10 Essentials For Hiking With Your Dog


By: Chris S.

I’ve hiked, paddled, and camped with dogs for decades; there’s nothing quite like getting outside with your best friend. Below is a general list of the ten things I find most important to carry while hiking with my dogs. Hiking is a chance to escape the concrete jungle and explore the natural world around us. This list is geared towards those of us who would need to walk anywhere from a few hours to a full day to get out of the area, with consideration of emergency situations.

Identification

The dog’s name along with your name and phone number should always be on your dog’s collar, along with their license and any other tags your dog may require. Getting the dog micro-chipped nearly doubles the dog’s chances of being recovered if lost.  

Emergency Contact and Medical History

Include alternate contact information, shots, and vaccinations dates. If you lose or get separated from your pet in a rural area, the cell phone you are carrying may not be working.  I include a second number of my emergency contact on the dog’s tag.  For longer trips, I give my itinerary and the local ranger or law enforcement office’s information to my emergency contact. Store all this information in an easily shareable way with the vet or law enforcement if you get separated from your pet.  I know it sounds weird to carry that kind of information around with you, but a 3x5 laminated card with information about your pet’s health history, medications, and veterinarian information could save your pet’s life if you are separated or both in an accident.  Think of it as a medical alert bracelet for your best friend.  While you are at it, carry one for yourself, too.

Water

I used to not worry much about where my dog got his drinking water while we were hiking, but lately I have been hearing about more and more dogs getting sick from things like algae blooms and now I treat extra water for the dog, whenever I treat water for myself.  I just carry a collapsible bowl and pour water from my supply into the bowl so they can drink. 

Food

Bring the same food you use at home and at least a handful of treats.  Changing a dog’s food supply for the trip may result in anything from negative behavior to internal problems. Stick with what you know works.  On longer hikes or overnights, I am always sure to carry extra food and snacks to keep my buddy happy.

First Aid Kit

In addition to what I carry for myself, I pack a syringe for wound irrigation plus extra gauze pads and self-adhesive gauze rolls.  Wrapped properly, the self-adhesive gauze will form a tight wrap that should last until you can get to the vet.

Pocket Knife

A multi tool with pliers, tweezers, a large file, scissors and knife blades.  If the tweezers aren’t suitable for removing ticks, then carry a tick remover. Using the pliers to remove ticks can crush the tick, causing it to regurgitate back into the animal or person potentially causing infection.  The tweezers on the other hand will probably not give you the grip to remove porcupine quills or cactus needles from your dog’s face or your leg.

Paw Protection

 Whether you use boots, socks, or ointments, your dog’s paws are sensitive and soft tissue that can easily be damaged by the changing weather conditions and terrain.  Your dog’s breed and temperament towards wearing shoes are two of the biggest factors to look at when choosing footwear for dogs.  Observing your dog on a series of short test hikes or walks is a great way figure what will work for them, while getting them used to the idea of footwear slowly.

Insulation

 Yes, even dogs need extra layers sometimes. Dogs that overheat easily need cooling jackets and sunshades in the summer, while short or fine-haired dogs need insulation and sometimes rain wear when temps drop. Either way, always carry a packable towel to dry your friend off when wet. You’ll barely notice you are carrying it, but it will make a world of difference if that’s all you have.  Keep a towel and blanket in the car for the ride home.

Dog Pack or Harness With Leash

Everyone wants to be part of the group and your dog is no exception.  The harness or pack usually triggers a response in the dog that not only says “I belong” but also, “It’s time to work,” which in turn translates to a happy, productive pet.  Just like humans, pets can benefit from having a different pack or harness, different load type, and seasons. Be sure when you buy a backpack, to try it on your dog with a little bit of what they will be carrying and make sure that the leash can be quickly and easily attached and unattached.

Illumination

Depending on the season you are hiking in and the location, you may want to add a few brightly colored clothing items or a light up collar to be sure your pet is easily distinguished from the local hunters prey.