokes their guarding and protective instincts.
In the same way, you and your dog need to be prepared to encounter other dogs who are not well-trained or well-behaved. This is similar to how you can drive perfectly but cannot control whether another driver is making poor choices behind the wheel.
You just need to do your best to make sure that your Rottweiler is ready for such public encounters and can protect and guard you well without putting you or others in danger.
4. Use the right type of dog leash.
As Rottweiler Aid charity explains, Rottweilers are working dogs with a very long and noble history of working as drovers and draft dogs pulling heavy carts.
So these dogs definitely have the stamina for a long and arduous hike. They can even help carry some of your gear since they are used to carrying packs!
But you want to be sure you choose a leash that will be comfortable for your Rottie and easy for you to use for extra control when needed.
Make sure the collar/leash or harness is heavy-duty. It should have a comfortable handle that doesn’t chafe your hand. Similarly, it should be lined so it doesn’t chafe at your dog’s neck or chest.
Retractable leads can be helpful so you can keep your dog closer to your side during narrow parts of the trail or when other owners and their dogs are nearby.
5. Choose your season carefully.
As Harlingen Veterinary Clinic points out, Rottweilers are working dogs, which means they have the true double layer working-dog coat.
The inner layer of your Rottie’s coat is designed to function much like the down filling in your winter jacket – it is very thick and insulating. For this reason, Rottweilers can be sensitive to hot weather.
If you live in a very warm climate, try to avoid taking long hikes with your dog during the heat of the day or in the middle of summer. Always bring plenty of water for both you and your dog when you are hiking.
Make Sure Your Rottweiler Learns Their Trail A-B-Cs
As Backpacker highlights, you are the one in the best position to decide if your dog is ready to go hiking with you.
All dogs – regardless of age, size or breed – should be able to demonstrate their A-B-Cs before being allowed out on a public hiking trail.
“A” stands for appropriate behavior on the trail. “B” stands for basic commands. “C” stands for controlling impulses.
The best way to evaluate whether your Rottweiler is ready to come with you for longer hikes is to see how they behave on your neighborhood walks. Many of the same provocations that will occur on a trail occur right in your own backyard.
Does your Rottweiler mind you no matter whether a squirrel is taunting them from the nearby tree or the neighbor’s cat has put in a sudden appearance?
Will your dog be able to control their impulse to run, chase, growl, bark, or bite?
Once your dog has demonstrated that they can obey you in every way in local settings with familiar surroundings, this isn’t the time to immediately set out on a long hike.
Next, you need to see how your dog responds with short, time-limited hikes in less familiar terrain. You may find you have some more work to do here because your Rottie will naturally be a lot more excited at all the new sights, sounds and smells!
Preparing for a Longer Hike With Your Rottweiler
As American Hiking points out, you want to be sure you have all the gear you need for you and for your dog before setting out for a longer hike.
First, make sure your dog has I.D. tags and is microchipped – and make sure your contact information is updated in the microchip database!
Bring sufficient food and water for both of you. You may need reflective clothing and a flashlight for evening hikes. Be sure you pack a canine first aid kit as well as one for you.
And don’t forget about poop patrol. You will need enough plastic bags to collect your dog’s waste along the trail. And be sure to bring proof of all current vaccinations in a waterproof trail bag.