Let’s face it: adventures feel empty without a pup wagging its tail by your side. Our furry friends will happily join us for pretty much anything. Heck, even adrenaline extremist Dean Potter trained his dog Whisper to accompany him on BASE jumping and wingsuit flying excursions. And look at Tom Hanks’ character in “Castaway,” who created a fake dog (most may say imaginary human friend, but that’s neither here nor there), in the form of Wilson, a volleyball. His not-so-inviting adventure on an island became all the better with Wilson by his side. But I think most of us would prefer to handpick dog-friendly adventures instead of getting stuck on a desolate archipelago with circumstances forcing the birth of a fake volleyball pup. Explorations are always a thousand times improved with the Bauer’s, Rosco’s, Tiggy’s, Maisy’s, Toff’s trotting beside us.
So what are some steps we can take to ensure ultimate enjoyment, safety, and reduced stress when exploring trails and setting up camp with our dogs? We’ve got the details for you!
Check if your dog can join you!
If most of us had it our way, there would be flights tailored for dog owners and dog lovers only, and every breed of dog would have permission to enter any country or tackle any adventure. But alas, this world has rules and regulations that one must follow. Hikers, backpackers, and campers with dog children are likely well aware by now of the dreaded “no dogs allowed” signs plaguing some trails, campsites, city paths, and national parks. It only adds to the confusion when national parks allow dogs, but some paths don’t and vice versa. Be sure to research this information before you go.
While we want a world where dogs can live with the same guidelines and freedoms as humans, it’s also essential to respect the rules for these areas as some are prone to heavy wildlife activity. Yet, there are some trails that only allow dogs to wander the trails during certain times of year, depending on animal activity. You see? There are so many different rules! It’s a must to get the green light on dog-friendly spots before you pack your bags and set off on your adventure.
Make a checklist of what you need to pack
You can’t just toss your dog in the backseat of your vehicle and hope for the best. Maybe our parents did that with our childhood dog, but that’s not our style, is it? Dogs are basically the new human baby. Okay, they aren’t, but it sure feels like it sometimes. When you think about hiking or camping with an actual baby, you need to pack food, beverages, extra clothes, diapers, and a carrier or stroller if the terrain allows. And it’s similar with pups—not that I’m comparing raising a child to caring for a puppy—but you still need to pack things:
- Poop bags
- Food if you’re staying overnight (canned or kibble—wet food may attract wildlife)
- Extra sweater for smaller pups, and maybe an alternative in case that one gets wet
- Harness or collar
- Leash—an extended leash to tie your pup up for those camping
- Portable water dish and extra water if you aren’t passing a water source
- Toys if you’re frontcountry camping
I personally like bully sticks, which are excellent sources of distraction. Just make sure you have water for when they finish it!
Another thing to consider bringing is a collar with bells on it to create noise when you’re walking. If you end up going to an area in the wilderness where your dog can run off-leash, a bell is helpful to know where they are, especially if they are learning recall. Sometimes it can take ages for young or, let’s face it, stubborn dogs to come back to you.
Consider trail etiquette
You may not see this tip as helpful to you, but trust us, others will love your dog all the more if you follow trail etiquette—and that’s all we want, right? It always sucks when someone disapproves of your dog. Do any other dog owners take outsider disdain towards your pup personally? Not to compare babies to dogs again, but they are pretty much our offspring, so….
Anyways, to boost the overall love vibes on the trails, some guidelines are necessary to follow. Number one: keep your dog on a leash unless indicated otherwise. It’s awkward when your dog is off-leash and a dog on-leash lashes out at your dog. The on-leash owner then has to apologize for following the rules. Don’t be that person letting your dog roam freely off a leash! Even if your dog is all giggles and good times, other pups may be anxious, in training, or overprotective over their beloved owners. However, keeping your dog on a leash also works to protect the habitat and environment flanking the path!
Lastly, leaving green poop bags along the trail was never in style, so why do it now? Unless you’re someone who wore a “Dare to be Different” t-shirt as a kid, propelling you to think, “I’m going to leave poop bags on the trail because I want to be unique by hating on the environment!” Well, that doesn’t make you unique; it makes you a trail villain. We know carrying poop bags is super gross, but there are some scented doggy bags out there that may be worth getting!
Is your dog fit enough?
This question may seem dumb, but hear us out! If you’re planning on going on a multi-day backpacking trip or tackling a long hike on a whim, your pup’s legs may give out if they aren’t used to crazy intense journeys. Dogs that favour chilling on the couch over zoomies in the backyard may need to build their stamina by going on short walks. You don’t want to be stuck carrying your pup (I mean the thought of gaining some arm muscle is great) or stopping halfway because your furry friend can’t make it! Like humans, dogs need to work on their fitness and stamina. It’s weird, we know.
Dogs make for entertaining, loveable companions, adding zest to any adventure!