Hiking with dogs

19/02/2021
Photografer: Erik Stormark
Photografer: Erik Stormark

Hello!

On demand, here's a post about hiking with a dog! To bring our furry friends on adventures in nature is cosy, fun and you couldn't bring a more eager hiking companion! There are some things though to keep in mind, to keep our little friends happy along the entire trail.

Everything I've learned about hiking with dogs, is from experience with my dog Peikko, a soumen lapinkoira and the experience of others. Either shared through internet or hikers that I've met through my work in Tiveden National park. We'll cover canoeing with dogs in another post.

How old is your dog?

A puppy shouldn't walk very far, so be prepared to carry it even on a day trip. A friend of mine brought an empty shoulder strap bag when walking off track for his chihuahua-pappillon. Even if she was fully grown, the lower bushes were too much for her from time to time. Is the pup too big to carry? Take shorter hikes, play and hide treats. The puppy year is very short, enjoy it while it lasts, time will come for bigger adventures later. Even an old dog might want to make shorter hikes, you know your dog and it's health status best.

Pay attention to your dog

It's easy for us on two legs to make ambitious plans for our hike. But keep an eye on your dog. Is it falling behind? How are the paws doing? Does it freeze or is it too hot? Would it like to borrow the mosquito hat in camp? Take small breaks often, preferably in the shade during summer, and make a longer paus by the stream giving the dog plenty of time to drink. Spoil the dog with treats and play games. Dogs get tired, hurt, or are simply slightly out of shape, though it might be hard to spot it at first sight.

Hiking abroad?

Check what you need to know and locate your dogs passport, weeks before you cross the border. What vaccines the dog needs to take differs from country to country. 

Collar or harness?

I prefer harness on my dog, no matter if it's a short evening stroll or hiking. It's a matter of taste and what suits your dog. The harness in the photo above is homemade, woolen ribbon sewn with denim thread and then lined with soft leather. I wanted something of natural materials since the nylon harness we used before messed up his fur.

Leash, long leash or loose?

Short leash is practical on a popular hiking trail or if I want Peikko to walk along without stopping every tenth step. On longer hikes or off track, I bring a long leash about 6 m, with carbine hook and a monkey fist knot at the other end. It gives the dog more space to sniff around and a good alternative when I can't keep him loose. It's a bit messy when walking off track, but with time and training Peikko has learned the phrase "walk around" when we end up on each side of a tree with the leash between. When skiing, I tie the leash on to an elastic rope, so I don't pull him unnecessarily and there won't be any numb stops.

Loose then? Well, here's a great divide in the dog world. To start with - in Sweden, between 1 of Mars and 20th of August, one has to keep the dog on a leash or under such control that you at 100% of the time can call the dog in and it comes to you immediately. This is since most wildlife have their cubs this time of year, and even though your dog wouldn't hurt the cub itself, it may scare away the parents. Which leaves the cub unprotected from predators. In most Swedish national parks and nature reserves you must keep your dog on a leash at all times, no matter your level of control on it. In some national parks there's a dog ban. It's your responsibility as a visitor to check the rules for the area beforehand. You can easily find info about the Swedish national parks here. And yes, it's wonderful for both you and the dog if it can be loose. But it's not as wonderful to wildlife, other dogs and humans who are scared of strange dogs. Please, give them your respect and put on the leash.

Hoof bags

When we're hiking, Peikko use to carry two portions of his food, one in each bag. If I'd been more serious about training him and letting him carry stuff more often, he could've carried up to 20% his own weight, like carrying a couple of water bottles or his own food for the weekend hike. But I'm forgetful, so he hikes with a light pack. It's mostly so that he feel that he's working too, not just being cute. If the dog seems weary by afternoon, I replace the bags with his normal harness and fasten the hoof bags on my backpack. It usually results in a dog more eager to continue.

Food

A little more than at home, and more if you'll be out in very cold temperatures. I pack Peikkos food pellets in old bread bags, one meal in each bag. They're pretty durable, if I fold down the edge the bag works as a bowl and if one bag would get wet - then the rest of the meals are still good. Another thing we do is to spread out the pellets on the ground, giving Peikko some brain exercise sniffing to get his food.

Sleeping

We usually sleep in a tent with the dog. This is since Peikko otherwise, takes on night watch from dusk to dawn, protecting us from everything, mice to T-rex alike. In the tent Peikko sleeps on our inflatable sleeping pads, between our feet. I put a plastic sleeping pad underneath the gap in the middle. By morning Peikko use to crawl up to our faces for a morning cuddle. And to give us wet kisses if we don't respond and pat him soon enough.

I know some people keep their dogs in the apse during night and for most of the time it works great. My friends lapinkoira managed to run away though. With the leash and earth anchor (one of those screws you put in the ground) having his own adventure in the mountains for two weeks. He was found by other hikers, hungry, but happily enjoying the view from a slope. 

When we lived in my tipi, Peikko slept on a blanket most of the year. In winter he slept on an old three season sleeping bag and was content with that. But back then we were outdoors all the time, so he grew proper amount of wool during the winter.

When it's cold

How your dog copes with cold depends on several factors. How used is it to cold, how much wool does it grow, size etc. I saw @v├ągavaravild had made a little sleeping bag for her tiny dogs. They sat in it warm and snug even in the wind shelter, long before bed time. If the dog is on a leash in camp, give it something to sit upon. E piece of plastic sleeping pad, a woolen blanket or a piece of sheep fur/reindeer hide etc. Last time we went winter camping, I forgot to bring such for Peikko. He had only grown wool for mild temperatures yet, so we took turns having Peikko on our laps to keep him warm.

  • In my first aid kit for Peikko:

  • self sticking bandage
  • Tick pickers, tweezers and scissors
  • A small box with potato flour (to stop bleeding)
  • Cotton bags for paws (if he gets small wounds on his paws that I don't want him to lick)

Photografer: Erik Stormark

Iron grid stairs, bridges and wading

Some dogs refuse to walk on iron grid stairs, either their paws hurt or they find it scary. There are three solutions, carry your dog, find a way around the stair or take some time to train. My partner Erik, had samoyed dogs, that they had to carry across iron grid bridges.

My dog, Peikko, hates to get wet. Before we went on a 6 week long canoe trip in northern Finland, he made detours around the little pools of water on asphalt. When we got back from the trip he'd got used to getting his paws and legs wet - but not the belly, that's too deep!

When we hiked in Jotunheimen national park (Norway) a couple of years ago, Peikko waded where it was shallow. If more than belly-deep, Erik carried him. One stream was very shallow (two inches at the most) so Peikko walked it, but stopped half a meter from shore. There was a slight drop and the high noise made it more scary than the rest. Peikko barked and wanted me to pick him up the last 50 cm, but with some cheering and sweet calling he finally dared to jump ashore. The scary obstacle turned into something he could manage and grow from.

Do you bring you furry love on adventures? Or do you have some more hacks? Please share your experiences in the comments or stories and tag @tracelessintiveden so that we may join you on your adventures!


Hike in peace!

/Lovisa