We are starting to get prepared for our first backpacking trip. Things to think about:
Beforehand look up the regulations in the area or trails you’re headed for. Some trails in our area, dogs are not allowed. The one we chose, obviously does allow dogs. When backpacking, make sure your dog is under control or leashed. Others you encounter may not want to be bothered with your dog, and leashing up can also protect your dog against any wildlife that may come after your furry friend, or prevent them from wrestling in the bushes that may have poisonous plants.
Increase the duration of your hikes over the course of a few weeks or even few months, depending on the length of your upcoming adventure. Ease your dog into a pack. Start by just wearing the pack empty and gradually adding items to increase the weight slowly. Your dog should never carry more than 20% of their body weight.
It’s always a good idea to have your dog micro chipped. Anything can happen on the trails and if your dog runs off and is found by someone else they can be easily traced back to you as long as you keep your information up to date.
It’s always handy to have pet first aid knowledge. There are courses out there that are great to help build current knowledge or for those who don’t know where to start. Having a basic first aid guide book is also really handy to include in a first aid kit. You can get away with having a regular first aid kit and adding a few things to make it more accommodating to pets, such as, iodine for cleaning wounds, wax paw protector for dry pads, or to be used as a barrier for extreme conditions, and a tick remover. Liquid bandages are helpful for cuts. I also included dog boots and tongue suppressors that can be used as a splint.
Make sure to pack enough food for the duration of the trip. You may even add pedialite to your dog’s water for extra hydration and electrolytes. (I give this to my dog if she’s been sick and is vomiting as it restore the electrolytes lost). You’ll want to feed your dog a bit more than usual on a backpacking trip as they are burning more calories than they typically would, meaning they should be eating more to supplement the calories burned. Plus, it never hurts to pack extra food in case the duration of the trip increases unexpectedly.
Pack a warmer jacket and a packable bed for your dog to sleep on. When I was camping with Kona and Cali last year they both slept with me, Cali was halfway in my sleeping bag. This year they have their own insulated bed from Ruffwear. Also, some breeds have thinner or shorter fur, needing extra protection to keep warm. When cold, the body can stiffen, warm up is necessary in this case, otherwise the risk of injury can be high. Dog boots can be useful for rugged terrain, barnacles on the beaches, frozen temperatures or high temperatures to protect the pads.
Include an LED light for your dog for when the sun goes down or on darker days to keep them visible at all times.
Bear bells can be useful for trails with heavier bear population to deter them away.
When searching for a pack, you want to find one that will fit your dog properly. One that isn’t too big, creating friction against the body, or too small constricting movement. Look for one that will be able to hold the items you’d like the dog to carry, possibly one with compartments to separate food from water or other items. Look for one with light padding and a top handle which will be more comfortable for the dog, as well as, easy for you to maneuver the dog around natures obstacles. Another thing to be mindful of is rain. My dogs carry the Ruffwear Palisades Pack and I also have the Ruffwear Hi & Dri Saddlebag Cover for the Palisades Pack to keep the pack dry. Another great feature is reflective piping, if this is not on your bag, consider clipping on an LED light to the pack.
Be aware of safe drinking water. I know at the park, I do not allow my dogs to drink the puddle water as they can be contaminated by bacteria and with other dogs drinking, and urinating in puddles you don’t know what virus your dog can contract. This goes the same on hiking trails. Some lakes hold algae and parasites that are harmful to our pets. Check local park warnings for any open water contamination. Also, remember salt water will dehydrate your dog, so make sure plenty of fresh, clean water is made available.
Home At Last:
Once you arrive home from your trip, it’s important to wash all your gear, hang to dry and do a body check for any ticks, fleas, abrasions, or anything out of the ordinary. After swimming in the ocean, lakes, maybe even rolling in mud, I will bathe the dogs to remove any bacteria that may have been in the water avoiding dry, itchy skin. This is especially important for me to do, as Cali had a hot spot in the past and I believe it to be from a wet collar rubbing on her skin, creating the skin to open and hold bacteria.
Check back as I will write again about how the trip went!