Backpacking With Your Dog, How To Make It Hassle-Free?

Backpacking with Your Dog     by Mike Powell     |Published 4-17-2021

Are you backpacking with your favorite four-legged companion? Get yourselves ready for a fun-filled adventure outside!

As all dog parents know, dogs are incredibly active and positive when it comes to outdoor activities. And their ability to tackle challenging hurdles along the trail can motivate you further. This is why backpacking with your dog is a great way to spend quality time, especially if you have a flair for camping, hiking, and walking.

But before you all get pumped up, keep in mind not all dogs are fit for this kind of activity.

Keep in mind that your pup should ideally be: agile, energetic, strong, non-aggressive, and highly trainable.

If your dog fits all of these requirements, then it’s about time to plot your adventure! Here are some tips to make your outdoor trip hassle-free:

Several Shih Tzu dogs are walking in the woods.Backpacking with Your Dog: Tips to Help You Prepare for your next adventure.

Pick the right trail

Choosing the ideal trail is the first step of planning your trip. Remember that several National Parks do not allow dogs in their vicinity, so do extensive research to know where dogs are allowed.

If you have finally found the perfect place, consider the following factors:

● Is there available water on the trail?

● Is the trail too difficult for you and your dog?

● Will you be encountering dangerous animals on the trail?

Always consider picking the trail that best fits you and your dog’s capability. Try to avoid those that may put you both at risk.

Preparing your dog’s backpack

Letting your dog tag along with you means bringing extra supplies, like dog food, treats, and poop bags. Let your dog carry their own stuff by using a doggy backpack. The backpack should be 10% of your pooch’s weight. Some can take more than 20% of their body weight. But as much as possible, pack light.

Giving your dog appropriate nutrition

Backpacking consumes a lot of energy. Before embarking on your journey, make sure to provide your dog with foods rich in protein and other nutrients. Pack protein-rich treats to be given on the trail. Avoid taking foods that are high in sugar and sodium.

Also, make sure to secure a bowl of clean water for your dog all the time. Whether you’re taking a break from a long walk or feeling hungry, make sure to provide a bowl of water to see if your dog is thirsty.  It might be easier if your dog will tolerate it to pack a dog water bottle.  You can continue to fill it up when you reach water sources and you won't need to worry about packing a bowl.  

Keep an eye on your dog’s nose and make sure it doesn’t appear too dry since this indicates dehydration.

Prepare leash and LED collar

A dog is sitting in front of a tent, backpacks and other camping gear.Backpacking with Your Dog: Taking the Right Gear can mean a big difference to your adventure's success

It is best to let your dog wear a bright LED collar and a leash as a safety precaution. It helps you find your dog if he gets too explorative and excited in the wild, especially at night. And if he escapes, the LED collar will quickly let you spot your dog.

Remember that Shih Tzu dogs, being a brachycephalic breed should be wearing a harness when out and about on a leash.  Find an LED harness for extra protection.  Use your dog's collar to hold all identification tags such as an ID tag, Rabies tag and microchip tag if you have one.

Prepare first aid kit

Not only you, but your dog needs a first aid kit too. What if something goes wrong and you’re already kilometers from help? Before you go backpacking, you should know how to handle minor incidents, such as treating cuts and insect stings, to prevent injuries. A dog’s first aid kit should include a pair of tweezers, vet medical tape, gauze pads, Benadryl, bandana, and antibacterial ointment.

Does your dog need regular daily medication?  Be sure to pack that as well.  

Prepare Your Shih Tzu in Advance

Only dogs that are in optimal shape should attempt a backpack trip.  Your dog will enjoy the trip that much more if he loves taking walks with you and is well trained walking nicely on a leash.  Take the time it takes to prepare your dog by taking walks in a variety of different settings.  Remember dogs that do fine on a neighborhood walk may be extremely unhappy if walking on a path in the woods.  Start with short walks and slowly build up your dog's stamina by taking walks in different areas and on different surfaces.

Consider getting your dog's coat trimmed short before your adventure.  Shih Tzu hair can get snagged easily in bushes, tall grass and thickets of downed twigs.  Likewise assure your dog's nails are trimmed close.  There is nothing worse than getting a few miles off the beaten path and your dog has a first aid emergency such as a torn nail.  That's were your first aid kit comes into play.  Better yet, prepare ahead to prevent injuries from happening.

Consider Packing a dog Backpack

A lightweight backpack may be needed if your Shih Tzu decides he's had enough.  Remember, this breed will never win a marathon and may decide that a walk more than 1/2 mile is all that he's up for.  Will you be able to carry him and your own pack for the remainder of the trip?

Sometimes frequent rest stops and hydrations breaks may help keep your little Shih Tzu going for longer periods of time, but it's not worth it to push too hard.  Many dogs will just decide that enough is enough and it will be up to you to decide whether to turn back or consider carry him along with your own load.

Here are three dog backpack carrier styles to consider.  Click to check out price and availability.

Author Bio: Backpacking with Your Dog

I am Mike Powell, a dog fanatic and writer from the beautiful city of Los Angeles, California in the United States. I’ve done my best to mix those two passions into something interesting and helpful on my website,

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About Janice

Janice is the voice behind Miracle Shih Tzu. Having lived with dogs and cats most of her life, she served as a veterinary technician for ten years in Maryland and twelve years as a Shih Tzu dog breeder in Ohio.

Her education includes undergraduate degrees in Psychology with a minor in biology, Early Childhood Education, and Nursing, and a master's in Mental Health Counseling.

She is a lifelong learner, a dog lover, and passionate about the welfare of animals. Her favorite breed for over 50 years has been the Shih Tzu.

When not writing, reading, or researching dog-related topics, she likes to spend time with her eight Shih Tzu dogs, her husband, and her family, as well as knitting and crocheting. She is also the voice behind Small Dog Place and Smart-Knit-Crocheting.