In last week’s Tuesday tips, we offered some advice for determining if your dog is physically fit and suited to hiking and for selecting an appropriate trail. This week, PetravelR™ has some tips on hiking gear for your dog and what to pack.
Food and Water
Most dogs that are fit enough for hiking should be able to carry their own food and water. According to The Backpacker by Angele Sionna and Elisabeth Kwak-Hefferan, a good rule of thumb is one cup of food per 20 pounds of dog per day, with a small serving of food about an hour before your hike for extra energy. In Backpacking with Your Dog, Erica May of REI recommends that you consult your veterinarian to ensure that your dog will get the right amount of calories for the estimated energy her or she will be expending, as well as the appropriate level of exercise and exertion for your dog. Be sure to bring nutritionally balanced dog food and/or biscuits. (See the PetravelR™ blog on portable TurboPUP canine meal bars.)
Adequate hydration is essential for both you and your dog. The Backpacker recommends that you use your own thirst as a guide and offer water to your dog whenever you stop to drink, i.e., every 15 to 30 minutes, depending on trail difficulty and temperature. You need to do your research in advance so that you know whether there will be ample water available to filter along your route. If there won’t be sufficient water sources, Lisa Densmore, longtime member of the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) and author of five hiking guidebooks, suggests carrying a minimum of one quart of water for your dog for every 3 miles you plan to hike. (Some dog packs feature a built-in hydration system.) Erica May of REI warns you to watch what your dog drinks, because dogs (like humans) are susceptible to giardia protozoa, and lake and river water may contain algae or parasites that can cause illness or even death. Carry a collapsible water bowl and train your dog to drink out of it.
Collars & Leashes
Lisa Densmore advises a snug collar with your dog’s name, rabies tag, and dog license, as well as your contact information. Angele Sionna and Elisabeth Kwak-Hefferan recommend putting LED lights or glowstick bracelets on collars to help you keep track of your dog after dark, and Erica May likes to use GPS beacons. (At the very least, put reflective tape on your dog’s collar and pack.)
Some national and state parks set a limit on the leash length (6 or 10 feet, depending on the park), so a short “heeling leash” or a 10-foot leash that can be quickly shortened is better choice than a long leash. Erica May prefers a leash that fastens to her pack with carabiners when backpacking, and a dog harness for more technical trails or climbing. Densmore also finds a spare rope to be helpful in case you need to tie your dog to a tree or another fixed object.
A dog coat can help preserve body heat in cold, wet conditions, especially for thin-coated or indoor breeds. If you will be hiking through the snow, look for a coat that covers your dog’s underside. In very cold conditions, Erica May thinks a fleece bodysuit that covers your dog’s entire body and legs is worth considering; it might be too warm when your dog is exerting himself hiking, but it’s still a wonderful extra layer of insulation at night. And for hiking in a very hot environment, she suggests a dog vest or cooling collar that you can soak with water to dissipate heat as the water evaporates.
Dog boots can protect sensitive dog pads from snow and from de-icing salt used on sidewalks, as well as sharp, jagged rocks on the trail. (Lisa Densmore also recommends creams that help breeds that don’t need boots stay comfortable in the snow.) Dog boots are also very useful to have on hand if your dog cuts a pad or tears a claw. Erica May notes that you may have to try a few different pairs before finding ones that don’t fall off your dog’s feet when tromping through snow, and recommends testing the boots on short walks and hikes before trying them on a longer trips. And if you are interested in a DIY project, The Backpacker has instructions for making your own dog booties out of nylon, fleece, or denim fabric and 1-inch-wide velcro strips.
According to Angele Sionna and Elisabeth Kwak-Hefferan, you should pack a a foam pad for sleeping, and a wool or down blanket in cold weather. But Erica May cautions that a sleeping pad may not be enough for short-hair breeds when the temperature falls below 50 degrees. She brings a child’s sleeping bag along for her dog, but notes that some people prefer ultralight 2-person bags “so that they can snuggle with their pooch when the temperature drops very low.” (Not exactly a 3-dog-night, but PetravelR™ gets the idea.) Dog tents are another useful piece of gear, according to May; not all dogs like them for overnights, but they do double duty as sun shelters.
First Aid Kit
In A Hiker’s Best Friend, Lisa Dunmore provides a list of the “basic components” of a doggy first aid kit for hikers:
- Bandage scissors
- Dog toenail clippers
- Cleansers and disinfectants such as hydrogen peroxide and Betadine
- Canine eyewash
- Calamine lotion (for itchy bug bites)
- Topical antibiotic ointments such as Bacitracin or Neomycin
- Baking soda (for bee stings)
- Stop bleeding powder
- Enteric-coated aspirin or Bufferin
- Imodium A-D
- Dressings and bandages
- Gauze pads (4 inches square)
- Gauze roll
- Non-stick pads
- Adhesive tape (1- and 2-inch rolls)
- Muzzle: Even the most passive dog can get snappy when stressed due to injury
Angele Sionna and Elisabeth Kwak-Hefferan note that tweezers are particularly useful for removing ticks, and caution you to check your dog for ticks each night. They also recommend a liquid bandage (such as 3M Pet Care Spray-On Liquid Bandage) for split or cut paw pads.
On the miscellaneous list of gear, pack a dog brush and/or comb to remove any burrs from your dog’s fur. (Lisa Densmore observes, “On some long-haired breeds, if their fur gets knotted enough, they will refuse to move another inch even if they are 10 miles from the car.”) The brush, along with a camp towel, is also useful for cleaning and drying your dog, especially if he or she will be sharing a your tent for the night. And, of course, plastic bags are essential for picking up your dog’s waste and (if necessary) carrying it out with you.
Sources: A Hiker’s Best Friend by Lisa Densmore, AMC Outdoors; Hiking or Backpacking with Your Dog by Erica May, REI; The Backpacker by Angele Sionna and Elisabeth Kwak-Hefferan.