Camping and Hiking With Your Dog: What You Need to Know
June 6th, 2019
While a dog can be a great companion on a hike or a camping trip, there are definitely some considerations to make when bringing your canine buddy out into the wilderness. In this post we'll cover how to plan, what to bring, and what to do in case things don't turn out quite the way you expected.
Can my dog do this safely?
The first things to assess are your pet's physical capabilities and the requirements of the trip you are planning. Consider the possible environmental factors, such as extreme cold or heat, especially for those breeds that have respiratory concerns. Very young or very old dogs may not have the stamina needed for longer hikes or those routes with significant elevation changes.
Also, can you control your pet? While encounters with other dogs at the dog park may not be particularly hazardous, wildlife encounters can often become dangerous or even fatal for an overexcited dog. Be aware of any potential predators your dog may encounter, such as coyotes, cougars, bears, and large predatory birds such as eagles or hawks. The unfamiliar sights and sounds of the wilderness can cause a pet to become less likely to respond to commands, endangering themselves and possibly even other hikers.
Always consult your veterinarian when first introducing a dog to the wilderness for the first time. You should also know how to identify, treat and preferably prevent common problems like ticks, pathogens from drinking water, and snake or insect bites. (see our previous post on Venomous Snakes in Washington). Certain plants your dog may encounter, like poison ivy and poison oak, giant hogweed, or stinging nettle can most certainly cause problems for your pet. See WSDOT's "Poisonous Plants of Washington State" for a guide to these hazards.
How should I prepare?
You should prepare your pet physically and mentally for the upcoming challenge. Start by training your pet like you'd train yourself - take small, local hikes of increasing distance to acclimate your dog to the experience. Look into protective footwear, especially if your dog's paws are not conditioned for rough terrain.
Make sure your dog is able to quickly and effectively respond to your commands. If not, you should probably look into some additional training first to make sure they can stay under your control. Use of a dog whistle with a significant range can be an effective training aid when outdoors.
Where should I go?
Now that you've prepared for the trip, you need to figure out where the pet-appropriate hiking trails and campsites are. Many areas don't allow dogs at all, so you need to know the rules before you pack up your gear and head out. You also need to be aware of the trail conditions. Are there lots of sharp rocks, or slide-prone areas? Steep cliffs or drop-offs present a serious danger to a distracted pet. There will need to be shaded areas for your pet to cool off in, and make sure to avoid those trails that allow mountain biking or the use of animals like horses or mules. There are several resources available online and in print to locate good areas to take your dog. The U.S.National Park website has excellent information on the use of national parks for your pet-trekking. Check with your state's park website for rules specific to those areas.
What else should I remember to do?
Bring enough food and water. This may be obvious but you need to account for the extra exertion your dog will be experiencing.
Include pet items in your first aid kit if necessary. Our Pet CPR & First Aid class can give you all the information you need to prepare for and treat common issues.
Make sure your pet is either microchipped or has a tag with your contact information clearly legible. Include a rabies vaccination tag as well.
Pack out the poop. Just like for us humans, dog poop is an environmental hazard, for both local plants and animals. Make sure to take plenty of poop bags, and carry it out with you. if you can't or don't want to carry it out, bring a shovel. You'll need to bury it eight inches or more and 200+ feet away from trails and waterways. Biodegradable bags need to be buried too.
We hope some of these suggestions help you to plan for your trip. We will be hosting a Hiking Safety for Dogs event on June 26th that will address these issues and more. Contact our office or visit our website for details.
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Published on June 5, 2019