7 Things to Know About Backpacking With Dogs (Part 2 of 2)

By Kayla Fratt  •   3 minute read

7 Things to Know About Backpacking With Dogs (Part 2 of 2)

In our last article, we discussed the first three main things to know about backpacking with dogs. We talked about your dog’s fitness, the trail, and tent matters. Now it’s time to dig into the other four things to know about backpacking with your dog!

4. Waste Matters

Leave No Trace applies to your dog’s poo, just like yours. Your dog is not a coyote, and you can’t just leave his poop out on the trail. For one thing, there are just too many dogs – it would be disgusting if everyone left their dog’s poo on the trail. Most dogs also eat highly processed diets that simply don’t degrade and compost the same way as a wild animal’s poop.

For shorter trips, you might want to just bag your dog’s poo and pack it out.

I personally prefer to use a compostable dog poop bag or a trowel to move Barley’s poo off-trail, then dig a 6- to 8-inch cathole, and bury his poo. Just like human poo, this cathole should be at least 70 big steps (200 feet) away from water and the trail.

5. Basic Gear

Most dogs don’t need much in the way of gear for hiking. While booties can be useful in snow or ice, they actually can hurt your dog’s traction on trails and can prevent your dog from really feeling what’s going on under his feet.

But if you want your dog to carry some of his own gear, a doggie backpack is a great idea. I generally have Barley carry the following gear:

  1. Paw salve.
  2. Nail clippers.
  3. His food and snacks.
  4. Some Quik-stop.
  5. Extra water.
  6. A collapsible bowl.

I usually have a bell and a light attached to Barley’s collar or harness as well. I carry his sleeping pad (a bit of foam). If we’re near the ocean or other large, dangerous bodies of water, I’ll bring along his life jacket (though I try to avoid bringing that on backpacking trips for space-related reasons!

It’s not all that much – and that’s how I like it. You can go crazy with bells and whistles when backpacking with your dog, or you can be realistic that basically, all your dog needs is food and water and shelter. If you’ve got a good human first-aid kit with you, you don’t need much else.

6. Nutrition and Snacks

Dehydrated food, like Honest Kitchen, are great for backpacking because they’re not very heavy. Kibble really weighs you down! Expect to bring your dog’s normal daily food ration plus 50%. So if Barley normally eats 2 cups of food per day, I bring 3 when backpacking. Your dog burns a ton of calories hiking!

It’s also important to bring some trail snacks for your dog. I really like NomNomNow’s jerky treats – they’re just dehydrated chicken or beef. They’re practically useless as training treats, but they’re excellent for re-fueling your pup along the trail!

Try not to switch up your dog’s diet too much when backpacking. Sudden changes in food can lead to diarrhea, and no one wants to deal with that in the backcountry!

7. Basic First-Aid

The vast majority of the potential injuries you’ll deal with while hiking are paw- or nail-related for your pup. Make sure that you keep your dog’s nails trimmed and filed – jagged edges ruin sleeping pads and can tear into a bloody mess on rocks.

Paw salve helps keep your pup’s paws supple and ready for the trail ahead. Monitor your dog’s paws and do a full-body checkup every day at the end of your hike.

Be sure to watch your dog for signs of gait imbalance, reluctance to get up after lying down, or reluctance to hop up or down. Many go-getter dogs hide injuries and pain well, and it’s your job to be a detective and find the problem!

If you already have your Wilderness First Responder certification and a well-stocked first aid kit, you’ll probably be able to triage most canine injuries in the field. That said, a dog-specific first aid course is an excellent idea.

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