Camping and Hiking With Your Dog!

Well, we live in beautiful Utah, where there are many places to hike and camp with your dog. And who doesn’t love going on an adventure with their fur baby?!  In this blog we will talk about taking your dog camping, hiking, and backpacking and the things you need to know!

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Where To Go

Before you head out on your adventure, you want to make sure where your going is dog friendly. Not all places allow dogs in campgrounds, and some that do, don’t allow them on the trails. So make sure you know dogs are allowed before you go. Dogs are not allowed in most National Parks, so where you can take them may be more rural, so make sure you are prepared to handle less accommodations. Some campgrounds also charge pet fees, so be aware of that! Some good sites to look at are:

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Camping: What To Bring

If you are going car camping, you can bring more items with you for your pup then when you go backpacking. So depending which you are doing, you will want to pack accordingly. Also if you are going car camping, your dog won’t need to be as conditioned for hiking, but only if you plan on hanging around camp more, and you should still visit your vet to make sure your dog is healthy enough to go! Listed below are some essential items when going camping, if you are going backpacking, you will want to eliminate unnecessary items that will add weight to your pack, you can always ask your vet if you are unsure what to bring backpacking for your dog! Dr. Doub is an avid backpacker and takes her furballs all the time!

*Leash. You need at least a 6 foot leash for camping and hiking, you can have up to a 10 foot leash, but some trails and camps only allow 6 foot leashes, so make sure you have both. You can also bring spare rope to tie your dog up in camp so they don’t wonder to other peoples sites, but have more than 6 feet to roam.

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*Towels. Bring a dry towel for the tent to wipe off muddy paws before they get in, and a few extra towels if they jump in a lake or river or get caught in a downpour so you can dry them off.

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*Brush and Nail Clippers. A brush so you can remove burrs from the fur, as well as check for ticks and other insects. And dog nail clippers are good to have if your dogs nails are really long, you don’t want them to rip up your tent floor. (If you don’t feel comfortable about trimming your dog’s nails, call your vet, they can do it for you!)

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*Bed and Blankets. Make sure you bring a dog bed and blankets, if it is colder where you are going, a foam pad is warmer with wool blankets.

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*Food. Bring enough food for meals at the normal portion size you feed your dog at home. But you will want to bring extra food and increase it depending on their fitness, typical exercise, and the difficulty of the hike. You can give a small serving of food an hour before the hike for extra energy as well. Make sure you bring treats as well for hiking and camping! They will be a much happier camper with extra treat motivation!

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*Water. Bring fresh water for your dog when you camp. They go through more water camping and hiking, because they are getting more exercise then when at home, so plan water accordingly. Even if you may be near streams or lakes, you’ll want to bring fresh clean water for your dog, because they can get waterborne illnesses. It’s nearly impossible to avoid them drinking from a stream or lake if you are by one, so make sure you get your dog vaccinated against those waterborne diseases.

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*Food/Water Storage. Make sure the food and water you bring is properly stored in air tight containers to avoid it spoiling, and make sure the bowls you bring aren’t breakable. The water should be kept in a cool spot, as your dog likes cold water like us. Also if you go somewhere where there are bears, store your dog food in the car, or a bear proof container, as bears can smell their food and may come to investigate and have a tasty snack.

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*Pet Meds. If your pet is on any meds, make sure you bring those, even camping they should follow their normal medication routine.

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*First Aid Kit. In case their ever is that emergency, you want to be prepared with a first aid kit for your dog. This can include items like: bandages, bandage scissors, dog nail clippers, tweezers (or tick remover), disinfectants (like hydrogen peroxide), canine eyewash, stop bleeding powder, gauze pads (4 inch squares), gauze roll, non-stick pads, adhesive tape (1 inch and 2 inch rolls), muzzle (even the sweetest dog can turn snappy when in pain).

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*LED Lights. You will want to bring an LED light, or safety light with you so you can keep track of your dog at night, so they don’t wonder off and you can’t find them.

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*Toys. You will want to bring some toys for your dog once they settle down after all the new smells aren’t so new anymore. You want to bring toys like a ball, frisbee, stuffed toys, etc. that aren’t breakable, and you won’t care if they get filthy. 


*Coat. You may think your dog doesn’t need one, or they are just for “fashion dogs”, but if your dog has short fur, they can get cold at night just like us, make sure you bring them a coat to help give them some extra insulation.

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*Identification/Vaccines. You will want to make sure your dog is properly identified when camping and hiking. This means a collar with a name tag and number to call you at in-case they get lost. If you won’t have service where you are, you can put the campground name or contact park ranger on it. You will also want to microchip your dog. This is the ONLY sure way that your dog will be returned to you, as it is a permanent ID. Also bring a copy of your dog’s vaccinations with you to avoid a ticket or other mishaps.

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Hiking/Backpacking: What To Bring

In addition to the above items, you will want to bring a few different items when you go hiking and backpacking. If you are going backpacking, you can filter out some of the unnecessary items like toys, to make your pack lighter. 

*Dog Pack. If your dog is big enough to carry its own pack, you can put their stuff in their pack, and they can carry their own food, water, treats, etc. BUT you will want to make sure that the weight of the pack is one-third of your dog’s body weight, or less. If your dog is less than 25 pounds, they should not carry their own pack. You will want to make sure the pack fits properly, you can talk to Dr. Doub about how to fit your dog for a pack, or some experts at an outdoor store like REI.

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*Booties. Some trails are rougher and harder to walk on than others. In these cases, you will want to bring dog booties (or shoes) for you pup. They can also help protect their feet against sharp rocks, snow, and thorns. But they can loose them on the trail, so make sure you pack an extra pair just in case. And you will need to allow time for your dog to get used to wearing the booties before you take them out on the trail.

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*Cooling Collar. All dogs have a hard time keeping cool, because they don’t sweat like us. A cooling collar can help them avoid heat stroke and is easy to use! You just get it wet and slip it over their head around their neck! This is a MUST HAVE if you go anywhere hot!!

*Poop Bags. You should for sure take these camping as well, but especially on hikes. Just as with humans, practice the LEAVE NO TRACE, and pack it out!! If you are going backpacking, and don’t want to carry around 10 smelly poop bags, you can use the human rule to pooping in the woods, bury the poop in a 6-8 inch deep hole AT LEAST 200 feet (70 adult paces) from all water sources.

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Is Your Dog Trail Ready?

Before you take your pup with you camping, hiking, and backpacking, make sure that they are trail ready! First thing to do is visit the vet!! Dr. Doub will happily answer questions for you about if your dog is trail ready! Some questions to ask your vet are:

1. Is your dog physically ready? You need to make sure that your dog is in shape, and not to young or old before heading into the wilds and that their immune system is good to get out there and be active. 

2. Does your dog need vaccines or wilderness treatments? The wild has some other diseases to watch out for that aren’t always in the city like Giardia and Leptospirosis. And critters like fleas and ticks. Ask Dr. Doub what she recommends for vaccines and preventative treatments before you head out! We also have the Rattlesnake vaccine here since we have those in Utah, and if your heading South, you will want some flea and tick treatments!

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Training For the Trail

Before you head out on that hike or backpacking adventure you need to make sure that your dog is properly conditioned! Although you may be able to head out on an 8 mile hike with no conditioning, our pups need to get into trail shape to avoid injury.

So to turn your furry couch potato into a trail fit dog, you can start small, like walks around the neighborhood, going further and further each time. Then start with short easy hikes, and build up from there. Watch your pup close for signs of exhaustion and soreness, you don’t want to push them to far at once. You can do this by seeing how long it takes their breathing and heart rate to normalize during breaks. If it seems excessive and not slowing down, it may be time to stop for the day. 

If you plan on your dog carrying their own pack, make sure you train them with it. Start off with them wearing an empty pack on walks, and slowly add a little weight with how fast they are conditioning. 

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Trail Etiquette

When out hiking with your fur baby, you need to know a few basic trail etiquette things to ensure that you and your pet have a happy hike! Not everyone likes dogs, so you want to make sure that other people feel safe and comfortable when encountering you, and remember you are representing dog owners everywhere! So be the perfect example to others for why dogs should be allowed on the trails, you don’t want to be the one person that ruins all the fun for other dog owners out there. We want to maintain our welcome on the trails and back country!

*Yield to others. Other hikers, mountain bikers, and horses have the right of way, so step off the trail and have your dog sit next to you while they pass. Keep your dog calm as well, so the passerby’s can feel reassured your dog is under control. Say a friendly hello, so your dog knows its a friend, not a foe that approaches. 

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*Keep your dog leashed. Most trails require your dog to be leashed. Read up on the trail before hand to know if it is okay to have your dog off leash. For example some places allow off leash dogs on odd days, but not on even days. And if you are hiking with your dog off leash, if you encounter people or other dogs, leash your dog, and pass them before letting your dog off leash again. 

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*Keep your dog on the trail. Keeping your dog on the trail helps the environment from being trampled and eroded from little paw pads. And you can be assured that your dog won’t encounter any unsuspecting wildlife that may not end well. 

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Trail Hazards

When out on the trail your pup can encounter many things, and some of those things can be hazardous. Leashing your dog is always the safest thing for them, but if you want to hike off leash, make sure you keep a close eye on them and what they eat/ sniff. Dogs poke their noses into holes, and eat things on the trail all the time, but make sure if you see your dog doing it you stop them. Many holes can have ground nesting bees, poisonous snakes, and other creepy crawlies that will attack an innocent nose investigating.

Off leash dogs can also run the chance of running into bears, wild cats, or something else that is looking for a tasty fur snack. They can also run through poison ivy or something like it, which they will then rub on us, and we will get it. So beware of those possibilities when off leash.

Things like mushrooms, cattails, other poop, rocks, random socks, can all be on the trail and your dog could eat them. Don’t let your dog eat anything on the trail, and if you see them eating something, investigate what it is, and if you don’t know what it is, take it and your dog with you to the vet ASAP.

If you are by a river or stream, and the trail crosses it, make sure you scout out the safest place to cross, and test how fast the current is moving, you don’t want your dog to get swept away. Keep them leashed when crossing the river. You will want to make sure your dog is completely dry before dark as well, to avoid hypothermia.

Remember not every trail is dog friendly either, they may be cool hikes to go on, but be extra cautious taking your dogs on hikes where there are fire towers, cliffs, and hikes with ladders. 

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Post Hike Pup Check 

After your hike, you should ALWAYS give your dog a full body check to make sure there are no hidden cuts or creatures hiding in their fur. Look for any cuts, scratches, ticks, foxtails, burrs, etc, as those can be very serious if not taken care of right away. You also don’t want them to transfer those things to you while you’re sleeping either! 

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Have Fun!!

The most important thing is to have fun! If you follow our suggestions and precautions before you hit the trail and go camping you’ll be sure your dog is safe and having fun! So get out there and enjoy the outdoors with your fur baby!

Straight From The Dog’s Mouth,

Love, Sequoia and Toodles (the model for the pictures)

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