Essentials for DOgs that dig the outdoors

An Article by Neil Stawski

Do you count canines as your favorite camping companions? If so, here are some suggestions for your holiday wish list to help you and your dog enjoy tents, trails, and all the pretty points in between.

Dog pack - If you plan to take your dog on longer hikes, a pooch pack is more than just a trendy trail accessory. Most dogs can carry roughly a quarter of their own body weight and you’ll appreciate your hiker hound’s efforts since he will need water and other essentials to tackle the trail. Some packs also have a top handle to help keep your dog close during creek crossings or encounters with other hikers.

But be sure the pack fits properly and your dog is used to wearing it before trail testing it. REI suggests starting by having the animal wear an empty pack around the house. Once she’s used to the sensation, gradually add a few pounds of weight, evenly distributed on both sides, until you reach the target pack weight for your pup.

Leash - If your everyday leash is retractable or more about fashion than function, you might want to add one that’s specifically designed for hiking to your holiday wish list. What’s the difference? Some hiking leashes have an extra handle near the front to give you an extra measure of control over your furry friend if necessary. And some leashes make hands-free hiking possible because they attach around your waist. Again, be sure to test any gift gear under regular conditions before taking to the trail. 

GPS dog tracker - A GPS dog tracker is another tech tool to help keep tabs on your pet. Some attach to existing collars or come complete with their own collar. They allow owners to track prodigal pups with mobile apps, web-based platforms, or both. And many also include LED lights that automatically activate after dark or can be turned on with your smartphone.

Dog first aid kit - While a fully equipped household first aid kit covers most of the basics for pets and people alike, your dog needs a few of its own emergency supplies. For example, you should be sure to pack any regular medications your furry friend would take at home. A canine kit should also include an extra nylon leash, nail clippers, and compact emergency blanket exclusively for your dog. The American Red Cross even offers online courses and a pet first aid app that helps educate animal owners about what to do in an emergency. 

Portable dog bowls - Collapsible pet bowls save space in your pack and make it easier to offer your hungry hiking buddy food to keep up his strength and stamina during long hikes. Even if you’re only taking short jaunts from the campsite, you should take along a water bowl and offer your dog a drink every half hour, according to advice from the American Kennel Club. If you’re on an extended adventure, you might even consider carrying a small water purifier since dogs can fall prey to many of the same water-borne pathogens as humans.

Dog Duds - If your route might take you and your hiking partner through sharp rocks, thorns, or snow, consider requesting a pair of paw-protecting booties. Be sure to have your furry friend break booties in before hitting the trail and pack spares in case he loses one along the way. An old clean wool sock secured around your dog’s paw can also serve as a substitute in a pinch. You might also want to add a dog coat and cooling vest to your holiday wish list so your pet will be comfortable in any camping conditions.

Adding some of these items to your wish list will get your pawed partner ready to hit the trail. And, if you have generous family and friends, you might even be able to sneak in a few human hiking gear requests for yourself.