Hiking with Your Dog? Here’s What to Pack for Your Pooch (The Ten Canine Essentials)

Hiking with a dog

Ellen Morris Bishop knows how to keep a dog happy, healthy, and safe on the trail. After all, she and her own dogs, Meesha and Dundee, hiked more than 750 miles in their research for Best Hikes with Dogs: Oregon. Here are the Ten Canine Essentials she suggests you pack when you take your pooch into the wilderness.

· Obedience training. Before you set foot on a trail, make sure your dog will obey your commands when faced with other hikers, other dogs, wildlife, and an assortment of strange scents and sights in the backcountry. A dog that can’t behave should be left at home.

· Doggie backpack. Dogs can pack their own food, water, and other gear. Dogs wear backpacks quite comfortably and specially designed packs are widely available. The pack should fit snugly. Don’t overload your dog. A general rule is 1 pound in the pack per 20 pounds of dog. If you dog likes to immerse herself in streams, you might want to package everything in her backpack in waterproof plastic bags.

· Basic first-aid kit. Dogs are prone to injury, bee stings, and other traumas. Take a canine first-aid course and read up on the subject for details on what to include in a doggie first-aid kit.

· Dog food and trail treats. You should pack more food than your dog normally consumes, because he will be burning more calories than normal. If you have to spend an extra night out there, you need to keep your best friend fed too. Trail treats provide quick energy; treats made for dogs usually provide better canine nutrition than human snacks.

· Water and water bowl. Don’t count on dog water being available on the trail. Streams are great for keeping Fido cool, but dogs, like humans, are susceptible to giardiasis and other water-borne diseases. Having enough water will lower your dog’s risk of heatstroke. Collapsible nylon bowls work well, as do lightweight titanium or plastic bowls.
· Leash and harness or collar. Have a 6-foot leash with you at all times, even if not required by local regulations. Flexible leads are relatively fragile and can tire your arms. For hands-free hiking, run your belt through the leash handle. An inexpensive and versatile alternative to a commercial leash is to buy a length of small-diameter climbing rope and use carabiners to latch one end to your dog’s collar and the other end to your belt. Consider a harness if your dog will be leashed for the entire hike.

· Insect repellent. Be aware that some animals and some people have strong negative reactions to DEET-based repellents. So before leaving home, dab a little DEET-based repellent on a patch of your dog’s fur to see if there is a reaction. Look for signs of drowsiness, lethargy, or nausea. Remember to restrict repellent application to those places the dog can’t lick—the shoulders, the back of the neck, and around the ears (staying well clear of the ears and inner ears)—which are also near the most logical places mosquitoes will be looking for exposed skin (at the eyes, nose, and inner ears) to bite.

· ID tags, microchips, and picture identification. Fact: dogs do get lost. Your dog should always wear ID tags that are easily read. A microchip—a small plastic object about the size of a grain of rice implanted under the skin by a veterinarian—is also recommended. Microchips, which contain the animal’s ownership and contact information, never fall off, are inexpensive, and can be read at most animal shelters and clinics. Photo identification is also helpful to have in your pack. If your dog gets lost far from home, you can show the image to local residents and make flyers and handbills to post in the surrounding communities.

· Dog booties. Dog footpads need to toughen to the trail. Dogs who have not hiked much can get sore feet; having a set of booties in the backpack will prepare you to protect your dog’s feet from rough ground or harsh vegetation. Booties can also keep bandages secure in case your dog damages his pads. Practice at home first. And remember that dogs sweat through their feet and can overheat if booties are left on too long.

· Compact roll of plastic bags and trowel. Even on a short hike, be prepared to remove or bury dog waste. Carry it out or bury it, according to what is most appropriate to the area.

Additional items to consider:

· You might consider bringing a dog comb or brush with you. Periodic brushing during and after a hike can minimize problems from ticks, embedded seeds, and tangled plant materials. Keep toenails trimmed short, too.

· If you are planning an overnight trip, make sure that your tent is large enough to accommodate Rover too. A sleeping pad just for the dog is another nice touch.

· Ensure that your dog has up-to-date and appropriate vaccinations, including a vaccination for giardiasis. Consult your vet; good canine health is important for safe hiking. When traveling, it is also a good idea to carry up-to-date vaccination and health records in case your dog should need veterinary care or an overnight stay in a kennel.

Adapted from Best Hikes with Dogs: Oregon by Ellen Morris Bishop (The Mountaineers Books, $16.95 paperback).