Dogs And The Outdoors: Tips for taking your dog camping and backpacking
I have a beagle, Tick. She’s seven years old and she loves to run through the woods just as much now as she did when she was a puppy.
Unfortunately, no matter how hard I try to train her, her beagle instincts kick in every time we are in the woods and she bolts after any animal and jumps at every crunch of a twig. She, like many other pets out there (I am sure), can be a pain to deal with when backpacking.
I often fear for her safety and for my own heartache – lest I leave the woods with my faithful friend not fully intact…Okay, that got a little morbid. However, the fear doesn’t stop me from bringing my partner in crime out into the woods for weekends of backpacking trips and extended camping adventures.
Anyway, without further adieu, here are some helpful tips for taking your own dog into the woods for some solitude from the bustling world out there.
Rope is a common material that you should take on every camping trip. Whether you’re going into the woods behind your house for the night or into the depths of Denali National Park, having an ample supply of rope can be the difference between a good time and a bad time and even life and death.
When you add pets into the mix, specifically dogs, the rope becomes even more of a useful supply. For pups that like to run and explore on their own, a zip line in camp is a great way to keep them from running off without sacrificing their need to sniff here and there.
Tying a line a few feet above the dogs head in height between two trees or solid structures, then clipping the dog’s leash to the line via a carabiner or hook clip should keep the dog secure and close camp the whole time.
Using parachute cord is a good idea. You can double up the lines to give the cord more strength. However, the elasticity of it allows the dog to have a little stretch when they find that spot just a few feet away that they just HAVE TO SNIFF.
Your dog will thank you for providing them with a proper shelter Photo Credit
No matter where you are backpacking, having proper shelter is an absolutely must. If you’re backcountry camping and using a tent you need to take that into account before taking your dog camping.
How big is your tent? Will it fit you and your English Mastiff? Will your Chihuahua have too much room in the tent forcing you to wake up to the smell of nature that you really hoped never to smell next to your pillow?
Having proper shelter for you and your dog is something that can be tricky but not impossible to pull off.
Having a spare tarp on hand is an easy way to rig an A-frame tent (using extra lengths of spare parachute cord) for Fido to call home for the trip. The important part to remember is to keep the dogs shelter close to your shelter, then dog’s leash can be thread into your tent for the night – to avoid any sort of runaway and to alarm you if there a tussle with another animal in the middle of the night.
Additionally, be sure to bring an old sheet to place on the ground under the shelter – even dogs don’t like sleeping in the dirt.
3: Insect Prevention
Ticks can be harmful to a dog’s health and can carry disease and bacteria Photo Credit
Dogs should already be on a monthly or seasonal regiment of flea and tick prevention. When taking them out into the wilderness, especially wooded areas and areas with tall grass, making sure that they are protected from the potential dangers is very important.
There are tons of flea and tick preventative measures out there and checking in at your local pet shop is an easy way to get information on the easiest and most effective products to use on your pet before heading out.
If a pet shop is not on the radar, giving your dog daily groom and checking them for ticks regularly is the next best option. Be sure to bring an environmentally friendly bar of soap!
4: Food + Water
Take dry food. Simple as that. Wet food is going to be heavy and weigh your pack down and produces a lot more waste that you won’t want to carry while out hiking. If your dog eats a lot of wet food at home, then start training them with dry or damp food a week or two ahead of the trip.
An easy way to do this is by mixing their dry and wet foods together and slowly adding less and less wet food until their bowl is full of dry food. If they have trouble eating dry food, dampening it with water is an easy way to soften it and can be done in the woods or on the trails.
Water from rivers and creeks can often hold some seriously damaging bacteria. Though a dog’s gut is usually stronger than humans, making sure that they have clean water is something to take into account. Water purification tablets can be damaging because of the chemicals in them and should be avoided if possible. Filter systems exist and are a great way to get water on the fly.
If all else fails, boiling the water is always an option and great option at that. Just make sure it’s clean and cool before serving it to your pup!
5: Keep Your Dog Close
Allowing your pup to run off and have fun on its own sounds great – if the dog returns – but when in the wilderness it can have terrible consequences.
First off, dogs like to sniff and sometimes they sniff themselves into situations they shouldn’t, for example: into a bear’s den.
Keeping your dog close to you while in the woods is an easy way to prevent any sort of confrontation between them and Yogi Bear. I can’t tell you how many times my beagle tried to take on a fully-grown horse while on the trails, I can only imagine her trying to fight a bear.
Secondly, there may be other hikers on the trails and not everyone likes dogs (it’s okay, we don’t like those people anyway). Allowing your dog to run freely, without a leash, can be an easy way to get on the bad aside other hikers or to get your dog into a tussle with another hikers dog. Simply put, keep your dog close at all times and on a leash when the moment calls for it.
When all is said and done, taking your dog into the woods with you can be an awesome experience, but keeping them safe can be a full-time job while out there.
However, with the right preparations, mixed with a solid dose of common sense, the whole trip can end up being a great way to bond with your furry friend and a character building experience for both.
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