In camp, before you turn in for the night, secure all food, trash and toiletries from bears and rodents in a bearresistant canister stashed at least 100 feet away or stuff sacks suspended at least 10 feet above the ground and four feet from a tree trunk.
Dogs can pick up a giardia infection from contaminated water. Symptoms include diarrhea, fatigue and weight loss. Some dogs show no obvious symptoms, but they can still infect other dogs, so when you get home, collect a stool sample and take it to your vet; if your dog needs medication, it’s best to get it started right away.
When you backpack with your dog, you’re a guest in someone else’s home, so practice “Leave No Trace” principles (read more about them at lnt.org). Before leaving on your trip, groom your dog, removing seedheads or other plant material from his coat to avoid spreading invasive plant species. Wild areas, even tough-looking deserts, take years to recover from disturbance, which is reason enough to keep your dog on the trail and leashed at all times. Good trail etiquette requires it, too. A sudden encounter with a loose dog can be alarming to other hikers. Because I like to hike hands-free, I use a 16-foot retractable lead attached by its handle with a carabineer to an eye-loop on the front of my pack.
Once you’ve made camp, no matter how much you want to, don’t unleash your dog. The “solid” recall that never fails at the dog park may easily fail in the outdoors, where there are so many new distractions. A 25-foot cable will allow him some freedom without giving him an opportunity to chase wildlife, and if you’ve set up well away from the trail, he can’t run at unsuspecting hikers. Remember, you’re an ambassador for dog owners everywhere, and we want to maintain our dogs’ welcome in the backcountry.
All of your preparations will pay off in the companionship you’ll enjoy with your dog on the trail — and what a pleasure to see the great time he’s having! After all, you’re sharing a special partnership that harks back thousands of years, to a time when our nomad ancestors carried everything they needed on their backs, a loyal dog at their side.