Home Camping and Hiking Hikingor Backpacking with a Dog: a Beginner’s Guide for Your Best Friend

Hikingor Backpacking with a Dog: a Beginner’s Guide for Your Best Friend


If you are like me, then you enjoy going outside, but you will love it even more if you go out there with your dog. For this reason, you need to have a guide for backpacking or hiking with a dog. In this article, you will get an overview of safety tips, supplies, and preparation. Read on to find out everything you need to know.

Bracing Your Pooch

Taking your dog to the wild is a big step. There are new rules and a whole set of novel challenges to face. Unlike walking in the city, your dog will have to be in shape and ready for the rigors of trail life.

  • Is your dog able? To go on a trail, you have to be in shape. When I first started out hiking, I was not ready to do thirteen miles a day, but now I can because I put in the time. Consider your dog’s physical limitations and whether he or she is able to go through the rigors you plan to go through.
  • Is the immune system ready? When I first traveled to Kenya, I threw up two days after I arrived. It is no different for your dog. Unless your dog has done this before, then you will need to be prepared for the pathogens, bugs, and ills your dog will encounter.
  • Does he or she need specific medications? Some dogs needs arthritis pills, pain meds, or another medication on a regular basis. When you are out in the wild, you will probably be hours away from any sort of medical help. You are alone, so carry what your dog needs.

Visit your veterinarian. If there is someone who knows animals really well, it is your vet. They will answer the above questions and more. Tell them that you are planning to take your dog to the wild and broach any concerns you may have. He or she will help give you the knowledge you need.

Leave no trace. When traveling into the wild, you have to be more careful than you ordinarily would to follow leave no trace principles because of your dog. They do not understand the doctrine like you do, so they will roam around and tear up the environment if you let them.

Use obedience training. When you are hiking, you will need to use more than just your leash. If a horse, another dog, or people pass by, then you will have to keep your dog calm. It is more than just having a leash on your dog, but rather your pooch has to have the discipline to do what you say.

Know the regulations. Each park has rules when it comes to bringing along a dog, so be sure to know them. Some do not allow them at all, while others let them in but with restrictions. Learn about where you want to go and then select your trail.

Start small and build up to the trail. If you are like me, then you may have jumped into something big before and done not too bad. With a dog, you cannot do that. You have to take them by the paw and lead them up to something big like a multi day backpacking trip. Start with regular trail outings and increase the distance as you progress.

Sleeping Together in a Tent

When in a tent with your dog, it is quite different from sleeping on a bed together at home. The space is more confined and your dog is an unfamiliar environment.

  1. Keep your dog calm. Accidents happen when you are not calm. Slow your heart rate down and your best friend’s too by cuddling. It reassures them that they are safe despite the overwhelming amount of sites, smells, and sounds that constantly distract them.
  2. Trim your dog’s nails. When camping, a dog’s nails can wreak havoc on a tent’s fabric, so keep them trim and short. It prevents them from ruining your tent, saving you a lot of money and headache.
  3. Use a comforter or dog bed. At night, your dog will want something soft to lay on. A comforter or bed will be perfect to keep them at ease.

Safety Concerns

When heading out into the wild, there are a number of hazards your dog could run into, so it is important to be aware of them. Here they are:

  • Wildlife is ever present in nature. Keeping your dog on a leash is the best defense against bears, mountain lions, and other large mammals. You have control of your dog when he or she is on a leash.
  • Wild plants are another concern. There is poison oak, ivy, nettles, thorns, and the like outside. Fox tails are your biggest concern. They can end up between toes and cause a lot of pain if your dog is not careful. They are found in grasses during the Spring and Summer.
  • Heat stroke, when traveling in a hot area, you and your dog need plenty of time to rest. Dogs, unlike that of people, can only reduce their heat level by panting. If your dog is heaving a lot, then it is time for a break under the shade of a tree.
  • Water safety, dogs have a habit of drinking from a stream or lake if the see one, making them susceptible to pathogens. Bring you own if you are worried about those. As well, if your dog cannot swim and you need to cross a stream, then you will have to carry them across.
  • Going too hard, because I wrestled, I have a tendency to go all in. I hold nothing back. It is different for your dog. Watch how they breathe during a break. If they are limping or panting, then it is time to get off the trail.

Two Steps for Preparing Your Dog for a Pack

If you are backpacking or hiking for any period of time, then you will need a backpack for your dog. It separates the everyday walk around the block from an actual hike.

  1. Measure your dog’s girth. Each pack is sized differently and the primary way is through girth. It is the widest part around your dog’s rib cage. Your dog will want it not too tight, but not too loose either.
  2. Train your dog with pack on it. Hiking is a lot different from strolling the neighborhood, so you need to acclimate your dog to wearing one. This involves putting it on them empty and then progressively building up the weight. Twenty-five percent of your dog’s body weight is the maximum, but it is a rough guideline for tailoring to your dog’s particular needs. Bribe them with treat if you need to do so.

Needed Supplies

When venturing into the wild as you normally would, your dog will need supplies just as you do. In a previous article, I looked at common supplies you could bring with you.


  • Dog backpack, it can be quite a lot to carry everything for your dog, so split the load. Get one for your dog, so he or she carries some weight.
  • Collapsible bowl, when going into the wild, your dog will need a bowl to eat and drink out of. Aim to get one that is lightweight, collapsible, and durable to hold up to the rigors of trail life.
  • Paw boots, if your dog does not have boots, there are rocks, branches, thorns, hot ground, and sharp objects your dog could step on when outside. You wear boots to protect your feet and it is no different for your best friend.
  • Safety light, wrap one of these around your dog’s neck or body, so you can them at night. Once it gets dark out, then you will have no problem keeping track of them.
  • Dog coat, it can get quite chilly outside at night. The temperature drops like a block of lead in some parts, so your dog will get quite cold. Bring a coat for them to keep them warm.
  • Dog towel, when outside, a dog can get quite dirty. From rolling around in the mud to swimming in the water, your dog is quite active, so be sure to bring a towel along for cleaning them up at the end of the day.


  • Kibble, when going into the wild, be sure to have plenty of food for your dog to eat. They will be burning a lot of calories from carrying a pack and hiking the trail, so they need to have the necessary energy. Bring more than you need.
  • Water and container, if there is one item your dog cannot do without, it is water. You have to bring this with you, whether it is a gallon jug or in a small container. Your dog needs to be well hydrated.
  • Treats, if you have a small child or encountered one, then you know how powerful candy is. It is a wonderful bribe. For your dog, it is no different. Eating something sweet will calm them down. Use it as a tool to get your dog to do what you want.
  • First aid kit, when you are out in the woods, desert, or grasslands, you will be hours away from any medical help. Even if you have something small at the ready, then it will make all the difference if you run into trouble. I am sure that you love your dog very much.

Top Tips

When hiking and backpacking, these are the top general tips for your dog. Think about them as you hike the trail. Remembering them is critical for a wonderful trip.

  1. The leash is your best tool. With a leash around your dog’s neck, you can better control his or her movements. If you know that you are about to enter a crowded part of the trail, then use the leash. It will give you a handle on your dog despite the influx of activity.
  2. If you are thirsty, then your dog is too. When you notice yourself feeling thirsty or hungry, then it is time for a break for your dog. They need more energy if you want to continue on the hike.
  3. Be clear with your words. Dogs pay attention when you speak, but less so if you use too many words. It will overwhelm them. When you say sit, heel, or lay down. Use a deep, clear voice to let your dog know you mean business. Your dog will do what you say.
  4. Pay attention to your dog’s signals. While dogs cannot talk, they do a lot of communicating. They bark, wag their tail, pant, yowl, cry, and moan. Watch for the particular signs of your dog. You can better take care of him or her when are attuned to them.

A Final Word

When hiking with your best friend, you need to be careful. He or she does not think the same way as you do. Follow this advice and you will be sure to have a great time outside. Be conscientious. Be smart. And be disciplined to have a memorable experience.

If you have any thoughts, questions, or concerns, please do comment below and share it. Otherwise, I hope you make it a great day!


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