Buggin’ Out with Fido

Palisades Pack by Ruff Gear

Palisades Pack by Ruff Gear

If you’re a dog lover like me, you probably take your pooch hiking, camping and even skijoring whenever you can. If you (and your dog) need a little inspiration to spend more time on the rough and rugged trails together or to pursue your bushcraft skills, the following tips are excellent for both adventure and emergency purposes.

Quality of gear is important to prevent injury to your dog, and wasteful loss of cash due to shoddy workmanship. I tend to avoid the national chain dog supply stores for this reason. The best places to get your dog’s trail gear is from specialty purveyors of working dog equipment. You can also check with your local search and rescue or police canine units for recommendations in your area or online. I personally like Wolf Packs (who made my own dog’s pack nearly 10 years ago) and Ruff Wear products.

Booties: Your dog may encounter rocky trails, hot asphalt, broken glass, sharp rocks and long roads in any bug-out situation. Booties will prevent injury, and also keep your pup’s pads in good condition on regular hikes. Make sure your dog is accustomed to his or her booties, and correctly fit with a set that are durable. Ruff Wear makes some of the sturdiest boots, worthy of checking out.

Dog Pack: A dog in good health should be able to carry up to 25% of his body weight. It’s imperative to distribute weight evenly between packs, as they can slip quite easily. Make sure the pack you purchase can be easily removed if your dog becomes caught up, and that it’s equipped with adequate padding at potential pressure points or where fasteners could pose a chafing problem.

My advice is to keep all contents in two large Ziploc baggies or small dry bags, and keep a lightweight fishing scale on hand to weigh loads. Watch out for high-volume bags: You don’t want to be tempted to overload your dog, nor do you want your dog’s lateral profile to protrude more than necessary.

Portable Dog Bowl: You’ll want to be sure your dog is hydrated, and collapsible dog bowls ensure that your dog’s slobber doesn’t get into your squirrel stew.

Vet & Vaccination Records: You never know when you’ll need to drop your dog off at a boarding kennel or FEMA/HSUS evacuation shelter. Keep a waterproofed copy of your vet’s business card and current vaccination records in your dog’s pack at all times, and additional copies in your emergency file folder.

Pet First Aid: A basic pet first aid kit would include elastic vet wrap, sutures, a blood clotting agent (cornstarch works in a pinch), nail clippers, vet-prescribed sedative tablets and gauze. It’s not a bad idea to keep a good broad-spectrum wormer in your dog’s longterm kit, as your dog will be more prone to picking up parasites. Packets of electrolyte powders never hurt, nor do cold packs. Talk to your vet about other items you might include; he or she may even give you some supplies for a nominal fee.

Here’s something else you should SERIOUSLY consider: A muzzle. Dogs that are injured or under extreme stress are more likely to bite. Yes, even YOUR dog. The Mikki Muzzle is a compact, lightweight muzzle that has worked well for my aggressive dog, and it can also reduce barking. Even better–it’s super cheap, usually less than $5.

Leashes, Collars & Harnesses: How well trained is your dog? Is he or she prone to pulling? Seriously evaluate your dog’s restraint needs, and consider upgrading to a pinch collar or a harness if your dog strains at the collar. Pack an extra leash, and be sure your dog’s ID tags are updated with rabies info and perhaps an additional contact person, such as your out-of-state contact.

Ruff Wear has a harness that can double as a working harness, by the way. You wouldn’t want to use it to pull carts, but it has been known to be popular among skijoring fans.

Food: You should always keep a supply of quality canned dog food on hand for long-term pet food storage, since oily kibble goes rancid after a short time. You’ll also need to consider the effects suddend dietary changes might have on your dog’s digestive system For bug-out situations. My own dog is on a mix of kibble and canned foods. In her bug out stash, I keep 5 days’ food (about 10 cups kibble) at the ready. Each time I buy a 50lb sack of kibble, I rotate out the stash. I also recommend keeping freeze-dried dog food on hand, such as Stella & Chewy’s Lamb Steaks or ZiwiPeak products. Mix familiar with new foods gradually, to reduce gastrointestinal problems. Speaking of….

Water: Last thing your pet needs is a case of giardia, so be sure you treat your pet’s water as well as your own. Some dogs and cats are finicky about water that tastes different than their home tapwater supply, and sometimes adding something like RescueRemedy will assist with the transition, as well as act as a calming agent.

For Small Dogs: If you have a pocket pooch or a small dog that won’t be able to cover long distances, shop carefully for a carrier that will be comfortable for both you and your pet. Sherpa soft-sided carriers are fantastic, and most of their models are airline-approved.

Other Considerations: If you have the means, take along a hard-sided, sturdy crate for your dog. It should be large enough for him to turn around, stretch, and lie down comfortably, and should have a decal with contact information, dog’s name, vet’s name and number, and any dietary or medical requirements. Depending on the scenario, you may need to leave the dog with a shelter or friend, you’ll want to be sure he or she is well-equipped. Shelters will be overcrowded, and you don’t want your dog stuffed in with strange animals.

Whatever you do, do NOT plan to simply turn your pets loose in an emergency situation. Not only is this cruel to your animals, it leaves them as a danger to rescue workers and others.

I’ll continue to post about prepping for your pets. In the meantime, here’s a tearjerker to get you motivated…

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