With winter finally behind us and spring weather in full effect, many dog parents have dusted off their dog’s leashes and started hitting the pavement. While it’s great to take daily walks within your neighborhood or local dog park, have you ever considered taking a long, multi-day hike with your dog? Hiking with your dog not only provides you both with great daily exercise, but your journey with your dog will grow your bond even more than you ever expected. Maybe a long hike is something you’ve considered but not really sure what to expect or how to prepare? Look no further, we’ve got guest blogger Ryan of @fen_the_aussie here to help you prepare for your next big adventure.
Ryan and his Aussie, Fen, have been hiking together for quite some time now, but their upcoming June adventure will be their longest hike to date. Ryan and Fen will be heading to New Hampshire to hike The Presidential Traverse Trail, which totals 20 miles in length and 9,000 ft. elevation gain! Obviously, this is not small feat and not a trail for amateurs but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t aspire to take a hike like Ryan and Fen.
How to Prep For Your Hike
Before you set out on your adventure, you need to prep both yourself and your dog for your great adventure. It is important to clearly assess if your dog is physically fit for your desired hike. Depending on your location, you may want to plan your hike for early June or September to avoid the summer heat. It is helpful to know your dog’s tolerance and ability to handle warm days outdoors. For instance, Fen does not like hot summer days due to his thick coat and black fur. On the other hand, some dogs do great in summer heat and are eager to hike.
Much like any sporting or physical event, you will need to train before tackling such a long hike. Don’t let the word “training” discourage you. Training for a long hike is both fun for you and your dog. Much like a runner trains for a marathon by running shorter distances and building up to a marathon distance, you and your dog should take shorter hikes to build up to the multi-mile and multi-day hike. If you and/or your dog have not hiked in the past, you may want to consider using this season as your training season and take your big hike next year. I have been training Fen to build his cardio in anticipation of our big hike for about a year now. Endurance training for your dog should not be rushed, as they cannot communicate with us to tell us when they are feeling ill. Dogs are so loyal and want to please their owners so much that they will often push their bodies past their limit. While you can certainly take long walks around your neighborhood, but putting in time on a trail with a full backpack is going to do wonders for conditioning your body.
In advance of your hike, it is a good idea to have a wellness exam of your dog with your Veterinarian. Even if you believe your dog is in good health, it is idea to double check heart rate levels and your dog’s general health. This is also a good time to get a copy of your dog’s vaccinations to keep on hand during your hike. Typically, your Veterinarian’s office can print out your dog’s vaccine record on 1 sheet of paper, so this will not add any additional weight or take up extra room in your backpack.
Personally, I have Fen groomed a couple of weeks in advance of our hike. If your dog has long hair, you may want to consider having your groomer give your dog a shorter than normal haircut to help keep him cool during your hike. Ask your groomer to pay close attention to your dog’s paws and nails. Since your dog will be hiking for miles, you want to make sure your dog’s nails are cut with caution and any excess fur trimmed tightly to the pads of your dog’s paws.
What to Pack vs. What Not to Pack
Okay, Dog Moms and Dads, this isn’t like packing for your Florida vacation. You will be carrying everything you bring, so less is more! Yup, that means you won’t be able to bring your dog’s closet full of clothes, however, the views you come across will be so breathtaking that you won’t even miss all those outfits.
The basic items that you must take on your backpacking trip are: backpack, tent, sleeping bag, pillow, sleeping mat, camp stove, fuel, water filtration and food. The other items that are extremely important that you should pack are: rain gear, first aid kit, fire starter, flashlight and GPS/compass. Once you’ve packed and determined the weight of your necessary items, you can decide if you have any ability to pack unnecessary items, such as: your camera, tripod or camp chair. Keep in mind that the more hikers going with you,, the more weight that can be distributed between each hiker, which in turn, will possibly allow you to pack those non-essential items.
The basic dog supplies needed for Fen are: collar, leash, backpack, boots, food/water bowl, food, grooming comb and nail clippers. However, keep in mind that each dog is different and may require different items. Your dog may require special medications or your dog may wear a harness as opposed to a collar when hiking. Nothing is set in stone, but having the food and water basics are the most essential.
To pack for your actual hike, you should lay your items out in advance, weigh and test how reasonable it is to take all your items. Too heavy of a backpack will put extreme stress on your body. Ideally, you should take some smaller pre-hikes with your full backpack to not only get an idea of what you can safely carry weight wise, but this is also a great way to pre-condition your body for your long hike. This goes for your dog too! If you are planning to put a small backpack on your dog, you will need to test the weight of the backpack on smaller hikes with your dog. As we all know, dogs cannot tell us when enough is enough, so it’s important to be mindful of their body language. Pay close attention to heavy panting, any discomfort in walking and if your dog often stops on your walks with his backpack.
Where to Hike?
It is highly recommended to have your hike mapped out in advance. This will help you to stay on path and of course, help you avoid getting lost! If you are unsure of which path to take, there are many resources available to you. I like to use the site All Trails to map out my hikes. This site details trails by their length and elevation level so that you know what to expect on your hike and there are no surprises. Other helpful resources are hiking and backpacking magazines and of course, Instagram accounts. A simple Instagram search of #hiking can provide you with fellow hiking accounts and you can see where others have hiked near you.
Once you’ve decided on your trail of choice, you will need to make sure that dogs are permitted on the trail and inquire about any required hiking/camping permits. Yes, some trails do require a permit before you set off on your hike.
How to Feed Your Dog During Your Hike
If your dog eats a dry kibble, this will not be difficult for you. Simply portion your dog’s daily meals and put them into ziploc bags. Fen is on a raw diet, which poses a problem, as I cannot bring a cooler to keep his food cold. During our hike, I will feed Fen dehydrated raw food. I will portion Fen’s meals and place each meal into a ziploc bag just as if it were dry kibble. However, 30 minutes before feeding Fen, I will pour some cold water into the ziploc bag to rehydrate his food before pouring it into the bowl for him.
I hope we have piqued your interest in considering a multi-day backpacking hike with your dog. Not only is it a great opportunity to get out, get some exercise and see some beautiful landscape, but it is also a great bonding opportunity for you and your dog. As long as you plan and train ahead of time, you can have a great time and build memories that will last a lifetime.
We would love to see your hiking photos and hear any hiking tips you may have. Please leave them in the comments below or share your photos to any of our social media channels: Facebook, Instagram or Twitter with #benebone.