Pitbulls are one of the most misunderstood breeds of dogs. Although they were bred to fight, that does not mean they are inherently violent. Still, this reputation persists and pitbulls land on lists of restricted breeds all too often.
This might make some people wary of encountering a pitbull out on the trail while hiking. Some pitbull owners may be reluctant to bring their pitbulls along with them as well. You might be worried that your pitbull will get aggressive toward other dogs or fellow hikers.
There may also be other factors to consider when determining if your pitbull is good for hiking. We will look at the various characteristics of pitbulls to determine the good and bad things about hiking with your pitbull.
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Characteristics of Pitbulls
Most people think that all pitbulls are aggressive dogs that love to fight. Historically, pitbulls were bred to fight bulls, bears, and other dogs. But the ability to fight does not mean it is an inherent trait of the breed.
The most aggressive pitbulls are those that have been trained to behave in this manner. A little known fact is that pitbulls will rarely bite a human. Even when fighting in the ring, the handlers were able to separate the dogs without getting bitten.
Although they have a tough reputation, most pitbulls do not make good guard dogs. They are very friendly and have a tendency to welcome anyone who approaches them. They can alert you to approaching strangers but then turn around and try to greet that same person.
However, if a pitbull feels that you are in danger, they are very courageous and will fight to defend you from attacks. They also love attention and need a lot of engagement in the form of exercise and stimulating play.
Pitbulls are medium to large in size with a height of around 18 inches and weights ranging from 30 pounds up to 85 pounds. Although they can be big dogs, they still love to try to curl up on your lap and snuggle with their owners.
Good Things about Hiking with Pitbulls
One of the things that make pitbulls great for hiking is their energetic nature. They are very active dogs that have an abundance of energy that needs to be worked off.
Hitting the trails can be very effective for wearing out a high-energy pitbull and making sure they don’t engage in destructive behavior. Some may think they have a problematic dog on their hands, but they may just need more exercise than usual.
Because pitbulls can hike and run for a long time, they are ideal companions for long hikes out into nature. One hiker even completed the entire 2,200-mile Appalachian trail with his pitbull. This just goes to show pitbulls can keep up with the most intrepid hiker.
Pitbulls also have a need for a lot of exercise throughout their life. Although you don’t want to take very young or old dogs on extended hikes, they will more than likely have much more energy even at an advanced age compared to other breeds. You’ll be able to have a great hiking buddy for many long years if you have a pitbull.
Another positive attribute when it comes to hiking is that pitbulls are very strong, athletic dogs. This allows them to keep up for miles on end and run for long durations of time. Often these dogs can get quite muscular which may come across as intimidating.
But a strong dog doesn’t mean it will necessarily use that muscle against humans or fellow canines. It just shows that your dog is healthy and strong.
When it comes to hiking, pitbulls can wear a pack on their backs and carry some of their own gear. Make sure their pack doesn’t exceed one-third of their total body weight. Just like humans don’t like a heavy pack, your pitbull will appreciate an appropriately weighted pack and it won’t damage their back or joints.
Contrary to popular opinion, pitbulls are friendly, fun-loving dogs. While other hikers might be cautious around your pitbull, chances are your dog will go right up to strangers and want to sniff or get to know them.
Pitbulls are also a family-friendly dog that does well with children. If your family loves to go hiking, getting a pitbull as a pet could work out well. Their high energy means they can play with the kids for a long time without getting worn out.
A well-trained pitbull is also quite gentle around young children and won’t bite or snap at them. However, you should never leave a dog of any breed unattended with a child. These dogs are also loyal to their family and will often protect or defend against threats or wild animals should you encounter any danger.
Pitbulls can tolerate warm weather quite well because they have short fur. As long as they have enough water to drink, they can be out in the heat and active on the trails during the summer months.
Bad Things about Hiking with Pitbulls
One of the main drawbacks of hiking with a pitbull goes back to their misunderstood reputation. Because popular culture often casts them in a negative light, most people just don’t know their true nature as a kind, gentle dog.
So you may encounter other hikers who will be scared of your pitbull upon sight, even if the dog is leashed and well-behaved. Some will go out of their way to avoid you and your dog as a precautionary measure or out of misplaced fear.
This can make it difficult to hike on popular or crowded trails because you may feel the need to put space between your dog and others. Always keep your dog leashed, using a leash no longer than 6 feet long, and make sure your dog stays nearby.
As mentioned, pitbulls are quite friendly and may try to run up to other hikers and greet them. If someone is afraid of your dog, they may react negatively or mistake the dog’s friendliness for aggression. So keep your pitbull nearby to avoid any misunderstandings or negative encounters.
Another challenge to hiking with a pitbull is restrictions for this particular breed. These dogs land on many lists and there may be rules about where this type of dog can and can’t go.
Always check in advance to see if dogs are allowed on a particular train. National parks, in particular, have a lot of rules about dogs on trails. However, they usually don’t restrict based on breed but it can’t hurt to check just in case.
Pitbulls have short hair which is positive for summer hikes. However, they can get chilled in colder weather, making brisk autumn or winter hikes problematic.
If they keep moving, they should be able to stay warm though. You can also put a dog coat on your pitbull to protect them from cold temperatures and wind.
In addition to spending time on hiking trails in the cold being uncomfortable, pitbulls should also not be left outside for long periods of time. If you are backpacking, bring your dog into the tent with you. They will be much more comfortable and can also help keep you warm by snuggling up beside you at night.
Pitbulls are known to have a high prey drive. This means they may want to chase things that move, whether that be a squirrel, bird, or other animals. There is also a chance they may try to chase after runners or cyclists because they misunderstand their movement.
Always keep your dog on a leash and don’t let them stray too far off the trail to avoid chasing wildlife. Make sure your dog is trained enough that it will come when called so you can quickly get your dog back to your side in a dangerous situation.
These dogs also love to chew things and have very powerful jaws. This means toys that aren’t well-made or strong can be destroyed in a short time. They could also be tempted to chew on sticks or other natural debris.
If you’re hiking in an area where the environment is fragile, keep your dog nearby and teach them not to chew on things that could be easily destroyed. Instead, bring some durable toys for them to play with and engage them in a game of tug or fetch instead.
Overall, there are many more good things about hiking with a pitbull than drawbacks. Although they may have a reputation to overcome, there is little reason to be afraid of taking your pitbull along with you on the trails.
With a little advance planning, a well-trained dog should have no problems navigating the outdoors along with you. Just be aware that others may not understand your dog the way you do and take extra steps to make other hikers comfortable.
Because pitbulls are so friendly and have a playful, puppy-like nature even as adults, they will be eager to make new friends. Hopefully their friendly attitude and calm demeanor will win over everyone they encounter and their reputation can transform so they are recognized as the wonderful dogs they are.