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Small, brown dog hiking with owner during autumn

Dog Hiking Checklist: Tips For Backpacking With Your Dog

Ah, the great outdoors! What better way to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life than to take a hike with your trusty canine companion?

Taking your dog backpacking is a great way to spend quality time together in nature, but you should take a few precautions before taking on the wild. After all, it's not like your furry friend can carry his backpack!

From gear and supplies to first-aid and meals, there's much to consider before heading out on an adventure with your pooch. Don't worrywe've got you covered. We'll give you all the tips and tricks for successful dog backpacking so you and your pup can have an unforgettable, safe, and fun experience.

Backpacking With Your Dog Checklist

What could be more fun than getting away from it all in the great outdoors . . . with your best four-legged friend, of course! Whether you're planning a short Sunday afternoon hike or a longer backpacking expedition, if you're bringing your dog along for the adventure, there are a few crucial must-haves to pack for your dog. Check out this practical checklist before you set out with your dog.

Essentials for Your Dog: Food, Water, And Medication

When packing up for a hiking adventure with your dog, ensuring you have the essential items to keep your dog happy and healthy is vital. Start by packing food, water, and medication appropriate for your dog's breed, size, age, and activity level.

Hiking dog drinking from water bottle

Bring along collapsible food and water bowls. You can also invest in a dog pack with a built-in doggie hydration system. Pack enough clean water from home for your dog to avoid dehydration and prevent them from ingesting parasites from drinking water on the trail. If the hike will be strenuous, feed your dog double his usual amount of food.

Clothes and Shoes

Dog vests and coats are fantastic for hikes in cold weather, but did you also know they come in handy for hot weather hikes? You can soak your pooch's vest in water to keep her cool as it evaporates. Not all dogs like to wear booties on their paws, but it's worth taking the time to get them used to wearing boots if you're going to be walking on rough, rocky ground . . . and if the weather is going to be cold and damp or very hot.

Dog Bedding: Keep Your Pet Comfortable at Night

Sure, you know to pack your own blankets and sleeping bag for a cozy night's sleep, but what about Fido? You can't expect him to curl up in the dirt or just the tent floor! Don't forget to bring a special bedding set-up for your dog.

The great news is that there are plenty of options, whether you want something lightweight, durable, and more flexible. After all, no matter how many bones he enjoys digging up on the trail, your pet might have trouble curling up into a sleeping bag with you!

Some of the best bedding for Fido includes:

  1. Reusable blankets – perfect for those chilly nights. Dogs like snuggling up with something warm and soft, like their favorite blanket at home!

  2. Warm Dog Sweaters - in case it gets cold during your trip, it's nice to have something warm and soft that he can wrap around himself. They come in many fun patterns too!

  3. Dog beds – these are great if you don't want to carry around a bulky sleeping bag or blanket set-up all the time. You can even get one made specifically for camping with breathable inserts and waterproof surfaces that resist dirt or mud!

  4. Camping mats – this lightweight option can easily fit in any size pack and provide cushion for your pooch's tender paws after trekking through rough terrain all day.

No matter what bedding solution you choose, make sure it offers some level of comfort so that you and your dog can get some good shut-eye when it's time to turn in for the night.

Waste Bags: Be a Responsible Dog Owner

Woman cleaning up after her dog's poo in a grassy area

Who knew your dog could have so much waste leftovers during a backpacking trip? This is why you need to add waste bags to your backpacking checklist. Let's face it; nobody likes stepping into something gross while out in nature!

Here are a few tips you can use to make sure you're being a responsible pet owner:

  • Always bring extra bags and keep them handy: You never know when you'll need one, so it's best to play it safe and always be prepared.

  • Pack biodegradable or compostable bags: You don't want your pet's waste sitting around in non-biodegradable plastic, so make sure the bags you bring are designed to break down in the environment over time.

  • Dispose of your pooch's poop properly: Find out ahead of time where designated areas are for disposing of pet waste on the trail. Too often, people don't think about what happens to their pet's poo after they take it home—so remember, leave no trace (including any nasty surprises)!

First Aid Kit: Be Prepared for Any Situation

When you and your dog are heading out on the trail, it's important to be prepared for anything. That includes packing essentials in an emergency—like a first aid kit. Despite their undeniable cuteness, you can't always rely on your furry friend to stay completely safe during a camping trip.

We're not suggesting that you plan for the worst possible scenario, but being prepared never hurt anyone! Make sure your first aid kit is stocked with the following:

  • Bandages

  • Gauze pads

  • Antiseptic cleansing wipes

  • Antibiotic ointment

  • Scissors

  • Tweezers

  • Thermometer

  • Antihistamine (in case of any allergic reactions)

  • Emergency contact information (just in case)

And don't forget some extra supplies like cotton balls, a flashlight, and plenty of water! You never know when you might need another paw to help you out. Plus, you can use it as an excuse to carry a few extra treats for Fido too!

Keep Your Dog On Leash - For Their Safety

Leashed dog hiking with woman

It's essential to keep your four-legged buddy on a leash for their safety. Sure, it may seem like a good idea to let them roam free, allowing them to explore the wilderness at their own pace, but it's not always the best option.

Think of it this way: with a leash, you completely control where your dog goes, giving you peace of mind and keeping them safe from potential dangers along the trail.

Keeping your dog on a leash also protects wildlife—by staying on a trail and remaining close to you, your dog is less likely to startle creatures like ground squirrels or birds. And if you've ever seen a startled deer or bear running in panic mode—you'll be glad you had your pooch on a leash!

Plus, you don't want your dog getting into any stinky garbage or disturbing other hikers' picnics. On top of that, they might get into a scuffle with other dogs or even wild animals! That's why keeping them leashed up is so important.

On top of all that, some trails require that dogs be kept leashed for safety and environmental reasons, so check ahead before hitting the trails with your furry pal.

Pick The Perfect Hiking Trail And Learn About Trail Etiquette

Time to hit the trails! Picking the perfect hiking trail for you and your dog is paramount to having a great time. When taking your furry pal on day hikes, there are things you should watch out for, like trails that are too steep or too hot or even those pesky pests like ticks!

But don't worry because there are ways to pick the perfect trail for both of you:

  1. First and foremost, choose a trail that's not too adventurous—for your own sake and your pooch's. No one wants an inadvertent trip to the vet!

  2. Just the same with park regulations, hiking areas or mountain trails require some "petiquette" you need to follow as well. Make sure you check the trail's rules beforehand. Some may not allow four-legged hikers, so do your research ahead.

  3. If possible, pick a hiking trail with plenty of water access points along with some shade! Dogs love to take a dip now and then (or even splash around on their way).

  4. Check out reviews online to see what other hikers have said about their experiences with their canine companions on the trails in question.

Picking out a fun and appropriate hiking trail with your dog is all about safety first and fun second—in that order! Now go forth and pack up those bags, grab some treats, and get out there and explore nature with your dearly beloved dog by your side!

Prepare Your Dog For The Trail

Ready to set out with your four-legged friend? Not so fast; you have to get them prepped physically. That means scheduling a veterinary checkup to ensure they're healthy and getting them used to regular exercise so they're not surprised when you hit the hills.

But don't forget about their mental health, too—backpacking can be an intimidating experience for some, so introduce them to new environments during practice runs.

Make sure to bring treats, too. It will be great for rewarding good behavior and a surefire way to keep their spirits high when things get tough on the trail.

Take Care Of Your Dog's Paws

Dog and owner standing side by side wearing hiking shoes

You've done a lot of research and are finally ready to take your four-legged best friend on a backpacking trip. But have you thought about the one part of your pup that will be doing most of the work—their paws?

Your pup can't just wear regular shoes for the hike—you must invest in some canine paw protection! So before, during, and after your hike, here are four things you should do to take care of your canine companion's paws:

  1. Trim their nails – Clipping or filing your pooch's nails before the hike will ensure they don't snag on rocks or branches. We recommend taking your pup to a groomer so they can do it professionally and safely.

  2. Use foot pads – Foot pads provide cushioning for your dog's paws and help protect them from rocks and other sharp objects. Make sure you get ones that are breathable and water-resistant.

  3. Bring along foot balm – Foot balm is excellent for treating scrapes that may occur while hiking or if their paws were cracked before the trip. Be careful, though, since some contain ingredients that could irritate sensitive pups!

  4. Rinse off dirt & debris afterward – After finishing the hike, give your pup's paws a quick rinse off in some cool water to get rid of dirt and debris that may have built up throughout the walk!

With these basics down pat, all that's left is for you and your pup to enjoy being out in nature!

Injuries During A Hike

The outdoors with your dog can be a blast until injury strikes. Nobody wants to think about their pup getting hurt, but you must be prepared for all scenarios before you head out. Below are a few valuable tips for dealing with unexpected injuries on a backpacking trip:

First-Aid Kit

Be sure to have a first-aid kit that includes bandages, antiseptic wipes, and tweezers. Your vet can recommend additional items to add or consider consulting ASCPA's website for more specific guidelines on assembling a dog first aid kit.

Emergency Contact Info

You should also have your vet's contact information handy and ensure they know your backpacking schedule. It's better to err on the side of caution than not being able to act swiftly in an emergency.

Have A Plan

When your dog gets injured, panic tends to take over—but you must stay calm and find the best solution as quickly as possible. You should also bring a list of emergency locations and contacts in case you don't have service in remote areas so you know where to go for help if needed.

Backpacking With Dogs FAQ

Have questions about taking your dog backpacking? You're not alone! We've got the answers to some of the most common questions about hiking with your furry friend.

Can dogs go backpacking?

Of course! Your pup can help carry small supplies, navigate trails, and bring fun to your outdoor adventure. If you both have all the necessary gear and do plenty of practice hikes, a backpacking trip with your dog might be one of the best things you can cross off your doggy bucket list!

Can I let my dog drink from a creek, pond, lake, stream, or river?

It's best to avoid letting your dog drink from bodies of water during your hike, as they may have microorganisms that can harm your pet. Just bring your drinking water for your pet's safety.

Does my dog need a sleeping bag?

While they'll probably prefer to snuggle up against you, you should always bring a sleeping bag or sleeping pad for your dog when you're taking them hiking. This is especially true during colder weather.

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