Backpacking with Your Dog: Things You Must Know

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Does your dog share the love you have for backpacking?

Going backpacking with your furry buddy is definitely a great bonding experience.

And while it needs some preparation, there is no need for this adventure to be a daunting and challenging one.

The preparation stage is what keeps the ball rolling for your trip. This entails ensuring that you have packed enough food, water and season appropriate clothes both for you and your dog. And the most important is to check that the backpack you are carrying is not too heavy.

All of these come with practice yet in general, it is better if you can carry lesser stuff while still bringing the basic needs with you.

If this is the first time that you will go backpacking with dogs, it is always a good idea that you do your homework first. You can attend a backpacking class or better yet, you might want to invite a more experienced friend to accompany you.

See to it that your chosen trail doesn’t go beyond you or your dog’s skill level. Most importantly, ensure that the trail allows dogs in the first place. You also have to check the condition of the weather because the last thing you want is an unexpected surprise. When things get too rough, don’t think twice and turn back right away.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

Preparing Your Dog for Your Backpacking Trip

Before anything else, you have to know if your canine is really ready for the trip. Is he in decent shape and fully grown? Has your dog gone hiking in the past? Do you plan to let them carry a backpack as part of their job and share load with you?

When all of these questions get a yes for an answer, it is time to start sizing your buddy for a backpack. Measure the length of your dog from the neck to the rump, as well as their girth around their ribcage’s widest part. You will be able to use the measurements to identify the backpack size that suits them.

Try on several backpacks at the pet shop and determine the things you want, such as handles, specific colors, and others. Once you found the right pack, let your dog sniff it to introduce it to him. If they look okay with the bag, put this on them. When they back away, just give it another try, this time little by little, with some treats. You can adjust the back so its straps will be snug without being too tight on the body of your dog to prevent chaffing.

Make your dog walk around inside the house using with this empty backpack for several hours. You can also take them out on several walks with this empty backpack. If they are okay with the idea, you can then start to add some weight bit y bit to every side and go for several more walks carrying this weight.

For adding even weight to both sides, you can try to add some rice or kibble to plastic bags, with similar amount in every bag. Put one bag on both sides of the pack. Soon, you can then increase the amount of kibble or rice to add to the weight as well.

You can gradually buildup the pack’s weight in a matter of weeks. See to it that you have your pet go down, up, and over things for them to get used to moving around with the added weight.

You and your dog must carry just 25 percent of your weight at max. If your pet is 100 pounds, it means that he can carry 25 pounds. However, the bag itself will also have its own weight, like 2 pounds, for example. So, subtract 2 pounds from 25 pounds, and you get 23 pounds. It means that your 100 pound dog can carry 11.5 pounds at max on both sides of the pack although it will be better if they can carry lesser than this.

Backpackers with their dog

The Packing Process

Check the amount of water and food you will need depending on the terrain’s difficulty and the weather. You can use your map for pinpointing sources of water in the trail. This way, you can have a water filter with you to add to the supply you’ve got as you go.

Remember that you and your pet alike will require more food than usual since you will expend more energy. For food and water, bring two small collapsible bowls made from silicon for your pet. Measure the food amount you think they are going to need in the bowl in advance and mark the spot on the bowl where the food reaches. It will eliminate the need to bring a measuring cup with you.

See to it that your dog’s food is placed inside waterproof bags. Hang you and your dog’s food downwind and at a good distance from the tent after setting up camp.

Dog booties are also a must-have when backpacking with your dog. These might look silly yet the pads on the feet of your dog can get worn out after hours of long mileage, hot surfaces, and pointy rocks. Make your dog adjust to using booties just like how you trained them wearing the backpack.

You should also have first aid supplies for you and your do. Observe how both of you are as you go along. If your pet lays down to rest at the rest stops, it means that they are starting to get too tired and you might want to stop for the day or go back.

As for your sleeping arrangements, you might want to have a sleeping bag for your dog if he doesn’t fit in yours. This way, you can keep your bag from getting dirty and they will also have their own comfortable bed.

Finally, before leaving for your backpacking trip, remember to leave its details with a family member or friend in cases of emergencies. These should include where you are going with the number of miles and specific trails, when you will leave, when you expect to return, and the emergency contact details of your dog’s vet.

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