Hiking with Dogs: Equipment Checklist
- Harness + Leash
- Water + collapsible bowl (typically 0.5-1.0 oz/lb body weight per day)
- ID tags and License
- First Aid Kit (alcohol pads, liquid bandage, antiseptic, tweezers, etc)
- Saddlebags (weighted evenly – 10-12% body weight)
- Pest Prevention
- Pick Up Bags or Trowel
- Citronella Spray
- Clicker or Other Training Tools
- Coat or Cooling Collar
Harness + Leash: For greater control and comfort for your canine hiking companion consider a harness over a regular collar. If your dog pulls at all you will have better luck using a front-clip version; both the Freedom No Pull Harness and Petsafe Easy Walk Harness are great options. For safety reasons I do not recommend using a retractable leash.
Water + Collapsible Bowl: The typical dog drinks approximately 0.5-1.0 ounces of water a day per pound body weight; more if on a strenuous and hot hike. Water can be carried in a number of ways but I prefer using bladders and collapsible bowls for convenience as these pack away nicely in both my backpack or the dog’s saddlebags.
Food + Snacks: Just like us dogs burn more calories when they exercise, so bring along plenty to munch on. Some snacks like apples, peanut butter, carrots, and bananas can be enjoyed by both you and your dog. Also consider a high-value training treat. I like to keep Ziwi Peak air-dried dog food in a treat pouch around my waist for easy access. Hikes are great places to work on obedience and agility training, so why not make the most of the opportunity?
ID Tags + License: If you’re hiking in the Chattanooga area, remember that dogs over three months are required to be licensed with the City of Chattanooga. This applies to animals in Unincorporated Hamilton County, Red Bank, Soddy Daisy, Lakesite, Collegedale and Walden. Licenses are $10 per pet and can be purchased through the City’s animal center or a licensed veterinarian.
First Aid Kit: Several local and online pet supply stores carry canine first aid kits. I bought mine at Cabela’s and added a few items. At a minimum your kit should include the following; antiseptic, liquid bandage, alcohol wipes, non-stick pads, first aid tape, scissors, and tweezers. You might consider adding antibiotic cream, old wool socks (to use as bootie bandages), styptic powder, and a dog stretcher (in case you’re miles away with a large injured dog).
Saddlebags: If you have a dog who is easily distracted or pulls on leash consider giving her a job to do. Putting weight in the pack is not necessary, but if you want your dog to help share the load remember that total pack weight should max out at 10-12% of her body weight (a 60lb dog can carry 6-7lbs). Saddlebags can be a great way to store all of your doggie supplies including used poop bags (I recommend double or triple bagging them). There are many options when it comes to choosing the right pack. I personally like Ruffwear dog backpacks for their durability, bright color, and reflective stripping. If your dog is new to dog packs always start them off with a light load and work up to heavier loads.
Flea/Tick/Pest Prevention: Currently, I am the most excited about the Seresto collar. This is not the powdery, smelly flea collars of the past. The Seresto collar is odorless, non-greasy, and water resistant. It doesn’t require biting to kill fleas and ticks, and the best part may be the price. One collar ($60-70) will last 8 months. If you’re unfamiliar with this brand ask your veterinarian about it! Whatever flea/tick prevention you choose remember that dogs in the south need to be on medication year-round. In the Spring or after any recent warm-up and period of rain I also recommend using supplemental prevention. Natural Care, available at Wal-Mart, makes a great Flea and Tick Home Spray that is safe for spraying dog bedding, around the house, or directly on your dog’s coat itself (preferably right before your hike). Essential oils such as lavender, eucalyptus, lemongrass, and lemon have been shown to repel fleas and ticks. Just remember if you want to try making your own at-home solution to dilute properly and always use on a test spot first. With any of these suggestions it’s important to keep in mind that a dog’s sense of smell is much stronger than ours’ and they will naturally be more sensitive.
Pick-up Bags: The adage for human waste is the same for dogs, “carry it or bury it”. I know it can be tempting to let it lie, especially when there is no one else around, but consider this. Dog poo contains pathogens that, when washed “away”, can contaminate our water supplies. So, please remember to pack those poop bags. Double/triple bag it or place in a freezer bag to prevent the smell from escaping. Carry a trowel on those long backpacking trips where burying is your only option.
Towels: When it comes to playing outdoors with your dog you can never have too many towels (paper or cotton). Carry what you can on you or in your dog’s saddlebags and leave the rest in your car for when you get back. Perhaps I’m a little bit of a clean freak but my dogs get a thorough toweling off before they jump back in my car.
Reflector/Light: A quickly setting sun can catch us off guard. You can choose to carry a flashlight, use your cell phone’s flashlight function, or simply clip a small LED to your dog’s collar. Some of these clip-on lights have multiple functions where they will blink or stay on. Reflective vests, harnesses, leashes, and collars can also help others spot you, which can be critical if you plan to hike where others might be biking or running.Dog Repellent Spray: Let’s face it, emergencies happen. Another dog gets off-leash and is running toward you and your dog. What do you do? Is she well-meaning or aggressive? You can pick up the nearest and biggest stick you can handle to keep her at bay or you can consider carrying a dog-safe spray that will send her running in the opposite direction and not harm her. Citronella sprays work well for this or there are a number of dog repellents on the market as well. Just remember that this is not the same thing as bear spray or pepper spray, which will harm dogs.
Other: There are tons of specialty products out there that you may want to bring along on your adventure. For example, I always carry training treats in a pouch for easy access. If your dog is clicker trained, don’t forget your clicker! On those really hot days you may want to consider pouring a gallon of water on your dog’s coat before the hike and bringing a cooling collar along. Likewise, if it’s below freezing your dog may need a sweater or fleece combined with aerobic exercise, like a quick jog, to get her heart rate up before you begin.