Backpacking with dogs is awesome! I have found that the true meaning behind “Man’s best friend” comes out when you are hiking and camping with your dog. In not too long, your conversations with your dog will reflect that of Tom Hanks and Wilson from the movie Castaway.
But going backpacking with a dog not the same as going backpacking with your human friend. Your dog is 100% reliant on you to be prepared and considerate about their needs when backpacking with a dog or overnight tent camping with a dog.
Backpacking with a dog can not only bring you enjoyment but also improve the dog’s quality of life. But there are some things to consider.
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Is it Safe to bring a dog hiking?
Absolutely, but you need to be the brains of the operation and apply some common sense. First, remember all those times that you heard the phrase “check with your doctor before starting any activity”? We all brush that off and go for a 60-mile thru-hike on the Virginia AT in 3 days as our first foray into hiking, right? Well, if that’s you, then you need to be a little bit more cautious for your dog. Yes, if there is any doubt, talk to your dog’s vet. But at a minimum start with some day hikes. Especially if your dog is going to carry a backpack.
Dogs are adaptable and will adjust to the new stress and workload. But we want it to be enjoyable for them and not stressful. So, managing the amount of change introduced at any one hike is the key. Start small and build. Are we really going to complain about going on more hikes with our dogs?
What do I need to bring when hiking with dogs?
For day hikes you can think of it as a mix of a dog walk (leash, bags) and a hike (water, first aid, food). Click here for more details on what to bring on a day hike with a dog.
For overnight camping with a dog you will need the day hike items plus some night gear (lights), sleeping gear (tent, bedding), and some packing gear. Click here for more details on what to bring on a camping trip with a dog.
What are the dangers of backpacking with dogs?
Keeping control of your dog is an important part of making sure any hike is a safe hike. Dogs that are not properly trained can be a danger to themselves, other hikers, and wildlife.
Not all breeds are built for long hikes. Some dog breeds, like pugs and terriers, do not well in heat and may not have the endurance for extended hikes. Other dogs are good hunting dogs, like hounds, but might have a strong drive to hunt while on the hike. They must be trained to obey commands.
Consider the terrain and your dog’s capabilities. A daily walk on the park path is not the same as a rocky trail hike up to an overlook. Be aware of environmental threats from rocks and thorns as well as your dog’s strength and stamina.
Keep in mind the overall health of your dog. Make sure they are ready for the exertion. Check with your vet, get the vaccinations up to date and build up by starting very easy.
Lastly, if your dog is off-leash and goes on a chase you run the risk of losing your dog. Consider getting your dog chipped with a microchip or getting a GPS locator for the collar that works with your phone.
How do I get started?
Dogs are very adaptable and will likely respond well to gradually increasing levels of hikes. Again, if any doubt exists, talk with your dog’s vet. Build a base of small hikes, introducing new equipment and weight you plan to use on longer hikes. Reward your dog with treats and integrate routines into the hiking process. Your dog will appreciate it and enjoy the experience more. You will be backpacking with dogs in no time!
Check out the 7 things to bring on a day hike with a dog.