If you have a dog, one of the ideas that have probably run through your mind is to go hiking and backpacking with your dog or dogs. And it is without a doubt the best one you’ve had in a while, but only if you plan and prepare yourself and your four-legged friends for an adventure. Otherwise, it could turn into a disaster and make you regret the whole idea.
If you plan on doing it, this article will show you how to properly prepare for backpacking with a dog and create some of the most amazing memories you’ll remember forever. So, what there is to do and know when it comes to hiking with dogs?
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Be Realistic – Is Your Dog Capable Of Hiking?
Before you pack your stuff and hit the road, make sure your buddy is fully capable of enduring all tasks without risking safety or health. Remember, it is in dogs’ nature to do their best to keep up with you, no matter how they feel or how healthy they are. If your dog is still a puppy, it is probably better to let it sit this one out, because in their youth they most often lack stamina and strength. Also, another problem could be its immune system. For their own safety, you should wait at least until your dog has received all the needed shots. If your dog isn’t healthy or physically fit enough for the day filled with activities and without the chance to sleep and rest, you shouldn’t force them to go with you, or their health could turn worse.
It is recommended to visit a vet and checking your dog’s overall health before the hiking trip, and listening to any provided advice. This will give you all the answers to the question of whether you should take your dog for a hike or not.
What Breeds Are Not Good Hiking Company?
If you plan on going on a short distance trip with lots of stops and chances to rest, then it probably wouldn’t be a problem, no matter which breed you have. On the other hand, if you plan on going for a longer trip with great distance, some breeds are not good companions, like miniature pinscher or brachycephalic breeds (the ones with the short muzzle). Members of this group are boxers, Boston terriers, pugs… They are not working dogs, don’t have enough stamina, and the fact their nares are narrow makes the physical activity quite dangerous for them. Again, if you plan on going for a short but sweet adventure, feel free to take them, but be extra careful.
Also, if your dog is a member of a hound family or has a high prey drive, there is a possibility of them running away chasing some wild animal and ignoring your commands.
What Breeds Are Great Hiking Buddies
On the other hand, some breeds are a great hiking companion. If you have a Siberian husky, Alaskan malamute, Samoyed, Bernese mountain dog, Golden retriever, or Labrador retriever, there will be no mistake. Just wait for them to grow enough so they can endure these tasks and take off.
This doesn’t mean you should be reckless or careless and let your dog take care of him or herself. For example, if it is summertime and you bring your husky or malamute along for a hiking trip, you’ll need plenty of water and possibly a bit more resting stops, because hot temperatures could cause their organism to overheat due to long hair and double coating. But if you think about trimming their hair to ease it upon them, don’t! This way you’ll only damage their natural skin protection and ventilation system.
Preparation For The Trip
We’ve already said – the preparation is the key. One of the most important things to do before you sail away is to get the information about the place you’re about to visit. If your dog is capable of hiking, it is time to make sure that the place you’re visiting allows dogs. Some places allow dogs but require leashes. Some, like most of the national parks, don’t allow them at all. Some allow them, but only if you keep your dog on a road covered with bricks or stones and keep the animal away from dirt-road.
Visit the website, check the reviews and comments, if you have any doubt call the place management and ask what you need to know. If the rules and regulations don’t work for you, it is better to find another place than to risk and put yourself and your tail-wagging buddy in a bad situation.
How To Choose The Best Option
Unlike the time when you travel alone, this time the main thing to look for is not sightseen and the chance to visit something of a great cultural value, but how well suited this place is for your dog. Look for places that won’t make it too hard for your dog’s paws. If there is an option, opt-out for shady trails covered with leaves or needles. Contrariwise, try to avoid paths covered with sharp rocks, steep drops, or any place where the surface can become too hot. Another thing to evade is a place with lots of horses and mountain bikes, to prevent possible injuries.
Getting Your Dog In A Hiking Shape
Now that you have the vet’s permission, and you’ve found the right place for the hike, it is time to start the preparation.
Start by building the stamina with shorter trips before you go for a long one. Don’t force it, let the dog dictate the tempo, and go easy. At first, choose a flat and smooth surface and pay attention to the dog’s energy level. If after an hour of walking with a few short breaks your dog still has energy, increase the distance, and choose the more difficult terrain. Go step by step – the key is to prepare your pet for the trip. This way, their paws will toughen up and become more endurable.
If your dog shows the signs of pain on its paws, get – or make– hiking booties, and let the animal get used to walking in them. It may take some time, but eventually, it should be alright. Also, before you hit the road, trim the nails to prevent them from creating rips in the tent floor.
Go Through The Obedience Training Once Again
No matter your dog is on or off the leash, there are some things your puppy should know. First, make sure you know where your dog is all the time. Remember, this is a completely new terrain, surrounding, lots of unknown and unfamiliar things, so there could be some changes in behavior. Make sure your dog knows the following commands:
Practice these on shorter hikes. And at your local pet shop, get a training whistle. Learn your dog to come to you when the whistle is blown. The typical range is around 400 yards.
The Rules Of The Trail
Once you get to the hiking trail, there are some rules you and your dogs should follow:
- Yield to riders and other hikers. When you see someone approaching, step off the trail and tell your dog to heel until the vehicle or other hiker passes by.
- Communication is the key. If you run into other hiker or someone during your walk, letting them know that your dog is friendly and won’t bite will not only calm that person and “break the ice”, but it will also let your dog know everything is OK and help it stay relaxed and calm.
- If you plan on bringing two dogs, have another person with you, because managing more than one dog at a time is a difficult task. It is not recommended to bring more than two dogs because three or more become a pack, which is far harder to control.
Dog’s Got To Go When A Dog’s Got To Go – What To Do With The Poop?
Many hikers think that they don’t have to collect their animal poop because all the other animals poop in the woods, but that is a wrong opinion. Animals most of the time communicate using their scent, so when your dog poops it could affect the natural balance by interrupting territorial claims.
You should either take it with you and throw it away somewhere else or bury it. This means you should dig up the 8” deep hole located at least 200 feet away from the nearest path, camping site, or water source. If you opt-out to bury your dog poop, don’t leave it in a bag.
Most Common Dangers
The first and most common one is extreme temperature. If it is too hot, your dog could suffer overheating because of the heat exposure, and it is possible your pet could dehydrate. To prevent this, pack extra water, keep away from the midday sun and heat. If the outside is too cold, short-haired breeds can suffer from hypothermia, while there are also possibilities of broken bones if they slip on ice.
If your dog gets too excited, this could be stressful for the organism. Keep your eye on breathing and heart rate. If taking a break doesn’t help, think about placing your camp there.
Failing is another danger, so avoid cliffs, steep trails, and unstable terrain. With a harness or doggie backpack with a handle, you could help your pet climb, but a better option is to avoid this.
Paw injuries could occur anywhere, and the best sign something is wrong is if you see your dog limping. If possible, stop and call it a day, let your dog rest and you should be able to continue tomorrow morning.
Drinking water from an unknown source could end up causing diarrhea, vomiting, or weakness, so if you see your dog drinking water, stop it. The same goes with eating plants because there are some poisonous ones like ivy, oak, some types of mushrooms… If your puppy starts to eat grass or plants, stop it.
What To Pack
One of the main questions is – what to bring on your trip?
- Fresh water and water bowl
- Doggy first aid kit
- Hypothermia or heatstroke prevention gear
- Poop bags
- Dog socks or booties
- Short leash
- Dog pack
- Collar with dog’s name, your name, telephone info, in case you separate.
- Sleeping pad and a blanket, if your dog isn’t used to sleep on the cold ground.
- Dog towel
- Dog brush
- Flashlight or glow stick for easier tracking during night time.
- Dog life jacket, if you plan on hiking near the water.
In Case Of Injury
If something bad happens, don’t panic. Before you arrive, make sure you’ve found at least two or three nearest vet stations and checked their working hours. Also, have an emergency contact number written down and within the hand reach.
In case of a snake bite, use the antihistamine from your first aid kit to reduce the allergic reaction and head straight to the nearest vet.
If you find a tick, use the tweezers and take it out, making sure you’ve removed the head, and use the antiseptic or antibiotic ointment to treat the area. If you didn’t manage to remove it wholly, don’t touch it, the body will push it out by itself eventually, but the moment you see something is wrong, don’t wait and take your dog to the vet.
The same goes for if your dog eats something and starts to gag or vomit. If you know what your dog has eaten, take it with you as it will help the vet find the best way to treat it.
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Dogs have a “man’s best friend” title for a reason, and they won’t disappoint you. Having a dog beside you on a camping trip is an amazing feeling and will provide you with lifetime memories and things you won’t forget. But, before that, there are some things you should do to make backpacking with a dog as a beautiful experience as it should be.