Tails on Trails
What’s better than gear for yourself? Gear for your dog! In Part I:Training on the Trail, we discussed making sure your pup is well trained and ready to be a responsible and respectful friend on the trail. In part II we get another excuse to buy more gear! These are some items I always have with me on every hike. We'll go through your doggie gear essentials, the gear for the more experienced pup, and some needed seasonal doggie gear.
The Doggie Gear Essentials
A leash & carabiner: Dogs should be on leash while in parking lots or the side of the road for safety reasons. If you choose to let them off leash while on the trail, always keep a leash handy. I like to wear my dogs around my torso bandolier style. I always have a carabiner clipped to the leash as well, I use it to hold the leash in a loop so I can wear it and I can also clip my dog to the car, myself or around a tree if I need to. There are numerous hands free leashes on the market.
Collar or Harness and ID Tags: You need something to clip that leash to! I prefer a lightweight harness that clips at the front. The cinching caused by a back clip can prompt some breeds, like malamutes, to pull the imaginary sled (you). There are many types of harnesses, but I like the Freedom Harness because it is low profile, so my dog doesn’t get too hot, and it clips at the back and front. Up to date ID tags are a must as well, accidents happen and you want to be sure you’re the first number called.
Poop Bags: As always, Leave No Trace. No one wants to step in poop. Dog feces can pose risks to humans and other animals via diseases and viruses you may not be aware your pet has. It is also a water pollutant. Another option is to bury your dog’s waste just as you would a human’s: 6-8 inches deep and 200 feet from the trail and water sources.
Water & Treats: Keep your pup fed and hydrated! I love the collapsable bowl from Kurgo. There are also water bottle attachments that flip open into a little bowl for drinking. While I do let my dog,Cheeseburger, drink from moving water, be aware that dogs can get giardia and other water born diseases and these can be serious.
Gear for the More Experienced Pup!
Backpacks: Backpacks are great for giving your dog ‘a job’ and many dogs will fall right in line on the trail, going to work, once a pack is on them. It is important to remember that dogs under one year of age should not carry a pack of any kind. After one and a half to two years of age most dogs can carry an empty pack, but keep in mind that they are still growing. Large breed dogs may need even longer to carry a fully loaded pack, so always check with your vet. Always begin acclimating your dog to wearing a pack by spending lots of time with it unloaded. There are tons of packs available, my favorites are from Mountain Smith and Kurgo. Some have features like removable pouches, which allow your pup to rest without removing the entire pack. Check the manufacturer's instructions for proper fit. You want the pack snug enough so that it doesn’t slip but still comfortable. You should be able to slide two fingers between your dog’s body and the pack. Most healthy dogs can comfortably carry up to 25% of their body weight. If your pup is overweight do not load the pack any more than 25% of the dog’s ideal weight. Don’t guess, weigh the loaded pack. Consider your dog's age, health and breed. Speak to your vet if you are concerned about how much weight they can safely carry.
First Aid Kit: See Part III: The Trail Dog First Aid Kit, for a full explanation of items to keep in your doggie first aid kit!
Seasonal Doggie Gear:
Cooling Vest: In the hot weather you may want a cooling vest. Always watch for heat exhaustion, especially in brachycephalic dogs. Heat stroke, or hyperthermia, can happen quickly. Keep an eye out for excessive panting, a bright red tongue, excessive salivation and sometimes vomiting. I stick to the 150 rule, although somewhat loosely. If the heat and humidity added together is greater than 150, I will usually keep CB inside or out for only a short time with minimal exertion.
Booties & Boots: In the cold weather you may want booties to protect your dog's feet from ice and salt. Boots are also great for rough terrain that could cut a dog’s paws. You can get expensive durable booties but they are easily lost and you can not replace just one at a time. I prefer the balloon like ones from Pawz. If one slips off, which tends to happen because a lot of dogs shake their feet like mad once boots are on, you can just slide another on. These boots are also great in your first aid kit in case there is a foot wound that needs to be covered. Also consider a fleece jacket if your dog does not have a heavy coat.
Orange Vest: Depending on where you hike, consider an orange vest during hunting season for yourself and your dog. Hunting companies make heavy duty canvas ones but you can buy cheap, easily replaceable mesh vests at almost any pet store and online.
Floatation Device: If there is deep water in your area, you might want to look into a personal floatation device. Most dogs can swim pretty well but in deep, new or moving water some dogs lose confidence. Kurgo makes a nice vest that keeps the dog horizontal for a reasonable price.
Collar Light: My last extra goody is a collar light! You can get these at your local outdoor gear store, online or in pet stores. They clip to your dog's collar and some even flash. You can also get light up collars. I like these mostly for camping, so I can let CB off leash but still see her.
Up next, Part III: The Trail Dog First Aid Kit
Written by Maria Watrous: Maria is a fanatical hiker and general outdoors enthusiast who has literally lived all over (if you can think of a place, she has probably lived there). She is also a fan of the White Mountains in New Hampshire, and her favorite food item is a cheeseburger (which is also the name of her dog). She claims she would never eat her though. firstname.lastname@example.org