Hiking and Camping with DogsPosted by Whole Earth | 09.14.2020
Hiking & Camping with Dogs
We love hiking and camping with our friends and family, and that includes our canine family members as well. Whenever we decide to hike or head out for a camping trip, we plan ahead. We’ll research trails and campgrounds, make lists of the gear and food we’ll need, and have alternative plans in case of bad weather or other unforeseen events. We use the same process when we bring the pup along on our outdoor adventures.
For starters, are dogs even allowed on the trails and in the campgrounds we’re considering? For example, dogs are allowed only on specifically designated trails in national parks. The reasons for limiting a dog’s access include the possibility of dogs carrying diseases to wildlife, their chasing, threatening or stressing wildlife (remember, a dog’s scent is that of a predator for many species), and a dog may in turn become prey for larger predators.
The most basic requirements when dogs are allowed in national parks are that they must be on a leash no longer than 6 feet, be with us at all times, and we must pick up and properly dispose of their waste. Use this national park map to see a specific park’s rules. They often offer links to nearby federal public land that may be more accessible for our canine companions. So no matter where you’re planning to hike or camp, whether in state or local parks or on private land, first check out the rules for pets.
One rule that’s found in all parks is that our dogs need to be up to date on basic vaccinations and wear rabies and identification tags on their collars. Depending on the adventure, consider some extra protection like a rattlesnake vaccination or a leptospirosis shot for the aqua dog. And be prepared with the names of vets and animal ERs near your destination, just in case.
We train for big hikes. Our dogs need to do so as well. When we train, they should be right at our side, and they want to be. Longer walks? Yes please! Climbing hills? Four feet beat two any day! If our destination includes steep trails, working up endurance on gains and losses in elevation is a workout that will pay dividends for both of you. Long walks will also toughen up paw pads so the pup will be trail ready.
Our dogs will need an overnight bag just like us. Having some items from home will help comfort them in unfamiliar environments. Essentials to remember are a trusty harness, food, a water dish (a collapsible one that is trail friendly is always a great idea), a favorite toy, treats, poop bags, and MULTIPLE towels… trust us on this one. We also bring a pair of Ruff Wear boots in case our dog’s front paws need a break from loose rock. We also bring baby wipes to help clean up when creeks or running water aren’t readily available.
Other items that may be mandated by the park or campsite include a travel carrier or crate (with bedding) and proof of vaccinations. Some parks will allow a stake and long lead at the campsite. Don’t plan on using a nearby tree as the lead could damage the tree. And please remember your dog’s medications and canine first aid supplies.
Bringing our dog along for a camping or hiking trip may put limits on our own activities. Dogs cannot be left in cars or tents while we head out for fun without them. Be prepared to take turns with trip partners for doggy sitting or find shops and restaurants that allow dogs. There are more than you might think. Again, do your research ahead of time. Another option may be a doggy daycare. Call ahead to learn about facilities and make a reservation if you feel one is a good match for your dog and for your level of trust.
At camp, we hope our dogs are well trained, but some may have a tendency to wander. We need to be sure to have a plan for the pup while we’re occupied doing things like setting up a tent or bedding, making dinner, or getting dressed and prepared for the day’s activities. It’s easy to be distracted so use the crate or the long lead if possible.
It’s not unusual if our dogs decide to forego a meal or two while we’re out on the road. Don’t be alarmed. Settling into a new routine or space can be challenging, but they’ll eat when they’re hungry! We try to avoid giving them too many foreign treats or snacks, or we’ll be using A LOT more of those baby wipes. And while en route, remember our pups need bathroom breaks and to stretch their legs too!
One last thought. As much as we might like to have our canine companion with us on the trail and in camp, consider if they might be happier at home. Not every dog is an adventure dog. And if the pup is noisy or frightening, our fellow hikers and campers would appreciate that the dog stayed at home. But if your pup is ready for adventure, we hope these tips will help you both have a great experience.