To go on a long trip with dogs is a dream of many. However to live in the forest and mountains for a longer period requires quite some preparation, especially if you are taking your four-legged friend with you. Therefore we have asked Stine Mette Fjerdingstad and Halvdan Jarl Laugerud to share their best tips.
Stine & Jarlen quit their jobs in the city and moved to Lofoten in 2017. The goal was to come closer to nature and live the dream of an active outdoor life. They have three working springer spaniels, Dixie, Java and Jersey. They are going together both on trips near their home and long winter expeditions.
What counts as a long trip is very individual, this article will be based on hikes that are at least one week long and are in areas, where there isn`t necessarily any civilization and help available nearby. Still, these can be useful advice for daily hikes too.
- Firstly and most importantly your dog has to be in good physical conditions for the upcoming adventure! You should go as long stages as the planned hike or even longer ones during the training period. The chances of injury and exhaustion during the trip are way lower if the dog is well trained, so physical preparation is worth its weight in gold, says Stine.
The preparations can be started already at an early age, when we teach a puppy to sit in a backpack. Then you can go on hikes without having to worry about overloading or wearing out you puppy. This can come in handy also later, if the dog injures itself and needs to be carried.
- It is nice to be able to put them in the backpack without it becoming complete chaos! A dog, that is too big to fit into a bag can also be put over the bag or across the shoulders, if one has no other possibility for transportation.
Before a long trip the equipment of the dog should also be adjusted perfectly and used for a longer period, so there will be no surprises in the form of strain or chafing. It is true for the leash, harness, booties and the backpack too, if you decide to use one.
- When you planned which route you will hike it is important to check the rules in the different areas you are going to cross. At some places dogs have to be on leash all the time and it is possible that in certain areas there are gazers out all year long. If you have a dog with a strong hunting instinct, who would go after these animals it is important to have it on leash regardless of the rules.
If the dogs can be unleashed and run free it can be clever to use a GPS. Then you have better control over your dog, also if it would eventually injure itself and you would have to go and find it. In addition, it is fun to see how much your dog has ran compared to the length of the hike itself!
Make sure that you take enough breaks to rest along the way. It is important for both the dog and the owner. It is way nicer and safer to go hiking when one is well-rested!
First aid, injuries and care
Know your dog! Learn what is your dog`s usual body temperature, heart rate and color of its gums by checking It often in various situations. These are very good indicators if something is not completely right.
- These can be very useful during the everydays too, not only on hiking trips. Watch and get to know the body of your dog too. How does it usually move? Bone position and symmetry of the muscles, how small or wide is it in the chest and the stomach? Irregularities will be easier to spot, and necessary action or rest can be taken at an early stage.
Before a long trip it can be wise to contact a vet and learn about the basic first aid procedures and use of medicines and equipment that is usually being used at a vet clinic.
Sometimes one can be so far from civilization when an accident happens that it is necessary to do some treatment yourself in consultation with the vet. Tell the vet about the length of the trip, surface and duration to get help with making a first aid kit.
You can learn more about first aid in this episode of our podcast, “Unleashed”.
Some basic equipment for care, maintenance and treatment of injuries you should always have with you anyways. Here is an overview of the equipment Stina & Jarlen always have with them:
- Hand fertilizer
- Medical honey for wounds, cuts, punctures. Works as an antibacterial and makes the wounds heal faster.
- Zinc ointment, is not quite as clingy and tempting to lick as honey. Used for example with slightly sore skin and small irritations
- Tape (both sports tape and bandage)
- Self-adhesive flex bandage
- Padding bandage
- Chlorhexidine to clean small wounds and cuts
- Pro- and prebiotics if the dog gets diarrhea
- Saline solution (for example for rinsing eyes)
- Booties. In many cases, it should also be used as prevention. Also bring waterproof booties or two in case of cuts.
- Paw ointment
- Some form of tourniquet to stop bleeding. Here you can, for example, use a leash. If you are using a leash, it is important to drop in occasionally to get blood flow. A safer way to stop a bleeding is to apply a pressure bandage.
- Mosquito repellent and mosquito net
For more extreme trips you can consult your vet if you should have painkillers and/or emetic with you in case you need to buy some time before getting to the vet.
- One should not have everything with himself all the time, but some of these should be in one of the backpacks if we are going hiking with our dogs, all according to how long your trip is. Many of these things is used on people too, so it can be that they are already with you in your own toiletry.
Every day, after each daily trip you should go through your dog and check if everything is okay. Look for eventual bruises or chafing and observe if the dog is looking stiff or is limping.
- If they are it`s about time to take a rest day or two. Learn to massage your dog, it is very nice for the muscles and dog find it rather nice and relaxing. It is a nice way to end the day after one put up the tent, eaten, made a bonfire and is ready to enjoy the rest of the evening in peace and quiet.
Water and temperature
It can quickly get very warm during the hike, especially in the summer. It can be vital to be well prepared about how often is there water for drinking and bathing available along the road.
- You should rather carry too much water with you then to have too little, so you have some extra in case the stream you were calculating with is suddenly dried out!
Sometimes it is necessary to give the dog some water before you start to hike, even if it does not want to drink.
- Put some snacks on top or teach your dog to drink water directly from the bottle. This can be done without any hassle if one is practicing it beforehand.
Take breaks in the shadow if you find some. If it gets too warm and all you find is a dry marsh, start to dig!
-Under the dry one you can often find cold and wet marsh, which can be placed on the dog`s stomach and paws. It will cool them down. It smells bad, but that doesn`t matter if you can save your dog (or maybe yourself?) from overheating in the mountains!
Read also: Can I train my dog in warm weather?
A cold towel can also be used to cool down a warm dog, but water and bathing are definitely the most effective ways. During summers it is brighter at night. It can be therefore clever to turn the clock around and hike during the night, when it`s cooler and nicer.
- In many cases it also offers fantastic and new experiences!
The same way it can get too warm, it can also get quickly too cold. The weather in the mountain can change quickly. It can suddenly get really windy and rain sideways.
- Most are good at having clothes for all type of weathers for themselves, but this should be the same for the dogs too.
A good jacket and a sleeping bag are things that don`t take up much space or weigh much, but can be crucial to avoid an eventual rescue mission.
- It is not all dogs that need clothing, but most family dogs, apart from polar dogs, have a fur, that was not made for tough weather conditions.
If you do not have access to fish or other food along the way, it is necessary to have food for the dog. Dry food or freeze-dried food are the most practical ones, together with a light, foldable bowl.
- Give your dog food quite some time before you start the daily hike. It is never a good idea to let them get to work right after they have eaten. Bloating is a critical condition for dogs. It is not 100% sure what is causing it, but it seems to be connected to stress, high-intensity activities and food. It is mostly bigger dogs that are exposed to this, some breeds more than others. An hour-long rest is usually enough for most breeds (giant breeds should have a bit more rest after feeding, in addition to waiting circa one hour after activity with feeding them to be on the safe side)
Water with the food is advised for most, then one can get a bit more liquid into the dogs before hiking.
-On these trips dogs use more energy, than normally. You can therefore give them a high-energy lunch too.
Dogs of all sizes can wear a backpack! But if one has a bit bigger dog, it can be a good help with carrying the equipment during the hike.
Before one takes his dog for a trip with heavier weights in the backpack, the dog needs to slowly be trained up to be able to carry some equipment.
You can learn more about backpacking with dogs here
"Base camp" for the dogs
There are many good ways to create a "base camp" a dog during the hike, all is depending on what your dog is used to and what kind it is.
- Some breeds will naturally enjoy being outdoors all year long, while other prefer to lay in a sleeping bag together with their owners! Here you have to find out what suits you and your dog best. It is cosy to have your dog in the tent with you, but be aware that the dog`s claws can make holes in inflatable sleeping mats.
When you are busy with something inside the tent it can be clever to have the possibility to tie the dog somewhere outside.
-Use cables preferably with padding around if your dog is a bit restless and can get tangled up. Cable is almost impossible to chew through. Carabiner with locking is also smart. If you don`t have anything to attach your dog to you can use a plug in the ground or a cam. Cam is used for climbing and is very useful if you want to tie your dog out but there are only rocks.
Stine & Jarlen train their dogs to lay calmly before they go hiking.
- Most dogs enjoy laying on the heather without jacket or bag, roll around and simply enjoy the surroundings and being a dog in their right element, but dress them according to the weather and put them in their sleeping bags if they get cold.
If you would like to learn more about how to train your dog to lay in the sleeping bag, read more here.
Here is a general list of equipment that Stine & Jarlen has with them for their dogs, when they go hiking:
- Food. Dry food portioned, eventually freeze-dried meat and boxed food for more energy
- Medicines and care- and first-aid kit (see list above)
- Jacket according to the dog`s need
- Sleeping mat
- Bag to protect against tough weather circumstances and wind
- Sleeping bag for the dogs that do not have that much fur
- Collar with phone number on it
- Steel cables to tie the dogs
- Extra leash
- Hand towel (super-absorbent cloth, microfiber hand towel or similar to dry the dog before it enters the tent
- Treat or toy (because it is nice and fun!)
-Be prepared, use common sense and plan carefully. Have a nice trip!
If you would like to get more tips from Stine & Jarlen you can follow them here!