Man’s best friend can’t help but make your hiking experience fun and enjoyable! Make the trail more enjoyable for him/her by taking the following items on your next day hike or backpacking trip.
#1: Common “Dog Sense”
Before you hike ask yourself if your dog is of an appropriate age and fitness level to be hiking in the first place. Nursing pups and older dogs with aching joints will be happier at home. Make sure that your dog is regularly exercised (at least daily) before embarking on long hikes!
#2: Water Purification Products
Dogs, like humans, are susceptible to giardia and other parasites often found in unpurified water. Getting sick from waterborne parasites or bacteria is no fun and can make your beloved pet severely ill. Make sure to pack your favorite water purification products. If your dog is big enough and a good carrier s/he may be able to carry the products for you!
#3: Hiking Packs for Dogs
Hiking packs for dogs are a great way to get a little extra muscle power on the trail. Dogs are often great carriers and with their loyal and amicable personalities are often happy to help! Before buying a hiking pack for your dog take a tape measure and find the greatest width of the girth of your dog’s chest. You will need this measurement to purchase the hiking pack. Hiking packs for dogs also come with all sorts of various pockets and compartments and may even offer collapsible containers for food, etc. Consider what it is that you and your Fido will need and take care to purchase a pack that will meet your requirements.
Once you have purchased the pack let your dog wear it around the house for a couple of days and add in a bit of weight each day to the pack making sure to equalize the weight on both sides of his/her body. Ensure that your dog carries no more than one-fourth to one-third of his/her own weight and if you notice your dog struggling a bit quickly reduce the weight. Having your dog carry a bit of weight on the trail can really help to lighten your load but the proper amount of weight needs to be identified and matched to your dog’s carrying abilities.
#4: Food and Snacks
Food and snacks taste better out in nature! There is something about the world of hiking that increases a healthy appetite and the same “rule” applies to your dog.
Feel free to take your dog’s regular food and snacks out on the trail but you’ll want to take more than his/her normal allotted daily portion. You may want to increase the amount by up to 50% if the trail is considered difficult. Also consider your pet’s level of fitness and playfulness. If s/he expends a lot of energy on the trail it’s likely that more food and snacks will be essential for a great day hike or backpacking trip.
#5: A Leash
For day hikes you’ll want to have a leash no longer than six feet long. Extendable leashes are not recommended for the trail and can become entangled in brush, etc. It’s considered good etiquette on the trail to have a well-trained dog that doesn’t bother children, adults or even other dogs. If you do meet another dog on the trail then allow your dog to greet him/her and speak to the dogs with friendly voices. Then move on quickly and be on your way.
#6: A First-Aid Kit
A first-aid kit is a must-have item for you and for your dog as well. Items your dog will appreciate include tweezers for tick removal, antiseptic for wounds, liquid bandages for hurt paws, and gauze for extra padding and protection around covered wounds.
#7: Dog Boots
To avoid hurt paws in the first place it’s best to invest in a pair of dog boots. Although these little boots (or mittens as some like to call them) can look a bit silly they are valuable in protecting your dog from the sharp edges of rocks, from splinters, and from excessive heat.
Experiment with various sizes of dog boots until you find a pair that doesn’t fall off your dog’s paws when s/he runs or is playful. Make sure your dog gets plenty of play time in the boots and that you take him/her on a couple of long walks before embarking on the hike itself. If your dog can become used to the boots and they fit well s/he will be well prepared for a hiking adventure!
#8: Dog Sweater or Poncho
There seems to be a myth floating around in popular culture that dogs can handle much colder temperatures than humans. All in all this is not true! Temperatures in the 30s, 40s and 50s (Farenheit) are just as uncomfortable for most dogs as they are to most humans! Take care to ensure that your dog has proper protection for cold and/or rainy weather.
If you plan on a day hike then carry along a dog sweater that your dog has worn before and use it for chilly mornings or evenings. A dog poncho is also valuable when a light or heavy rain surprises you and your canine friend!
If you’re headed on a backpacking trip then take a dog sweater, a poncho and a sleeping bag for your four-legged friend! It might seem silly to pack a sleeping bad for your dog but when you see your little canine friend shivering in the cold you’ll wish you had brought it along.
#9: Insect Repellents
For those trails where mosquitos and other biting bugs run wild you’ll want to carry insect repellent. Be aware however that like humans many dogs have strong reactions to DEET-based insect repellent. DEET is inherently toxic and can cause severe reactions in humans and in dogs. The best option is to find a natural insect repellent (often sold in salves or even in sprays) and to apply it as directed. However, if you find it difficult to purchase a natural insect repellent then dab a bit of DEET-based repellent on your dog a couple of days before the hike and watch the area to ensure that your four-legged friend doesn’t have an adverse reaction!
#10: Trowel and Waste Bags
If you’re on a day hike you’ll want to bag your dog’s waste and cart it out. Domestic dog waste is not considered a part of a wild environment and it’s best to remove it. However, on longer hikes and backpacking trips follow Leave No Trace (LNT) principles as you would for yourself.
#11: Dog Identification
Heaven forbid that your dog would get lost on the trails but it has been known to happen! It’s best to be prepared with one or two kinds of identification for your dog. Regular ID tags (on the collar, etc.) are recommended and microchips which contain the owner’s contact information and are implanted under a dog’s skin are recommended by many veterinarians. Also, photos of your dog can also help to recover him/her more quickly in the event that s/he can’t find his/her way back to you.
#12: An Attitude of Gratitude
Most people who are dog owners are so thankful for their pets! They know how great it can be to have such a loyal and lovable dog who will share fun experiences. Express an attitude of gratitude for your time on the trail with a great four-legged friend!