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Backpacking With Dogs

The season of camping, hiking, and spending all of our free time outdoors is finally upon us, and I don't know about you, but I love spending my time out in the wilderness with my dogs. It's an experience I want to share with them, and in sharing it, I want to make as many memories as possible. So, this year, my pack and I are taking our first backpacking trip as a family. I'm here to share with you some helpful tips I've come across that may help you prepare for your adventures!

Research your destination

Doing your research is extremely important. By reading about the terrain and studying helpful reviews, you can determine if the trail is suitable for your dogs -- if it allows dogs at all, leashed or otherwise.

My pack and I are heading to Pollet's Cove in Cape Breton. A local lottery winner privately owns this large swath of land, and they graciously allow avid hikers to explore and enjoy their picturesque wilderness. To get there, keeping tide schedules in mind, we can either hike a narrow trail that runs alongside the water or venture by boat. Upon arriving, we will face a steep climb through glacier-polished Appalachian cliffs, bluffs, and rugged terrain. There will be tall vegetation and thorny, albeit beautiful wild roses. The land is also home to eleven wild horses who, while tame, may offer an unexpected challenge for dogs with limited prior exposure to horses. The journey to this breathtaking location is approximately 13km.

By researching your destination beforehand, you'll learn a lot about the trail and how to best prepare yourself and your dogs. For example, I now know that the pups will need life jackets (we will be using our Life Savior). The dogs will also need exposure to riding boats and being around horses. In addition, I've learned that harnesses with a handle, and a sturdy set of boots for the dogs (such as the Outback Boots) are mandatory to assist with the steep climb. I also know that the dogs are best kept on a leash to prevent injury. Long-lines are also essential to avoid disrupting the wildlife and vegetation.

Pre-Hike Readiness

Training for these fun, exhilarating adventures is imperative. The more that we can do to prepare our dogs for their imminent escapade, the better!

  • Expose your dog to anything and everything they may experience on your trip. For us, this includes horses and boats.

  • Brush up on trail etiquette and obedience. Our dogs must be able to share the trail and respect other hikers!

  • Backpacking trips mean the pups will have to help us carry essential supplies. For this, we will be using our Trail Pack. If your dog isn't used to wearing a pack and carrying its belongings, it's critical to train them to do so. Start by putting them in an empty pack on your daily outings and very gradually increase the load. It's essential to raise the weight very slowly and in small increments. The maximum weight a dog should ever carry is 25% of their body weight, including the pack's weight, and dogs must be conditioned for months or even years to reach this milestone. A better goal for your early adventures is 10% of their weight.

  • Get your dog use to your sleeping system. Being able to settle and get a goods night's rest on your adventure should be one of your top priorities! Spending time at home in a tent is a great way to get them comfortable with the experience in a familiar setting. If you have a portable dog bed, such as the Outback Dreamer Eco, training your dog to be comfortable on it can achieve similar results and has the added benefit of keeping your dog warm on cold nights.

  • Make sure you contact your vet about your travels to ensure your dog has all the necessary shots and medications to protect them from pathogens and parasites. Prevention is better than treatment!

Bring The Essentials

While your mileage may vary depending on the particulars of your adventure and your dog's needs, some essentials that should be in everyone's pack:

  • First aid kit

  • Water container

  • Dog boots

  • Dog towel

  • Bells and collar lights

  • Something to keep your dogs warm, such as a blanket, a sleeping bag and/or a coat

  • Something to keep your dogs cool, such as the new Cooling Wrap

  • Your dog's favourite toy

  • Poop-bag and trowel

  • Emergency sling

  • Extra food (packing high-calorie, low-volume food is essential to keep from being over-encumbered)

I hope that you found this guide helpful in planning your future adventures. Nature can be beautiful, serene, and in many cases inspiring, but it can also be incredibly fickle. You need to prepare for anything and everything because the wilderness won't go easy on you. So get out there and make some lasting memories, have fun, but above all else, be safe.

Happy camping! ~ Jess, Stirling, Percy, Eris, and Pekoe

Want to see more of Jess and her packs adventures? Check them on out on social media


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