Bringing the canine companion along for adventures can be rewarding, especially if you have a dog that loves adventure as much as you do. There are things you need to take into consideration and prepare for, to assure that adventuring is safe and rewarding for you canine pal.

  1. When adventuring with dogs, always make sure they have plenty of food and water. They should be drinking as often as you are, and need extra calories just like you do. Don’t let them get over heated, and blanket short haired dogs prone to getting cold.
  2. I keep my dog on leash, even when on trails where no other people or dogs are around. This is for his safety. You never know when there might be a mountain lion, moose, bear, or rattlesnake around the next corner. I had a dog get attacked by an elk, while on leash, being led by my son (they no doubt walked unknowingly in to it’s path). Wild animals see dogs as a threat, so keep them leashed for safety.
  3. When backpacking in areas with bears, remember that your dog’s food and pack also need to be hung in a bear bag, or stored in a bear canister.
  4. Don’t forget to bring first aid for your dog. You never know when a pad might get cut, a dog fight might happen, or any other number of injuries sustained. My dog carries a first aid kit that includes a couple boots, bandages and vet wrap, tri-care, pain medicine, Benadryl, and antibiotics.
  5. I think it is fine for dogs to carry their own belongings in their backpacks, just make sure the pack fits right, is balanced, and is not rubbing them anywhere. Bonus to their pack, is when space is freed up by less dog food, there is room for trash. My dog carries his dog food, food and water bowl, first aid, harness and rope for being tied at camp, a tarp or blanket to lay on (depending on the temp), and a water bottle. If his pack is unbalanced, I will sometimes use the water in the bottle, to even out the weight. My dog also loves soaking in every stream he comes across, so I put the belongings in his pack in a trash bag or waterproof stuff sack, so that it stays dry(er..).
  6. Be aware of the terrain that you are taking your dog on. Different terrains have different obstacles. My dog is extremely adaptable, and good at taking direction in new terrain. He navigates through boulder fields like a wolf, and has learned to cross water on logs, when the current is too strong. Many mountain trails have fast moving water crossings that have to be navigated. Take special consideration when taking dogs up mountains. My dog has summited 5 of Colorado’s 14ers, but I will only take him on Class 1 or 2 hikes. Class 3 hikes require scrambling on all fours for humans, with stretches too steep and long for a dog to navigate. He is 75lbs and too heavy for me to carry up. Also be aware that there is often not much water above treeline, so make sure to bring enough water for your dog, as well as you.
  7. When on road trips, crossing state lines, you will sometimes run in to situations where you have to show your dogs immunizations records, especially rabies. Make sure you have their records with you. New York is a state that requires proof of rabies vaccinations before allowing you to stay at their campgrounds. Border patrol always checks, when crossing in to Canada.
  8. Be mindful of the various insects you might run in to, and how to keep your dog comfortable and safe. Many midwestern states have ticks. Some dogs are extra sensitive to mosquito bites. My dog is often harassed by bees (self inflicted, as he tries to catch them with his mouth…). Bug spray on the fur can help, as can using flea and tick products. Some times you simply have to put the dog in the tent in order to protect them from bugs at camp, and if they are being harassed that badly, they will be grateful for it.
  9. Take care of your dog’s poo, and treat it as you would your own when adventuring. Pick up poo left along the trail, don’t leave poo anywhere near water sources, and bury or pack out when able (or required). Many trails are getting stricter on their rules, and part of this is due to safety for the wild animals, and concerns about water quality.
  10. Not all dogs like adventuring. It depends largely on the breed of the dog, and what he or she is accustomed to. Some dogs are fearful of car rides, struggle to eat and drink while away from home, or have have short hair and get cold easily. If you want your dog to join you on adventures, start training them early, by taking them out and exposing them to a variety of outdoor conditions.