A Pack for Pups and Other Gifts for Great Dogs
She's with you through thick and thin, rain or shine, walking around the lake or tackling a vertical mile of trail, so say thank you this season with one of our gift ideas for your best bud and most reliable hiking companion. Below are three great gift ideas for hiking dogs, including some tips for choosing and acclimatizing your dog to a new pack.
Kurgo MAX Pack: a dog pack for all seasons
Our dog Madigan's first dog pack was a hand-me-down from his dog pal, Bodhi. It served him, and us, fine for a few years, but it was never ideal. It stuck out widely from his body, snagging on trees and bruising the back of our knees. It always slipped to one side or the other, throwing him off balance and requiring frequent readjustments. But it took that imperfect pack to help us appreciate the incredible fit of the Kurgo MAX Pack.
The Kurgo MAX Pack ($50) adjusts to a near perfect, no-slip fit on 50- to 110-pound pups, and is styled for comfort and safety. This pack features cushy built-in padding on the chest and back, reflective strips and rear orange fabric, which is great during hunting season. The four-pocket design balances good load capacity with a profile slim enough to prevent snagging. There are plenty of dog packs with larger pockets out there, but even on a 4-day backpacking trip, the pack's load capacity was sufficient, and the slimmer design kept him balanced better on narrow stretches of trail.
Bonus for humans: the rear-mounted leash hook (which we've used to hitch our younger puppy to him in a puppy pack string) doubles as a bottle opener.
Tips for selecting, fitting and packing a dog pack
While they are no means essential for hiking dogs, dog packs can be pretty handy. Packs help set the mood for good behavior and can be great for wearing out young, energetic dogs by giving them a job—to carry their own water, bowl, and snacks. We also know hikers who outfit their dogs with an empty pack and baggies for the sole purpose of packing out dog waste.
- When selecting a pack, a good, secure fit is the most important factor. If you choose one that's bright orange or red, it can do double-duty during hunting season.
- When fitting and getting your dog used to a pack, make sure the experience is a positive one. Hand out tons of their favorite treats as you adjust the straps, and let them practice wearing it (empty) around the house a few times before hitting the trail.
- How much should your dog carry? Check with your vet about the maximum amount of weight your dog should carry, and then work up to that over time. In general, a full-grown, healthy dog should carry no more than about 15 or 20 percent of their body weight (about 10 lbs for a 50lb dog). Scale that down if your dog is obese, still growing or approaching their senior years.
- The first few times out on trail, keep the pack weight down, and check frequently for hot spots or rubbing, especially under your dog's armpits.
More gifts that keep your pup safe and cool on trail
You don't need to spend a small fortune on gear for your dog, but when you're deciding to invest in (or give a gift of) gear, keep the health and safety of your pup forefront in mind.
Whether you're hiking around your neighborhood in the dawn hours, or snow camping off of Snoqualmie Pass, a collar light will make your pup easier to spot.
Adventure Lights’ Guardian Pet Lights are waterproof and so durable they’re used on search and rescue dogs. An excellent addition for four- legged hiking companions that can stand up to lake swimming and snow rolling. $17*
In cold, rainy or snowy hikers, your dog—depending on her coat, size and age—may need a jacket or booties as protection against hypothermia. And while it may seem far away, summer temperatures can be even more of a threat to dogs. Dog biology makes them more susceptible to overheating and dehydration than human hikers.
If you (or someone on your gift list) hikes with a hot dog, help cool her off with the Ruffwear Swamp Cooler coat. Then just soak it, wring it and clip it on and the Cooler will drop her temperature by 10 to 15 degrees and protect her from the sun. $55 >> Read the full review.
More from WTA's 2013 Gift Guide
We've gathered a list of amazing outdoor items that will appeal to every hiker, backpacker, camper or trailrunner on your shopping list. >> Shop our gear guide while giving back to trails.