HIKING BASICS

Backpacking With Dogs: How to Do it Properly

Backpacking With Dogs
Henry Silva
Written by Henry Silva

Backpacking with dogs can be extremely fun and very good for relaxation from the usual daily routines us people go through. Bringing your loyal and a very well trained companion can truly make a huge difference when it comes to hiking overall.

Taking a dog to hike with you does not mean it will be there just to entertain you, it is all about the bond you two create on your adventures, building up a true friendship between the dog and the owner can make the backpacking an amazing experience from which even you can learn.

Many people pick the wrong breeds of dogs to hike with them, which results in many different injuries and bad overall experience in hiking. It is extremely important for a dog owner to know all of the limits and be aware of the situations hiking with a dog can bring.

person-hiking-with-a-dog

Before you decide to take your dog to a hike with you, as you have seen somewhere on the television, it is very important for you to know the needs of your dog just as well as you know your own needs.

Hiking with a dog doesn’t just mean taking him with you and letting him/her run around without any control. Take care of your dog just as you take care of yourself and it should be all good.

Important things to remember before backpacking with your dog

The weather conditions

These are not just a problem for us, it can also be a problem for your dog, check out the equipment available on the market and be prepared for the rain, snow, strong wind and even hot temperatures in summer.

hiking-dogs-in-winter

Each of these weather conditions requires a different type of hiking equipment for you and your dog as well.

Food

Food has always been an extremely important thing to take with you when hiking with a dog, make sure you always take enough food for him/her to prevent him/her from running towards other hikers and begging for food, always have treats and regular food ready for your dog.

Terrain

Rocky terrain and many water crossings might not be an issue for you, but your dog can truly struggle on bad terrains and water crossings. Prepare your dog for such terrain conditions before actually getting him/her with you.

Training

Train your dog to listen and to obey. If you plan on taking your dog to hike with you, you will want to have him/her listen to you at all times.

dog-training

It can be very dangerous and extremely bad for your dog to run into a bear or an animal which can attack you and your dog.

  • Clean – just like you, your dog also has personal needs, in case your dog poops on the trail, pick it up and throw it away in a trash can on the way. Do not just leave it on the ground, no one wants to step in that.
  • Rules – Depending on the hiking trail you are using, many hiking trails have their own rules you need to stick to. If dogs are not allowed somewhere, there must be a good reason why they aren’t, do not break the rules just to make yourself happy.
  • Respect – respect the other hikers and their dogs, do not throw random sweets and treats at someones else’s dog. That way you interrupt their routine and the dog you just gave a treat might start following you instead of its owner, and it might be allergic to the treat you gave him/her. Such things you will never know.
  • Leash – whenever there are many people around and hiking, you should always leash your dog and keep him/her right beside you, do not let it interrupt others just because he/she is curious.
  • Towels – no one likes to be wet and cold, especially not you and your dog. Make sure you have enough towels for both of you, and keep your equipment dry at all times.

Picking the right equipment for yourself is extremely important if you want to have high-quality hiking experience, but equipment for your dog is just as important as yours.

hiking equipment for your dog

Many people buy a random piece of equipment for their dog and think that they have done the right thing, while in real, their dog is struggling on the trail because the backpack he/she is carrying seems to be extremely uncomfortable, not waterproof and keeps his/her belly very cold, which makes him/her nervous and tired a lot more than the other dogs which have regular and good equipment.

What is the right equipment for your dog?

Backpack

It is the most important thing for you to take care of. The backpack for your dog should be waterproof, withstand the elements, keep your dog safe and comfortable as well as allow him/her to carry certain objects.

Never allow yourself to overload your dog’s backpack, make sure you are well informed about the weight limits your dog can take, these are usually easily measured by the vet.

dog-with-hiking-bag

Give your dog enough time to get used to the backpack. Many dogs hate having a backpack at first and will try to take it away, that is why it is extremely important to train and prepare your dog for the backpack and carrying things around as well as hiking.

At first, try keeping the backpack on your dog, but keep it empty, do short trails and walk around with your dog. Every now and then associate the treats in your pocket with the backpack and award him/her for listening. Soon after you have done all of these things patiently, your dog will listen and be ready to hike with you without any issues.

Loading the backpack might not seem like an important thing, but it is actually extremely important if you want your dog to feel comfortable and less nervous about the backpack itself.

girl-with-a-dog-hiking

Adjusting the harness on the dog keeping it snug so it will not chafe. Remove the saddlebags and try to fit two fingers under it. Load the dog backpack with treats, water, and food, but make sure the weight is equal on both sides. The total load of the backpack should never exceed more than one-third of your dog’s weight. For the best dog backpacks, see our article on this important topic for details.

First aid kit

First aid kit for pets is one of the most important things to take with you when backpacking with your dear dog. Just like you can get injuries and feel bad, so can your dog.

firs-aid-kit-for-dog

It is extremely important to have a decent first aid kit for your dog in case of injuries, do not save the money when it comes to first aid, it can be a life savior.

The first aid kit for the pets usually includes:

  • Stop bleeding powder,
  • Tweezers,
  • Dog toenail clippers,
  • Bandage scissors,
  • Baking soda (for bee stings),
  • Pepto-Bismol, Gauze roll,
  • Adhesive tape, Vaseline,
  • Imodium A-D,
  • Dressings and bandages,
  • Nonstick pads and Gauze pads (4 inches square),
  • Topical antibiotic ointments such as Bacitracin,
  • Canine eyewash,
  • Calamine lotion (for itchy bug bites).

All of these things are important to keep your dog safe on the trail, always be ready for the extreme situations and most importantly, do not panic – the dogs can feel if someone is in panic and might negatively react to it, even in the worst possible situations.

Sleeping gear

It is also a rather important thing when it comes to long hiking trails and getting tired. Your dog needs rest, just like you and everyone else, he/she can and will get tired after a long hiking day with you. After being a loyal and a very good dog, your dog deserves a good sleep and time to rest. Depending on the weather conditions, you should always have a tiny sleeping bag for your dog.

sleeping-bag-for-a-dog

Some backpacks are designed to have a sleeping bag, but in case you do not own such backpack, you can always improvise and provide a proper sleeping bag for your 4-legged friend.

Make sure the sleeping gear is always dry and free of the moisture, because sleeping in a wet sleeping bag can be very bad for the health of your dog. Same thing applies to you too of course. Here’s a great article on the finest dog backpacking beds for your to examine.

Dog clothing

It is an optional but very useful thing, having a coat for your dog can prevent him/her from getting sick and tired if the temperature is low. A good coat for your dog can also serve in purpose as a sleeping bag if it’s dry.

Some dogs have very sensitive paw pads and should wear the tiny dog boots, these prevent many injuries caused to his/her paw pads and will allow her to pass some trails way easier than usual.

hiking-bog-boots

Dog boots are also awesome if the temperature is rather low, these will keep your dog’s paws warm and very comfortable which plays a big factor when it comes to hiking. Here’s a review of the best dog boots for your canine pal.

Other optional hiking equipment for your dog

  • Cooling collars for hot days
  • Dog harness for technical trails or climbing
  • Dog tent
  • Creams for the dogs who got no boots
  • Toys for the dogs who like attention when not hiking

Food advice for your dog

Calories are very important and needed for the dogs who go on long distance hiking. Calories can be a complicated thing to plan, but it will all come with the experience – the basics are rather simple and you should try to follow them, in case you are not sure, you can always ask a vet.

hiking-dog-food

Depending on the temperature and weather conditions, as well as the fact whether your dog is on a leash or not. Count on increasing his/her calories from 50-100% when hiking and very close to 100% if your dog is not on the leash

Nutrition is a pretty important thing to take care of as well. Look for food which has main ingredients such as the variety of vegetables, beef, good fat and bison. These are filled with vitamins, glucosamine, and probiotics – very good and helpful for a long hiking trail.

Can your dog go hiking with you now?

That depends on you only, you are the one who knows how your dog functions and whether he/she is ready to actually properly hike with you or not. In case you are not sure whether your dog can handle hiking on certain trails, never hesitate to visit a vet and get yourself informed about all of the important things you did not know about your dog.

girl-hiking-with-dog

Do not risk a life of your dog just because you are not patient or willing to train him/her properly, do not think that buying a proper equipment piece for your dog is a luxury, it really isn’t – if you love your dog.

Remember that your dog is a living being, just like you and just like you the dog can be sad, sick and in pain – you can prevent all of these negative feelings by being informed and reasonable when it comes to hiking with your dog.

If you don’t have the time and enough patience to train your dog properly, you should not force it at all, but if you believe you can make it and you truly want to hike with your dog safely, try it out and let your friends know how fun it is, maybe they will join you next time and bring their own dogs along.

Before you leave with your furry friends for your next adventure, see our article on the best dog hiking gear to be prepared.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Henry Silva
Henry Silva

Henry was hiking since he was 4. He was lucky enough to be born in Boulder, Colorado and enjoy Rocky Mountain National Park hikes growing up. His favourite is Longs Peak, which rises to 14,259 feet (4,346 m) above sea level. It is the highest point of the park. Henry likes to explore new hikes and spend his spare time in the wilderness.

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