10 Tips For Backpacking With Your Dog

By: Kerri Irwin of Dusty Desert Dogs

Find a trail that has water

Find a trail with water I just can’t stress this enough when backpacking with your dog, It’s not only a great way for your dog to cool off but also to catch a drink or for you to refill waters. It is a perk for you too cause then you both don’t have to carry to much weight in your packs.

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Keep your dog’s pack light

Just like you, you need to make sure your dog’s pack is not super heavy you will be surprised how fast some dogs will fatigue with some extra weight on their backs. A good rule to always remember is your dog can help carry his supplies but in general, young and healthy dogs can carry up to 25% of their weight. Some breeds can carry 10% to 15% more, while other breeds aren’t cut out to carry much at all, it all depends on your dog’s age, breed, and conditioning, the amount you should pack.

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Pick up poop

Leave no trace is the best words to live by when backpacking! Carry your dog’s poop out with some poop bags (I like to pack a cheap plastic container to put my dog’s dirty poop bags in then I know they won’t leak due to a puncture) If your dog is carrying his/her own pack then they can carry their waste out. Just don’t leave it behind for someone else to step in.

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Power snack

Trail mix for the humans Lil Links for the dogs! Zuke’s makes tons of awesome treats suitable for dogs on and off the trail we love taking Lil Links or Power Bones when we go backpacking cause that little bit of snacking on the trail helps keep energy levels up and also reinforces a job well done.

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Rest

If it’s an overnighter or a short weekend backpacking trip I will pack my DoubleNest hammock because I think I can spare the 19oz hammock and enjoy some relaxing hang time with my pup.

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Check Paws

If you’re logging some serious miles you may want to stop periodically and check our dog’s paws. Check or anything from small rocks, cuts on the pads, or even a cactus depending on where you are. I make sure to bring dog boots or mushers wax, your dog’s paws are like your feet your no good if you can’t walk. Take care and be mindful where you walk.

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Check for Ticks or Fox Tales

Tall grass is a mecca for ticks and those darn fox tales are so sneaky, I am always checking for fox tails and ticks I do carry a tick key just in case.

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Keep on a Leash

It’s kinda a touchy subject but if you’re on a busy trail it might be common trail etiquette. If you’re not on a busy trail sometimes being leashed still isn’t a bad thing, we had a recent run in a western diamondback rattlesnake and we got lucky, I don’t care to press my luck again. But if you do take your pups off leash for a romp, I’d say walk around the spot first before you turn them loose just take a check and make sure there isn’t a skunk or a venomous snake hiding in the bushes or in the rocks.

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Condition Before-hand

It’s so important to reduce the chances of injury and fatigue, lots of hikes, bike rides, and trail runs happen before we decide to undertake a challenge of backpacking. It is not only great for you but your dog, and it’s a great way to bond with them and to work on your trail etiquette.

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Have Fun

Remember to have fun, don’t worry about logging all those miles, keep backpacking with your dog fun. He is just happy to be with you out in nature, be like him and keep it simple and just take it one trail at a time.

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I’m Kerri Irwin and I spend my days exploring the Arizona Desert with my adventure dogs by my side, we are always seeking out new and untraveled trails in Arizona. My dog Goose is my constant and devoted companion and is able to navigate the desert as well as any well-seasoned trail guide, together we are both always up for any adventure.