Hiking or backpacking can be great fun an exercise for both people and dogs. However, you really need to keep in mind your dog’s physical condition, breed and body type when going on hikes. Puppies should only be taken on very short hikes and should not wear a backpack. If your dog is not used to hiking, you will need to slowly build up the length and difficulty of your hikes. A dog that is used to leisurely walks in the city may have trouble with steep terrain or rocky surfaces. If you go on hikes that include rock climbing, remember that it may be easier for the dog to get up than to come down!
Backpacking with your dog is a great strength builder and something which many dogs enjoy. Your dog can also earn a certificate or title in backpacking through several organizations. Some breed clubs offer titles within their breed, such as the Alaskan Malamute Club. Dog Scouts of America offers titles for all breeds/mixes. When beginning to pack with your dog, first get him used to an empty pack before adding any weight. Some dogs may have trouble realizing that the pack makes them wider than normal, and get stuck or scrape the pack off, so don’t allow them to walk without a leash wearing their pack. When your dog is acclimated with his/her pack, add weight slowly. Keep the weight to a minimum and be sure to balance both sides evenly. The pack should sit over the dog’s shoulders, not further down on the back- you don’t want to put weight on the spine. Check your dog every so often for any rubbing or chafing of the pack’s straps. If the pack is chafing, it is probably fitted incorrectly.
As fun as hiking can be, it can also be dangerous if you and your dog are not properly prepared. If your dog does not have a good recall or “leave it” or may chase animals, please keep him/her on leash! If you would like to train your dog for backpacking/hiking or learn more about hiking safety for dogs and owners or other issues, there are several books published on hiking with dogs.
The rules about dogs in state and national parks vary. Some do not allow dogs at all, some allow them but not on any trails, or only on certain trails. Please check with the park before bringing your dog. For some backpacking titles/certificates, the packing can be done anywhere- even on city sidewalks!
Things to Bring This is a list of things we suggest you bring on a hike.
- ID tags on your dog
- Pick-up bags
- First aid kit for you and your dog
- Water and a bowl
- A dog backpack
- Mosquito/bug repellant (for you and/or your dog)