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Hiking and Camping With Your Canine Compadre
Veterinary & Aquatic Services Department, Drs. Foster & Smith
Housing, Play, Travel, and Supplies
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Hiking and camping with your dogSome avid outdoorspeople believe that a dog can appreciate a spectacular panoramic view as much as a human can. But when bringing your dog along on a camping or backpacking trip, you need to make extra plans specifically for your canine companion. Some things to think about:


  • Make sure your dog is current on his vaccinations, and get a health check and certificate from your veterinarian. Also, bring along his rabies vaccination certificate for proof.

  • Do not forget an identification tag with the name of the park, campground, or "Contact park ranger" on it, or include a phone number of a friend or relative who will know how to contact you.

  • Just as you would not expect yourself to complete a long hiking trek without conditioning, you must condition your dog, as well. Start a training schedule as you would your own – slowly, with a gradual increase in distance and difficulty.

  • Some parks allow dogs on trails, others prohibit them. By the same token, some allow dogs into their campgrounds and public areas, others do not. Call ahead to your intended destination and find out what the rules are before you make plans to bring your dog.

  • Remember a first aid kit for yourself and your dog. Additional items for dogs might include tweezers or pliers for removing thorns or porcupine quills, a sock in case a paw is injured, adhesive tape, and a disposable razor for shaving fur from around a wound. For more information, see our article, Making a First Aid Kit for Your Dog.

Specifics about hiking and backpacking

  • Pack plenty of water. Dogs cannot cool off by perspiring like we do. In addition to plenty of water, try a Body Cooler Bandana. This is a bandana that you soak in water and place around your dog's neck to help him stay cool. Do not use this as a substitute for water.

  • Remember to bring a retractable leash – and an extra one in case one is lost or broken. Leashing your dog on the trail will keep him safe, and retractable models store away easily without tangling.

  • Pack food for your pet, along with portable dishes. Remember, he may need more food than usual since he will be burning more calories.

  • Dog over 20 lbs. carrying his own gear, little dog taking a break in the backpack Pet PocketIf your dog is over 20 pounds he can carry his own things in a backpack as well as some of your gear. Pack only unbreakable items in your dog's pack.

  • Make sure to let your dog practice carrying his loaded pack around the neighborhood before you take him on the trail. Start going on walks with just the pack and gradually add items to get your dog used to the extra weight.

  • Pack dog boots if you are going to be hiking in rough terrain, since dog pads are not normally tough. If you opt for no boots, make sure to check your dog's footpads every day.

  • Pack a wearable dog carrier to allow little dogs to rest. Big dogs can generally keep up with you.

  • If you will be near water and plan to swim, don't forget a life jacket for your pet if he needs it. Also, bring an extra towel for your dog since he may get muddy or roll in something foul.

Specifics on camping

  • If you intend to drive into the campground and take only short day hikes, you can bring more items with you. You can also be less strict about conditioning your dog, although we still recommend a health check beforehand.

  • Portable Pet HomeRemember that other campers want to enjoy the peace and quiet of an out-of-the-way campground, so leave a persistent barker home with a friend or pet sitter.

  • Pack a lightweight camping crate like the Portable Pet Home if you prefer not to share your tent.

  • Pack unbreakable toys like a ball, a Frisbee, and your dog's favorite soft toy.

  • Bring a pad or your dog's bed if nights will be chilly.

Trail etiquette

Three hard fast rules of the trail:

  1. Keep your dog on the trail at all times.

  2. Make sure your dog is obedience trained in the basics and understands voice commands.

  3. Never let your pet eliminate on the trail. Should an accident happen, be prepared to move the mess off of the trail. The most responsible way to deal with your dog's solid waste is the same way you would deal with yours – bury it.

Dog Travel: Tips on Traveling with Your Dog & Outdoor Play Safety
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