Backpacking With Dogs 101

© Lawrence Stolte |
backpacking with dogs
Backpacking with dogs can be a lot of fun, but there are some things to take into consideration if you want to bring man's best friend on the trail. Naturally, bringing a dog backpacking requires an added level of responsibility. So, if you're curious about the logistics of bringing your dog with you, read on.

NOTE: Before you bring your dog on the trail with you, it's important to know it can behave well around other people and animals. If not, this probably isn't the best activity for you and your dog.

  • Check Out the Rules. Different places have different regulations regarding dogs. Some locations only allow dogs during the daytime and prohibit them being on the trail overnight.
  • Consider Your Dogs Health. Not every dog is physically able to handle the rigors of backpacking. If your dog is not used to walking long distances, you must gradually acclimate them to doing so. This is especially true if your dog will be wearing a pack. You can seriously injure your dog by expecting it to be able to handle the trail without training. Also, in addition to knowing human first aid, it is good to know some basic dog first aid too.
  • Clean Up After Your Dog. Not only is it kind to your fellow hikers, but it helps prevent the transfer of disease. On day hikes, bag up your dog's waste. On overnight hikes, follow Leave No Trace practices and bury doggie deposits off trail and away from campsites 6-8 inches below the surface at at least 200 feet away from water sources.
  • Keep Your Dog Restrained at All Times. You may want your dog to be able to frolic freely in the great outdoors, but it is in the best interest of you, your dog and others to keep fido on a leash while on the trail and tied up while at camp. You may feel your dog is friendly, obedient and well-behaved, but don't take the chance of something out of the ordinary happening. Also, while you love your dog, not everyone else enjoys backpacking with dogs. Too many bad experiences have soured many backpackers to sharing the trail with dogs. It is proper etiquette to give way to other backpackers on the trail. Be considerate and help keep the trail friendly to everyone.
  • Pack Properly for Your Dog. Make sure your dog has food, a drinking dish and a blanket if hiking in colder weather. An extra towel can be handy to dry off your dog before he gets in the tent. Your dog can carry it's stuff in a pack made for dogs to wear. However, a dog should never carry more than 20% of it's own weight. Also, an LED light attached to your dogs collar or a glow necklace around its neck can help you keep track of it at night.

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