Since our pets are members of our family and enjoy the outdoors just as much as we do, there’s no reason they can’t come hiking or camping with us! That being said, there are certain steps you should take to ensure the trip is safe, legal and fun for all those involved.
BEFORE your trip:
Research the destination. Before you show up with your dog or cat, it’s a good idea to make sure they are allowed to be there. US National Forests and ND State Parks allow pets as long as they are leashed, but if you are backpacking in a more remote area make sure to check if pets are allowed on the trail. In general, dogs and cats are not allowed in most swimming areas, volleyball courts or on playground equipment.
Be prepared. It is not a good idea to bring your pet to an area where you may run into bears or other predators. Most parks and forests have a list of wildlife you may see when you visit. In case of emergency, it’s also a good idea to search for the closest veterinarian and have that phone number handy ahead of time.
Check the weather. Your pet cannot have fun on a camping trip if they are terrified of thunderstorms and it spends the whole time storming. On the other hand, it’s definitely not a good idea to take your dog backpacking with you in relentless heat. Make sure to check that the weather is going to be comfortable for your furry friend to do whatever you have planned. If you are hiking or camping in an area of elevation, make sure to plan for the drop in temperature that may come with climbing and bring a packable blanket or sweater.
Ensure your pet is healthy. If you have any concerns about the health or fitness of your pet prior to going on a camping or hiking trip, ALWAYS consult your pet’s veterinarian. Before any trip, ensure that vaccinations are up to date and that your pet has protection from fleas, ticks and heartworm.
Pack for your trip. Don’t forget the essentials such as a leash, harness, bowls for food or water, food, clean water if it won’t be readily available, poop bags, a towel, a life jacket for swimming, first aid kit, a brush, and any medications your pet takes or may need. If you plan to hike in snow make sure to pack booties. If you plan to hike in an area with hot rock you can purchase booties made for warm weather to protect the bottoms of their paws. Sunscreen for dogs is available if you will be spending a large amount of time in the sun.
DURING your trip:
Respect the surroundings. If your pet defecates on the trail, clean up after them. Most parks have pet waste receptacles. If you are backpacking, the same rules apply to pet waste as human waste so dispose of it properly. Do not tie leashes to trees as it can cause damage to the trees. Most parks frown upon tying leashes to picnic tables as large dogs can break them.
Keep them on a leash. If holding onto a leash is an issue for you, there are all kinds of alternatives like belts and backpacks that allow you to stay connected to your pet hands-free. Unless your pet is in a carrier or otherwise confined, such as on a tie-out, you need to make sure they are on a leash.
Give them a safe place to relax. Bring a playpen or kennel that they can hang out in and make sure to have comfort items such as blankets or toys to help them feel more at home, especially if this is your first trip together.
Watch what they eat. Know what is dangerous to your pet if eaten and know the toxic plants in the area. Dogs and cats don’t typically react to things like poison ivy, but their skin can carry the oils which will rub off on you and may cause you to have a reaction. Lilies and milkweed are just a couple examples of toxic plants you may come across while camping or hiking.
Careful around the fire! This one may seem obvious but it does need mentioning. Sometimes pets are curious about fire and no matter how smart they are they can make poor decisions. Keep a close eye on them and keep them away from the fire.
KEEP THEM ON A LEASH. Wait, did I say that already? Well it’s that important!
After your trip:
Check for hitchhikers. Make sure to check bedding and pets for any lingering pests such as fleas or ticks. Follow up with their next dose of flea/tick/heartworm preventatives as scheduled. There is no need to double up on dosing of products like Frontline or Nexgard if the animal has been camping.
I hope this information can help you experience nature with your furry family members! Below are a few websites that I think are super helpful.
-Cassi Remboldt, LVT