Can Rottweilers Hike?

rottweiler on a hike

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Lots of dog owners love for their pooches to accompany them on as many major outings as possible. Depending on the breed of dog you have and your lifestyle, some trips and activities will turn out to be poor choices.

For many active people, hiking is a beloved form of exercise and enjoyment; exactly the type of activity you might hope for your dog to accompany you on.

But hiking can be quite strenuous at times, and it’s not an activity that’s fit for every dog breed.

If your dog is a Rottweiler, you’re probably wondering: can Rottweilers hike?

Rottweilers can absolutely hike! Rotties have excellent endurance and were bred for working outdoors. They’re somewhat tolerant of the heat and very tolerant of cold. Plus, they’re smart enough not to get you in trouble! Be careful with Rottweiler puppies though. Rotties under a year old should refrain from long or strenuous hikes.

Let’s explore the traits Rotties possess that make them great hiking dogs.

While we’re at it, we’ll answer some common questions about hiking with Rottweilers, discuss precautions you should take when doing so, and cover the differences between hiking with pups and adults.

Traits of a Good Hiking Dog

In order to determine whether or not Rottweilers make good hiking dogs, we need to define what makes a good hiking dog in the first place!

Dogs with the following traits will generally make good hiking companions, regardless of breed. If Rottweilers turn out to possess these traits, then we can be fairly certain that they make great hiking dogs.

Endurance

One of the most obvious traits that any hiking dog needs to have is good endurance. The more serious of a hiker you are, the more endurance your dog will need.

When it comes to endurance, hiking dogs need to be well-rounded. They must have the athletic endurance to physically carry themselves across long distances while traversing rough terrain, hillsides, and more.

In addition, hiking dogs must also have a hardy endurance that allows their bones and joints to handle the stress of hikes.

Remember, hikes don’t take place on flat, even terrain.

Rather, most hikes cover rocky, jagged, uneven ground with steep inclines and declines. This type of environment can be rough on a dog’s body.

Large dogs might have an easy time covering long distances, but the extra weight they carry can make it more difficult to traverse the rough terrain and cause more physical damage to the joints and bones along the way.

On the other hand, smaller dogs will accumulate less physical trauma during a hike but are often more limited in regards to the overall distance they can travel.

Weather Tolerance

Since hiking takes place outside, you’re always subject to the whims of nature. That means you could encounter just about any type of weather conditions while you’re out on the trail.

Granted, most people are paying at least some attention to the weather and choosing primarily to hike on days when the weather is tame and mild.

Still, if you hike with any sort of regularity, you will be exposing your dog to hot days in the summer sun as well as cold days in the frigid winter air. Sometimes, you might even see snow, rain, or sweltering temperatures.

Not every dog is going to handle these conditions well. Some dogs won’t handle them at all.

You’ll find that many breeds are weather-averse. They might do poorly with heat, cold, or both.

You can still hike with a dog that’s not good in all weather; you just have to pay more attention to when and where you’re hiking and what the conditions are like when you go.

But the best hiking dogs are very weather tolerant, able to withstand a variety of weather conditions without any serious adverse effects. These dogs can hike in the heat, cold, rain, and anytime that you’re willing to brave the elements yourself.

Intelligence and Training

When thinking about the traits that make up a good hiking dog, intelligence is often not considered, but a dumb dog can actually get you hurt out on the trail.

Hiking often takes place on trails with lots of exposure, which means that there’s a large drop-off on one side of the trail.

Additionally, these trails are covered with jagged and sometimes loose rocks, creating many tripping hazards.

If your dog isn’t smart, they could easily do something in one of these precarious locations that could cause you to get hurt.

For instance, your dog might walk right off the path, mistaking the route they’re supposed to take and pulling you off trail in the process.

Another possibility is that they simply step in the wrong spot, causing loose rocks to roll and fall. This would cause your dog to slip, and if they fall far enough, you could be pulled along as well.

Of course, not everyone is hiking on exposed or rugged trails.

Even so, when you encounter another dog on the trail, your dog might react poorly if they’re not well trained, becoming a liability for you in the process.

If your dog lunges at another dog unexpectedly, it could cause all sorts of problems out on the trail.

I’ve even seen dogs going at each other on parts of the trail where it’s difficult to even walk, which is just a recipe for a disaster waiting to happen.

Agility and Reaction Speed

Your dog must be smart enough to pick the right steps to take, but on the trail, sometimes stepping in the right place isn’t enough. When what’s underfoot decides to move, your dog is going to need excellent reaction speed to deal with it.

Plus, to navigate that terrain without getting hurt, your dog will need to be quite agile. They don’t need to be winning agility competitions mind you, but an agile dog that’s quick with their reactions and sure-footed will do much better on the trail than slower, less agile dogs.

Are Rottweilers Good Hiking Dogs?

At this point, we’ve established the criteria for a good hiking dog. Now, we have to determine whether Rottweilers meet these criteria or not to determine if they make good hiking companions.

Bred to Work Outside

Rottweilers have a long history of performing hard work outside. In fact, that’s what the breed was first created for!

Way back in the days of the ancient Romans, we’re talking about a time that’s well over a thousand years in the past, Rottweilers were one of the earliest breeds branched off from the great Molosser dogs of old.

The Molossers were the impressive Greek canines used for a wide range of tasks including farm work and guarding livestock. These dogs were such massive, imposing beasts that they were even used in the Greek and Roman armies as war hounds.

Rottweilers and other bully breeds were created out of these original Molossers, and they were built to perform pretty similar jobs.

In the beginning, Rottweilers were primarily used for guarding livestock and driving them to market.

They were such big dogs that they could defend the herd from dangerous predators like bears and wolves, but these Rotties were also smart enough to be used for herding work.

Excellent Endurance

Herding, livestock guarding, and other farm jobs that Rottweilers were used for are all difficult jobs that span all day.

Thanks to many generations of dogs performing such jobs, the Rottweiler breed developed incredible endurance. They’ve been able to work long days at physically demanding jobs since the beginning, and the results of such hard work are still visible in most Rottweilers today.

That’s why these dogs tend to be so impressive!

You can just look at the muscular physique of a healthy Rottweiler and tell that they’re strong, capable dogs, but it’s all those generations of hard physical work that gives them the all-day endurance that makes them excellent hiking dogs. While they may not be the fastest breed, they’re still more than capable of running and hiking.

Weather Tolerant

As we’ve discussed, Rottweilers were basically bred to work outside. Many generations of these hardy pooches have spent their lives working out in the fields, herding and guarding livestock.

Naturally, this means that they had to become rather resistant to weather. Farming is an all-year business, so there are no days off, no matter how bad the weather gets.

You’ll often discover that even dogs bred to work outside are limited to specific climates.

For instance, Huskies and Alaskan Malamutes, though excellent in a cold climate, are terrible hiking dogs anywhere it gets hot in the summer.

Rottweilers, on the other hand, are pretty much all-weather canines but do especially well in the cold and snow.

However, because of their black coat that attracts extra heat, stocky build, and sometimes short snout Rotties aren’t always the best suited for extremely hot weather.  If it’s too hot to walk your Rottie then it’s certainly too hot to hike and if you aren’t sure then it’s always best to play it safe.

Quick Reactions

When you see a big, muscular, stocky dog like a Rottweiler, agile isn’t usually the first word that comes to mind. You might instead think of lumbering, powerful, or strong, but swift and agile aren’t commonly associated with big Rottweiler-sized dogs.

However, you might want to reconsider. Rottweilers are actually very agile and swift dogs, especially when you take their large stature into consideration. They can even do well in agility competitions!

I know, this can be hard to believe! Don’t worry, you don’t have to take me at my word. This video of a Rottweiler crushing an agility course is proof that even though they’re large, Rotties are still agile dogs with quick reactions!

https://youtu.be/nAnD16GVK0c

Rottweilers Are Very Smart

As we discussed earlier, hiking dogs need to be pretty intelligent. Luckily, Rottweilers certainly meet this requisite.

You may not look at a Rottweiler and think their appearance screams intelligence, but in reality, they’re one of the smartest breeds out there.

When ranked by intelligence, Rottweilers are the ninth smartest of all dog breeds!

While that might be surprising to people who don’t have Rotties in the family, most Rottweiler owners already know that their Rotties are highly intelligent and easy to train.

Limitations for Rottweiler Puppies

Shortly after adding a puppy to the family, you’re probably wanting to bring it on all sorts of adventures, including your hikes. You were hoping to find a good hiking companion in your Rottweiler, after all.

Unfortunately, you can’t just head out and start hiking with your Rottweiler puppy. The distance and terrain can be damaging for a growing puppy’s body; especially in a breed that tends to be heavy and large like a Rottweiler.

By the time your Rottie is three months old, it could easily weigh over 30 pounds. In many other breeds, 30 pounds would be a mature adult, and these dogs could handle longer hikes without any issue.

Rottweilers are a different story though, as are puppies.

Your Rottie puppy won’t be capable of a two-mile hike at this stage, even though they might look physically capable. Such a hike has the potential to create joint and bone problems for your Rottweiler further down the line.

Having said that, a single hike of this length probably isn’t going to cause severe damage, but repeating this type of activity when your Rottie is so young could have detrimental consequences.

That’s not to say that you can’t take your Rottweiler puppy for hikes at all. Even young Rotties need lots of exercise, but it’s best to stick primarily to activities that won’t cause any damage to your dog’s joints.

Long hikes should be reserved for once your dog is mature. Rottweilers will be fully mature around 18 months of age, and at this point, your Rottweiler should be able to safely hike without fear of causing damage.

When your Rottie is younger, you should keep your walks and hikes short and make sure they’re not too strenuous, but you can take on short trails while your Rottweiler is still a puppy.

Just be aware of your puppy’s limitations and keep the distance and intensity of your hikes mild until your Rottweiler reaches adulthood.

How Far Can Rottweilers Hike?

Same as people, every Rottweiler is different, and every Rottie will be capable of hiking different distances and trails.

When a Rottweiler is in good shape and health, they can hike long distances of many miles.

Keep in mind, we’re talking about a breed that has been successfully used in search and rescue many times, which is a job that can require a dog to cover many miles in a single shift that could easily last eight hours.

But your individual Rottie’s abilities are going to depend on several factors.

First, age is something to consider. A young adult Rottweiler might be able to hike without causing damage, but they still might not have the endurance built up to cover long distances.

On the other hand, a senior Rottweiler might be an experienced hiker but lack the physical stamina at this age to go on the long, strenuous hikes they used to manage with ease.

You also need to account for your dog’s hiking experience. When a dog first starts hiking, they’re not going to be able to travel the same distances that an experienced hiking dog will be able to cover.

Don’t forget to factor in things like the terrain you’re hiking and weather conditions.

Steep terrain with loose rocks can be much more strenuous and take a lot more energy, reducing the overall distance you can travel.

Similarly, your dog will have a harder time traveling when it’s really hot out or possibly even when it’s cold.

Your Rottie’s weight will also need to be considered. The heaviest Rottweilers’ joints will sustain more damage during a hike than those that are a bit lighter.

For a healthy adult Rottweiler with hiking experience on a day with decent weather, distance won’t be much of a factor. As long as the dog has built up to the distance you plan to cover, even long distances of many miles should be ok.

Younger dogs will need to start with shorter, less strenuous hikes though. Even an 18-month Rottie that’s in great health should be hiking only two to three miles until they’ve had the chance to build up the endurance and stamina necessary for longer hikes.

As a Rottweiler starts to get on in years, you may need to taper down the distances of your hikes. After the age of eight, your Rottweiler might have trouble with long or steep hikes, so you’ll need to start choosing easier terrain and possibly limiting hikes to a few miles or shorter.

How Long Can Rottweilers Hike?

Once again, the amount of time your Rottweiler can safely spend hiking depends on quite a few factors; the same factors that determine what distance your Rottie can cover.

Rottweilers were bred for all-day work. They’ve even excelled in search and rescue work which can require eight-hour shifts of non-stop hard work.

That is to say, if your Rottie is in good shape and health, they should be able to hike for many hours without issue, provided you bring along the essentials and the weather permits.

Again, you’ll have to account for your Rottie’s age, hiking experience, physical condition, and the type and condition of the trail you plan to hike.

Inexperienced or out of shape Rottweilers should stick to shorter hikes on less strenuous trails, but healthy Rottweilers in good shape should be able to hike with the best of them, covering long stretches of trail without issue.

Precautions to Take When Hiking with a Rottweiler

Even though Rottweilers make great hiking dogs, a few precautions can make the entire process much safer.

Start Small

When your Rottweiler first starts hiking, even though they might have boundless energy levels, don’t overdo the hike. Their bodies need to adapt to cover such long distances, so start with short hikes that are easy for your Rottie to manage.

Long hikes cause repeated impacts on your Rottie’s joints and bones. Even though they might be able to physically handle the distance, the accumulated impacts aren’t helpful.

Your Rottie’s body needs to become accustomed to these impacts. Overdoing it before your Rottie’s body has a chance to get used to these impacts and adept at recovering from them could cause unnecessary damage.

Remember, Rottweilers are already susceptible to joint problems like elbow and hip dysplasia. Hiking long distances before your Rottweiler’s body has a chance to adapt could contribute to the development of such conditions.

Pay Attention to Ground Temperatures

Rottweilers are rather weather-tolerant dogs, but even Rotties have sensitive paw pads.

When it’s hot out, the ground is often hotter, particularly when you’re on paved walkways, whether they’re concrete or asphalt.

We’re talking about a huge disparity here. When the ambient air temperature is just 87 degrees Fahrenheit, asphalt can be as hot as 143 degrees!

Even the trail can be hot though, so make sure you hike during the times when the sun isn’t baking the ground to scorching temperatures.

A good rule of thumb is to make sure you can comfortably hold your palm to the ground for at least 10 seconds. If you can’t do that, then your Rottweiler will need some boots to keep their paws safe during your hike.

Watch Your Rottie’s Reactions

Your Rottie’s reactions can alert you to how they’re feeling.

For example, when your Rottweiler starts panting an excessive amount, you know that they’re likely starting to overheat. At this point, you should seek some shade and offer your Rottie some water.

You can also use your Rottie’s reactions to help gauge the proper distance to hike with them. If they start showing signs of slowing down or acting tired, then you’ve probably reached the maximum distance that your Rottie should be hiking.

Bring Plenty of Water

This is just a general rule of hiking with dogs, but it’s one that people forget all too often.

It’s impressive how much water a thirsty dog can consume, and large dogs like Rottweilers can drink the most.

You can expect your Rottie to drink nearly as much water as you do on your hike, which means you need to plan accordingly!

You’ll need to bring a water dish and plenty of water for your Rottweiler whenever you hike. These are essential items that should never be left at home!

Final Thoughts

Not all dogs are well suited for hikes, but Rottweilers possess all the traits that make a great hiking dog. They have impressive endurance, above-average intelligence, and they’re tolerant of most weather conditions.

Just remember not to overdo it in the beginning. Let your Rottie’s body become accustomed to hiking by slowly ramping up the distance over time as your Rottweiler gets used to hiking.

Also, keep in mind that hiking should be kept to a minimum for growing puppies since overdoing it could contribute to joint and bone problems in young Rottweilers.