Updated: Feb 28
When I pack up my backpack and strap on my hiking boots, my dogs quiver with excitement. They know we are about to take on an adventure.
Just like with us, exercising outdoors and breathing fresh air is beneficial to our furry pal's health. And there's nothing more inviting than longer and warmer spring days to venture in nature.
Surely, doing fun activities with our dog not only strengthens our bond but also provides physical and mental stimulation to keep them (and us) happy and healthy. And undoubtedly, most dogs want to be included in their hooman's adventures.
While adventuring with your pooch might be very rewarding, it comes with a huge responsibility. Not only you need to make sure that your dog is physically fit and comfortable in colder conditions, master the rules and trail etiquettes, and be aware of things at all times, but you also have to make sure they have the essentials they require to be comfortable and safe.
Whether you are planning a day hike or a weekend getaway in the backcountry, here is a checklist for your pup to ensure you both enjoy the experience.
Even if you've studied the weather forecast, you always need to be prepared in case nature change its course. Carrying an emergency shelter can be greatly beneficial to sheild from wind, snow, rain and even keep warm. This can be as simple as a tarp, a shower curtain, a few extra-large garbage bags, or something more efficient, such as a reflective space blanket. It also makes a great blanket for you and your pooch to sit during break time.
Keep your dog safe and visible at all times. Consider bringing along a high visibility vest and a beacon light.
Snowballs forming between the toes from the sweat, as well as ice, road salt and chemicals, and crusty snow can damage your dog’s paw pads. This is usually a pain for dogs with longer hair, but all can suffer from small frozen crystals that stick to paws.
Booties are the most effective way to protect your dog's paws and to keep their warm.
If booties don't work for the type of dog you have, consider treating paws with a natural salve to condition and protect paw pads. Once applied to the paws, the wax repels moisture and helps to avoid painful ice buildup. Also make sure the fur is well trimmed around the pads.
I have two dogs, one with a thick undercoat who’d be happy rolling in the snow all day and one with a thin undercoat who’d rather be wrapped in a blanket and travel on my snowshoes with me. While Juno fashion her thick undercoat, Lady stays warmer and dryer in her gore-tex jacket. The dog coat you choose will definitely vary by dog and weather. Make sure you choose appropriately.
Dogs need to stay hydrated too, so fill a large water bottle, and carry a lightweight collapsible bowl. While creeks might become more accessible with spring, don't rely on natural water sources to stay hydrated. Also, a lot of dogs love to eat snow but that doesn't properly keep them hydrated. In fact, it could lower their core temperature, or could get contaminated with snowmelt chemicals depending on where you’re hiking. So make sure you carry enough fresh water for both you and your furry companion.
Bring dog food or high quality treats, which are nutritionally balanced (fewer carbs and more fat, protein) to keep your dog moving. Hiking takes a lot of energy, so bring enough food to provide normal daily portions, along with 30% extra.
Don't forget the biodegradable poop bags!
A dog in the backcountry can have mishaps, whether it is a cut, a broken bone, an allergic reaction, or even just overexertion. Make sure you bring the supplies you need in case of emergency.
For carrying loads, 6 legs are better than 2. If you’re planning a longer stroll, your dog can help by carrying some of their stuff. Dog packs come in different sizes to adjust to your pup's size and have enough pockets to ensure that you will have all the supplies they need to make hiking, camping, and other activities enjoyable.