I absolutely love hiking with the girls. They have the best time chasing squirrels and chipmunks, and I have the best time watching them. And the bonus is that we all get a GREAT workout.
Things to consider when you take your dogs hiking.
Find a forest where you are allowed to have your dogs off leash. Check with state/federal parks for places where you can take your dogs. If you are in a large city, this may mean that you will have to drive quite a distance to find something suitable. No matter where you go, respect the area. Always leave a forest exactly how you found it.
Sharing the Trail
Be prepared to see other hikers, other dogs, mountain bikers, dirt bikers, people on quads, people on snowmobiles (in the winter), and people on horses. So make sure your dogs are under good voice control before you venture out into a forest. When you encounter other trail users, get your dogs out of the way and let people pass you. When my dogs hear an engine, they're pretty good at running to me. We stop by the side of the trail and let people go by. Be aware that horses spook easily and may injure themselves trying to get away, so be extra careful. Bottom line: share the trails, be polite, and be friendly.
Let Them Run
Let your dogs run around. They will chase chipmunks and squirrels and bunnies. They are not likely to catch them. Don't call your dogs, just keep hiking. Let them keep track of you. My dogs run around through the trees and I don't see them, but if I stop to tie a shoe lace or get some water, they come running. They get the best workout when they run like that.
Consider the Weather
If it's going to be really hot, don't take your dogs on long hikes. It is usually cooler in the forest because of the shade, but avoid hiking during heat waves in the summer. In the winter, pick clear sunny days. Be aware that your dog may need a jacket if it's really cold. Also, consider the conditions you will be hiking in. If your dog is used to lawns and concrete, they may not do so well running around in the desert hot rocks and gravel, so they may need shoes or an adjustment period.
In the summer I bring 1 Liter of water per dog per hour of hiking. That means that I'm carrying 4L of water for the dogs for a 2 hour hike. Plus water for me. Give them a bit of water often, as opposed to a big drink less frequently. I give them water about every 20-30 minutes, depending on the temperature. In the winter we don't bring water, because they don't get as hot and they eat the snow. I don't bring food. I feed them before we head out, and again when we get home.
Your Dog's Physical Condition
You may have to ease your dog into hiking if all they get is leash walking. Off leash dog parks are a great transition. Also start them with short hikes. Always pay attention to your dog. Winded is good, exhaustion is bad. Water breaks will help. You may need to let them chill for a bit and give them a breather. You can hike with puppies too, but on short hikes and not in extreme weather.
Our dogs pick up on our emotions. Your dog will have more fun if you have fun too. Also keep in mind that your dogs are less likely to try to protect you and be aggressive towards anyone else you may encounter on the trails. So relax, breathe, and enjoy. It will be good for both you and your furry companion(s).
So find areas near you and go explore. You'll have a blast!