Little could be more blissful than sitting with friends around a campfire with dinner roasting, feet kicked up after a long day of hiking, and your pup resting by your side with tongue lolling.
Dogs make wonderful companions for hiking and camping trips, but there are a few guidelines to keep in mind to ensure their safety.
Make sure your dog can be identified if he is lost. It's always a good idea to microchip your pets, but it's essential for being in the backwoods. Beyond this, make sure he is wearing a secure collar with your phone number etched deeply on it. I recommend using a slip leash instead of one that hooks onto the collar so your dog can't pull himself free of the collar, itself.
Dog training is especially important in new places like campgrounds and hiking trails. While your dog might obey your every command at home, when she is confronted with brand new sights and smells, even a firm "Sit!" will face a lot of competition for attention.
Practice with her on local bike paths and trails first, and carry a few treats with you in your pocket to entice her to remember good behavior.
A well-socialized dog is a happy camper. When your pup is used to meeting other dogs and people, he'll be less distracted and more obedient. In addition, it'll ensure more peace of mind for you when you encounter someone who pets him without asking or who walks his dog off a leash.
Your dog will need her own supplies, even on a one-day trek. Especially for overnight trips and picnics, it's always a good idea to bring a longer rope that can be attached to a stake or tied around a tree to allow your dog more freedom of movement when you're occupied. You don't want to have to use a hand to hang onto her leash when you're cooking or going to the bathroom.
Dogs can carry a portion of their own food and other items in special backpacks fitted to their bodies. Don't worry about tiring your pup out so long as you keep the weight reasonable; she will feel more of a sense of purpose and be lest prone to distraction if she's given her own pack. Make sure your dog has ample food and water on hand.
While you're at it, check the contents of your dog's food; it's best to bring one with a high protein content, meaning that the first several ingredients listed will be meat and meat products. To read more, click here.
Safety is just as important for dogs on the trail as it is for people. In any season, give your dog plenty of opportunities to stop for water breaks, and make sure he is up to date on tick and flea prevention before you leave the house.
In the winter, keep your dog warm with blankets at night, and if it's cold enough during the day, outfit him with booties and a coat. In the summer, go hiking where your dog can cool off with a swim in the water, stay to the shade, and don't push your dog to go on if he is panting heavily.
Always bring your dog in the tent with you at night, or have him sleep in the car if the sights and smells are too much for him, but don't leave him outside on his own. All sorts of animals may visit your campground while you sleep, and your dog should remain under your supervision or in a secure place.
What other tips can you offer? Leave your advice and stories in the comments.