One of the great things about owning a dog is taking him places. Of course, there are times when it’s nice to take a vacation away from our pets, but in general, I think it’s great to bring them.
My boyfriend Josh, my mutt Ace and I left bright and early yesterday for a backpacking trip in western North Dakota. We like to do a lot of backpacking and other outdoors sports. Ace loves the water, running, carrying a pack and has the endurance to hike all day. He is equally happy to take a long nap inside the tent.
Here are some things to think about when taking your dog backpacking:
1. Visit during the off-season.
During the off-season, you will find cheaper rates and less people. This is great when you’d prefer to backpack with your dog off-leash or if your dog gets really excited around other people and dogs. Josh and I have gone backpacking over Easter for the last few years, visiting a different park each time and we rarely see other people. We stayed along Lake Superior last fall after the peak season and did not have to deal with anyone else there either.
2. Have your dog carry his own gear.
A dog backpack is perfect. It’s useful, gives your dog a job to do and leaves him tired and out of trouble. I do not want to be hauling my dog’s stuff in my pack, so I give him something useful to do and have him carry his own food, water and toys. But I make sure not to put anything too valuable in the pack in case he runs away, rolls in something gross or decides to go swimming.
3. Bring extra dog treats.
When I’m backpacking, I pretty much eat nonstop because of all the calories I’m burning. So I try to bring along extra food and treats for Ace as well. Normally he eats about 4 cups of dry food a day, but when we backpack, I give him an extra cup with each meal.
4. Consider the weather.
I grew up with golden retrievers that could tolerate the cold pretty well, but when I took Ace on his first winter camping trip, he was cold and had to sit in my lap by the fire. A 60-pound dog is no lap dog! Anyway, now I always remember to bring Ace’s vest along, and also an extra blanket for him if it’s extra cold. It’s either that or I will be sharing my sleeping bag with a smelly dog.
5. Know the park rules and why they exist.
Some parks charge an extra fee for dogs and most will require them to be on a leash. I respect these rules because at least these parks allow dogs. I always pick up after my dog so dogs will continue to be welcome. If dogs are not allowed in a park, it works pretty well to play ignorant. But, I try to do research ahead so I’m aware of the rules. Usually if dogs are not allowed it’s because of the mess they cause or for fear they will disturb wildlife. Just be aware of these rules.
6. Watch your dog at all times when he’s off-leash.
I think it’s great that my dog is trained well enough to be off-leash, but I don’t let him get too far ahead. If we are in a new environment, I never know what he might chase after. If your dog is not very good with the recall, just be safe and keep him on his leash.
7. Don’t risk going without ID.
Ace never goes out without his ID tags. If your dog does not have ID, get them. It’s not worth it to bring your dog without them. If he gets lost and someone finds him, there is no way for that person to contact you.
8. Be ready to deal with mud.
I know that our tent will get quite a bit dirtier than usual with Ace along. Same goes with my sleeping bag, car, clothes and everything else. I guess that’s the least of my worries when I’m backpacking, but it’s something to keep in mind if you have expensive gear and a clumsy, muddy dog.
For me, there is no point in having a dog unless he is going to be a part of my active life. I like to leave my dog at home as little as possible. What’s the best trip you’ve taken with your dog?