If you enjoy backpacking and want to plan a backpacking or hiking trip with your dog then there are a few things to plan ahead of time.
In this article, I cover some of the questions you should be asking before heading out on a hike, and of course the extra items you need to remember to take when you have a dog with you.
Here Are Some of the Main Considerations When Backpacking with a Dog
Is Your Dog Ready to Backpack?
Not all dogs are going to appreciate being taken on a backpacking trip. You know your dog better than anyone, so it’s your call.
But if they’ve not traveled further than your yard before, try a small test hike. Having a dog quit or not enjoy the trip when you’re halfway through is going to be a problem.
You also need to prepare them if they haven’t been backpacking before. I recommend a checkup with your vet to get the all clear as a starting point.
Explain to your vet the terrains and distances you intend to cover and they’ll point out any safety tips specific to your breed of dog.
How Obedient Is Your Dog?
It’s important your dog listens to your instructions. You’ll realize quickly the difference between only worrying about yourself, and keeping an eye on your dog when backpacking.
It’s never too late to start obedience training and prepare for a future trip if your pup isn’t ready yet.
Do You Have a Dog Pack?
It’s optional, but you can pick up a dog pack designed for your size of dog so they can carry some of their own stuff.
Let’s face it, it’s the least they can do if they are coming along with you, right? On a serious note, look into this carefully with your breed of dog and check the weight they can comfortably carry.
Is the Trail Dog-Friendly?
This is something you always have to check before heading off and being met with some serious disappointment, even if you’ve seen dogs on the trail before.
A lot of parks in the US do not allow dogs, even if they are on a leash. The rules vary a lot though, so it’s worth looking into what is and isn’t allowed, and of course, abiding by the rules.
You can find a list of the most dog-friendly national parks here.
How Much Does a Dog Need to Drink While Backpacking?
The general rule of thumb for dogs is that they will drink 1 oz of water per lb of bodyweight a day as a minimum.
So, a 10 lb dog will drink 10 oz of water throughout the day. This should help you plan how much water you’ll need to carry each day.
How Much Does a Dog Need to Eat While Backpacking?
This is something you will know better than anyone. I’d take a little extra than they would normally eat due to them burning off the extra calories, and more specifically take some snacks high in energy.
What Do I Need to Take My Dog Backpacking?
Here are some of the extra items (aside from your usual dog stuff you’d take anywhere) you’ll probably need with a dog accompanying you:
First aid kit – Check you have everything you need in your kit to help your dog in an emergency too, or pack another dog-friendly first aid kit.
Plenty of water – Dogs are prone to overheating and can’t wait as long as we can for a sip of water so pack more freshwater than you would just for yourself. I covered the amount of water you’ll need above.
Hydration bladders are great for this as you can just tilt the nozzle towards your dog and training them to drink as you spray it at them.
Food – This is an obvious one, you wouldn’t leave home without plenty of food for your pooch, would you?
Doggy boots – If you’re going to be trekking across rough terrain your dog is going to need some boots. I’d have some with you just in case anyway, it’s a small expense and a lifesaver if needed.
Dog towels – There are few things worse than a wet dog jumping around inside a tent – trust me. Have a couple of extra towels for your pup.
Leash/rope – You can’t leave home without a leash. It’s a requirement in some parks and on some trails, and you’ll need to keep your dog where you can control them at times.
Identity tag – Make sure you attach an identity tag to your dog’s collar with their name and your contact details on.
Cleaning up After Your Dog
The obvious only real downside to backpacking with your dog is cleaning up after them. It’s good backpacking etiquette to leave no trace behind.
There are two options;
- Use poop bags
- Burying their poop
Poop bags are what most people go with. I always double bag poop to be extra safe in the knowledge that I’ll make it to the next bin without a disaster if I have to put it in my backpack.
If you want to bury their waste then do so no closer than 200 ft to trails and other areas people will be backpacking on. Dig a hole at least 8-10 inches deep and bury it as inconspicuous as possible.
It’s about having respect for others using the same trails you are and preserving the natural beauty of the outdoors.
Backpacking with ‘Man’s best friend’ is such a fun way to enjoy the outdoors. It’s a great opportunity to give your dog plenty of exercise and new sights and smells to explore, and really enhances the whole experience.
As long as you’re well prepared and aware of the potential risks and hazards for your dog you’re both going to have an awesome time.
Here is a cool video covering the 10 essentials to remember when bringing your dog backpacking: