Exploring the backcountry with your dog is a great way to create memories that will last a lifetime! As you’re getting prepared and packing up, make sure you have everything you need to keep your dog happy and healthy on your big adventure. Follow these tips before setting out to make your journey into the wild as safe and comfortable as possible.
Tip #1: Choose a Dog-Friendly Trail
As you begin to scope out the perfect route for you and your travel buddy, make sure to choose one that is dog-friendly. Research any pet rules and regulations ahead of time for the trail you’re interested in. To help preserve protected lands, dogs are not allowed in National Parks (with the exception of registered service animals). If your canine is a service animal, have their paperwork handy to show to any park officials that might request it.
Tip #2: Keep Your Fido On A Leash Where Required
Protecting your dog in the backcountry is simple when you keep them on-leash. Fellow hikers and nearby wildlife will appreciate your taking responsibility, and it also gives you the ability to make sure they are safe by your side. This choice ensures you are leaving no trace on the trail, and protecting the environment and water run-off from contamination.
Tip #3: Work On Obedience Training And Trail Etiquette
You might be familiar with trail etiquette, but your dog probably isn’t! Make sure to teach them the rules of the trail, and maintain control over them at all times. Take your dog to nearby trails and practice training exercises to help build solid communication for safe adventures in the wild. Establish an emergency command that your dog will be able to differentiate from other commands, in case of an unexpected situation.
Tip #4: Strengthen Their Stamina With Extra Walks And Hikes
Even if your dog is in great shape, backpacking in the wilderness can be challenging, so it’s best to start getting them used to walking farther distances ahead of time. Take them on short hikes to build muscle strength and to help their lungs adjust to higher elevations.
Tip #5: Provide Them With Gear They Need To Succeed
After you decide what trail you are headed to, make a list of gear your pup might need so you are prepared for anything that comes your way while out in the backcountry!
Never leave home without these dog backpacking necessities:
- Collar with tags
- Backpacking harness
- Reflective/LED Collar
- Water & Filter
- Freeze-dried food
- Collapsible Bowl
- Plastic Bags for waste
- Canine First Aid Kit
- Insulated Jacket (for short haired dogs)
Tip #6: Break In Your Pups Backpack Ahead Of Time
Once you have a backpack for your dog that fits properly, put it on them once a day so they can get used to wearing it while they walk. If your dog is uncertain about their new accessory, practice positive reinforcement with treats and a clicker to help them associate the pack with a reward. Practice packing all their essentials and have them wear it around to make sure it’s balanced and comfortable.
Tip #7: Don’t Overdo It On The Journey
Pay attention to your dog’s breathing and the amount of water they drink. If you are feeling tired and need a break, it’s likely that your dog does too! Refuel with snacks and water together before hitting the trail again. Canines sweat through panting and their paw pads, so if they seem tired, it may be time to stop for a break—especially on hot days where the risk of heat stroke is higher.
Tip #8: Prevent Them From Eating Wild Plants
When your dog chews on grass at home, it’s probably no big deal. But, wild plants can sometimes be poisonous, so it’s best to halt the behavior immediately when you’re on the trail. Familiarize yourself with local plants so you can easily identify them. Foxtails are an example of a commonly found plant that can be detrimental if ingested or caught in your pet's ear. If you think your pup may have ingested foxtails or any other questionable flora, contact your vet immediately.
Tip #9: Keep Your Canine Hydrated!
Your fur baby can get dehydrated on the trail—just like you! So, bring along their own bottle and bowl. If you can't carry enough water for both of you and will be relying on rivers and lakes, use a filter to purify their water. This keeps them hydrated so they aren't tempted to drink out of puddles, rivers, or lakes that could make them sick.
Backpacking with your dog can be an incredible experience, but it’s important to prepare for the journey to ensure you and your furry friend’s safety. Stay true to these tips to provide your dog with a life-changing adventure that will strengthen your bond and help them live life to the fullest!