Editor’s Note: A timely guest contribution from Dennis as the weather and the mid year holidays see more and more of us getting off the grid for some decompression time.
Many backpackers want to take their dogs with them on backpacking or hiking trips so they too can enjoy the journey. Socialized dogs are an excellent companion anywhere, anytime. To go for backpacking with your dog you just need to train them, establish some rules and pack them accordingly.
Also, before going make sure your trail is dog-friendly. Many times this is for the safety of the dog.
Before you embark (pun intended) you need to think of the stuff both of you are going to wear, use and carry. Making sure your dog is also equipped properly for backpacking will result in a better experience for you both, and anyone else along or who you encounter. The regular gear you use may when alone not be proper for every instance with a companion. Be flexible and approach each adventure in its own way.
Preparation and Gear Tips for Backpacking with Your Dog
Here is some advice you can follow to prepare your dog for the next camping and hiking trip.
Preparing Your Dog Mentally
For camping and hiking trip, you need to prepare your dog mentally and physically like humans. Without some training they may get overwhelmed with the new environment and physical activities while you are on the trail. To avoid these troubles, you need to prepare your dog prepare for it, they are now out of their territory. Here are some tips to follow for the backpacker:
Start out with short trips and never do the training trips in the same locations – not a must, but the more variety a dog sees on these trips the better it adjusts to new outings. Start with some small and easier trails with your dog and observe how it responds. You can then increase the length of your trip gradually to make him familiar with the variety of trips outside his territory.
Physical Activities for the Dog to Make Him Fit for Trips
Prepare your dog physically, train him to run on command, to heel and to keep you in site. These are natural behaviors but positive reinforcement is time well spent. Train him for long walks with a smaller amount of food and water. As you know sometimes getting water on the trail can be a little difficult, so it is a good idea to train your dog beforehand.
Teaching the Dog Backpacking Trips
If you don’t know how to control your dog then it will be risky and problematic to bring him on the trip. See if it follows your command or not. Give your dog proper training to understand your command and to heed them.
(Editor’s Note: I only drew my sidearm once when I hiked the John Muir Trail and it was in response to a simple-minded hiker who had a 50 lb un-socialized pit-bull mix with him that he had no control over and who decided I didn’t belong on HIS trail. No one was harmed though I still to this day think I did this clowns neighbors a disservice.)
You also need to teach your dog some rules and trail etiquette’s before planning for the backpacking trip.
Dog Dropping on the Hiking Trail, bad
Training, excursive and preparation is not the only thing that keeps things better on backpacking trips. Carrying the right gear is paramount according to Alex Raynold of the Safariors website.
Along with the staples, always carry some plastic bags to pick up your dogs droppings and dispose of them properly. Leaving dog poop on the trail or around your campsite is very unhygienic and problematic for others.
Use a Proper Leash and Harness for Your Dog
While it is always good to let your dog range, for their enjoyment as much as anything, having a flat collar or a body harness is a must. A front harness restricts some motion in the shoulders, therefore a body harness is a better, most secure option. If your dog does not walk well on a leash then a front-hook harness may be the better option for you.
Harnesses are always better than collars for backpacking or hiking as harness helps to even out the pressure across the body. One word of cautions, not all humans are dog-friendly, so pay attention to strangers reactions, Also, few wild animals are dog-friendly and the smallest of these can carry rabies or other harmful diseases, not to mention the environment itself where ticks and other pests are always looking for a food source.
You can also use a flex leash as this allows your dog to go, sniff around and come back to you.
Dog Shoes Can Be a Good Addition to Your Next Camping Trip
Many people might find this funny but dog shoes or boots are essential gear for your dog while backpacking, especially if your dog does not go outside often. These take getting used to so purchase inexpensive ones at first as they will most likely get chewed off during training. And remember they, like everything else on the planet, can be field-repaired with duct tape.
Carry Proper Sleeping Gear for Your Dog
Whether its winter or summer, you should carry a sleeping mat or pad or a sleeping quilt for your dog. If you are in the outdoors sometimes the surface you choose for camping may be too hot. Using a sleeping mat can save your dog from the heat. Conversely, cool ground drops core body temperature and that is seldom a good thing.
Sleeping gear can save your dog from the rough surfaces as well. If you think your dog is less padded then you might want to carry a dog sleeping bag for it.
Choose Your Track Accordingly
If your dog is trained for walking on trails, listens to your commands then you can choose any type of back packing you want. If your dog is not trained properly and does not always obey your commands then you should choose flat grounds and man made back packing trails and work on training out its bad habits before venturing off the grid.
There are some other small essentials to keep in your backpack for your dog. The collar or the leash of your dog can be broken or somehow your dog can become lost in woods. For the former, remember your duct tape, for the latter there are a number of tools. As a precaution, or last resort, you can always hang a small bell and an ID card on your dog’s neck. I suggest you do this no matter what fancier solution you have already put in place.
Last Few Words
You need to be proactive while backpacking with your dog to protect him/her from unwanted critters. Also, do not forget to carry a first-aid kit and add a few extra bandages for your dog, who is as prone to injury as you are, maybe more so on outings.