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The Ten Essentials for Dogs

Posted by Andrew Engelson at Aug 29, 2007 12:00 AM |

Taking your dog for a hike sometime soon? If your dog is new to hiking, or even if the trail is an old friend to your canine companion, preparing your dog for the hike is essential.

Taking your dog for a hike sometime soon? If your dog is new to hiking, or even if the trail is an old friend to your canine companion, preparing your dog for the hike is essential.

First off, before you hit the trail, make sure the dog is in shape for hiking. Dogs need to work up to exercise the same way humans do, so keep the first few hikes fairly easy to let them adjust.

The adventure dog, Luca on a hike up to Snow Lake. Photo by Tammy Matixonh.

If you're planning to have your dog carry a pack, make sure the pack is really light at first. Also, make sure your dog's joints can handle the extra weight of a pack. If your dog is favoring one of hip or has arthritis in a shoulder they really shouldn't be carrying any kind of a load.

Just as there are the ten essentials for us humans that we should always have in our packs, there are ten important things any canine's human hiking companion should carry along as well. Here they are:


Obedience training. Before you set foot on a trail, make sure your dog is trained and can be trusted to behave when faced with other hikers, dogs and wildlife.


Doggy backpack. Let your dog carry his own gear. Check that packs are reinforced in areas that might scrape against rocks, have reflective areas for night hiking, are padded for a comfortable fit. A bright-colored pack will make your dog more visible during hunting season or if lost.


Basic canine first-aid kit. Gauze pads and athletic tape in case of cuts, Pepto Bismol for stomach upsets, a couple of bouillon cubes to encourage the dog to drink if he's getting dehydrated, and triple antibiotic cream for dressing wounds that might be infected.


Dog food & trail treats. Keep your dog extra well fed on the trail since he will burn more calories than usual. Bring extra snacks in case you get lost and spend the night in the woods. Train your dog to carry his own food and water.


Water and water bowl. Don't count on finding water along the trail. Pack enough for the entire day. A good rule of thumb is 3 liters of water for your dog's day hike.


Leash and collar. Always carry one with you even if it is not required. A situation may arise that may warrant harnessing your dog.


Insect repellent. Some animals, like people, have 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 he reacts to it. Be sure to apply in an area where it cannot be licked off.


ID tags and picture identification. Make sure your dog is properly identified should he become separated from you. Be sure you dog has her tags on and put a photograph of your dog in your pack.


Dog booties. Booties can be used to keep bandages secure if the dog damages his pads, or to protect against snowballs between the toes that melt, freeze, and cut, causing lameness.


Plastic bags and trowel. Be courteous, leave the trail as you found it. Carry out your dog's waste in places that require it. On other trails, dig a hole and bury it (200 ft away from the trail and water sources).

Did we miss a canine essential? Post a comment and let us know.


Dog backpack tips

Important safety tips about dog backpacks (from Dan Nelson's "Best Hikes with Dogs Western Washington"):

1) Dogs can safely carry about 20% of their body weight in their backpacks (depending on the breed). I usually restrict my 45 pound dog to 10-15% just to be safe.

2) Don't put packs on dogs less than 1 year old.

3) Monitor your dog while wearing a pack to avoid saddle-sores, cuts and overheating. Balancing the pack evenly can help avoid most of these problems.

I also recommend carrying an extra leash, you never know what may happen on a trail and it is best to be prepared. Have fun backpacking with your dogs!

Posted by:

Hiker1834 on Jun 10, 2009 04:49 PM

The Ten Essentials for Dogs

I also bring some little kids socks for my dogs feet so the pads and nails aren't so abrasive on the tent floor. In her first aid kit along with the usual, is some styptic powder in case she breaks a nail and benadril because she is one of those dogs who is very allergic to mosquito bites.

Posted by:

snowho on Jun 16, 2009 12:13 PM

dog backpacks, booties, doggles, cooling, rockfall

Our black dogs' main problem is heat in full sun above timberline. They wilt. Hand-feed scraped snow. Find soft snow and make your dog into a pupsicle -- a hot dog loves it.

I would not ask my corgi to carry anything. I want the dog to be unencumbered. What a small dog can carry is insignificant, and none of the dog backpacks I've seen look well-designed, lightweight and ergonomic. Backpacks slow the animal in brush.

I've tested Pawz(TM) booties -- basically tough balloons that roll over the paws like condoms -- cheap, almost disposable. They stay on and don't interfere too much with footing. Most important, they're lightweight. I've never had a paw injury that required their use. Yet.

I've tried Doggles(TM) and Mesheyes(TM) sunglasses for travel on sunny snow. I've been unable to get them to wear the Doggles for long. They say the Mesheyes block 50% UV. Whether that helps or not, who knows? They're great photo props.

Keep your dog away from springs.

Dogs are stupid about rockfall, on both ends of it, watch them carefully. I think they're banned from Artists' Point because of a dog-induced rockfall accident there.

Posted by:

Cascade Liberation Organization on Aug 17, 2010 05:07 PM