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Backpacking with your Dog: Yes or No?

Planning a backpacking trip but not sure if you should bring your beloved pup along?

If you're asking me, then the answer is yes because dogs are the best company. Over President’s Day weekend I hiked the Lost Coast Trail in Northern California with a few friends, including my rescue dog, Tyson Chandler, a 20-pound Dachshund/Labrador mix.

The Lost Coast

whistle blog backpacking dog

This 26-mile journey along California’s coastline connects black sand beaches, Redwoods, and cliffs. (It’s called the Lost Coast because the land was too rocky to build Highway 1, which shifts inland 20 miles leaving a chunk of coastline untouched and completely off the grid). The terrain is quite challenging from dozens of river crossings, sharp black sand, rocky stretches, and juggling high tides that make the trail impassable at times-yet, still doggie heaven.

whistle blog backpacking dog

Prepping your pup before departure

I never doubted bringing my dog, but I knew it would likely be strenuous for the little guy. My biggest concern was the impact 26 miles would have on his paws. After doing a little research, to protect his paws from the terrain, I applied Musher’s Secret paw protection wax the day of our journey and brought a few spoonfuls in a plastic bag for the other two days. Tyson Chandler hit the sand running on day one, running in circles around me and my three friends as we embarked on the 8 miles to our campsite.

Tyson Chandler wasn't the only wild animal on the trail, we passed sea otters, sea lions, and even a hare.

Exploring new boundaries

After carrying him across a few rivers we finally came to a calmer river and I decided to let him try and swim. We all crossed, leaving him on the other side.  He looked at me, puzzled. I dangled a treat and opened my arms, calling him to come to me.  He wandered up and down several times, then he slowly backed away from the river, leaped four feet into the water and instinctively started doggie paddling to the other side, where I proudly greeted him.

We arrived at our campsite as the sun was setting a few minutes later and Tyson Chandler immediately passed out, only to wake up a few hours later and bark continuously at the darkness.

whistle blog backpacking dog

Our trip together was glorious. He loved chasing birds and running free off the leash. He got used to the dark and slept well the second night (and the entire five-hour drive home). Once in the car I was so excited to check the Whistle app and see how many minutes of activity he logged. I knew it was going to be record breaking for him but I never thought he would break 300 minutes of activity in one day! Tyson Chandler enhanced the backpacking trip for everyone. It was always entertaining to watch him figure out how he was going to conquer the next boulder and river crossing.

whistle blog backpacking dog

Lydia's advice for backpacking with your dog

whistle blog backpacking dog

  • Check to make sure the trail is dog friendly.
  • Increase your dog’s food intake. I doubled Tyson Chandler’s meals and gave him many treats throughout the day.
  • Make sure you pack enough water if natural water sources aren’t consistently available.
  • Invest in some dog booties or apply paw wax frequently if the terrain is rough.
  • Enjoy! There is nothing like watching your pup run off leash in a beautiful setting!


Mar 10, 2015

Tags:   pet tips   overheard at whistle   whistle dogs   pet parenting  

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