Backpacking with a dog adds some extra fun and excitement to your trip, and is an awesome way to make some lasting memories with your beloved furry friend. Just make sure you follow these tips and you’ll be on your way to backpacking success, doggy-approved.
- Always check for regulations. The rest of these tips are pointless if you’re not even allowed to bring your dog to your desired location. Most places also require your dog to stay on a leash at all times. Keep in mind that not all hikers want your dog to run up to them on the trail (although if you see me on the trail, you can absolutely let your dog loose to play with me).
- Invest in good dog gear. You get the best gear for yourself; make sure your dog’s gear is top-notch, too. The items you need depend on the type of dog you have, his or her size, and your intended adventures. As far as the basics go, you’ll need a strong leash, some sort of pack for your pooch, and doggy bowls (the collapsible kind are the easiest to carry).
- Practice at home. The first time you put a pack and leash on your dog and take him or her for a long walk should never be your backpacking trip. Practice walking long distances around your neighborhood or a local trail, and let your dog wear their gear any time you walk to get them used to it. They’ll also begin associating their gear with fun times, so they won’t be scared of it or confused about it.
- Dog-proof your gear and get your dog accustomed to it. Let your dog be around your camping and backpacking gear regularly so they don’t go crazy the first time you take it out on your trip. Let them sniff around your tent and your backpack a bit, and keep your gear out a few days before you leave so they get familiar with it. Dog-proof your gear, especially your tent. The best thing to do is to go with the heavy-duty gear rather than the ultralight gear you may be more accustomed to. It’s not always your dog’s fault if their nails rip through your tent or hammock; they typically can’t help it. So think ahead!
- Don’t forget about waste. Oooooh, the fun stuff. Leave No Trace applies to your dog, too. Either stock up on waste bags, or bury their waste the same way you bury your own. If you go the waste bag route, make sure you know there will be plenty of trash cans along the way so you can dispose of it (NEVER leave the bags along the trail!).
- Groom your dog during the trip. You don’t need to necessarily bathe your dog after a long hike, but you do need to do some inspecting and possibly even some light grooming. Inspect for ticks, thorns, bites, etc. and be able to remove these things. You’ll need some tweezers for ticks, as well as some gloves and/or scissors to remove any other irritants. Check over your dog pretty regularly, especially if you’re deep in the woods and your dog has long hair.
- Think about their comfort. You want to be comfortable while you sleep, and so does your dog (that’s why he usually tries to get in bed with you each night…). Bring some sort of doggy bed, such as an old sleeping pad or an extra blanket. Whatever you bring, make sure it smells like home and make sure it’s something you introduce to your dog well before your trip so he feels right at home with it. Just remember: if your dog gets a good sleep, you’re much more likely to get a good sleep as well.
Your dog is your best friend, and he or she deserves the ultimate backpacking trip. Following these tips will help give you both an awesome trip and will give you something fun to do together. Keep taking trips to find what works best for you guys and to create a really special bond with your pooch.